When it was introduced in 1992, many scientists welcomed the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). But critics are now expressing concerns that the treaty is making developing countries paranoid of researchers wanting to steal their genetic resources.
Such a reaction is "an absolute disaster for scientists", according to a senior UN official, as it draws no distinction between those who are bioprospecting for drugs and pharmaceuticals, and those conducting genuine academic research.
In light of these problems, the United Nations and the governments of some developing countries are starting to recognise the need to change the treaty's implementation. But researchers warn that progress must be made quickly if countries are to avoid holding a completely distorted view of nature.