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Representatives of almost 200 countries are meeting this week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to update the ten-year-old Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and trying to work out terms for sharing profits from bioprospecting — the search for natural molecules and organisms that can be used in industry and medicine.

Benefit sharing between indigenous peoples, scientists, governments and drug companies has been on the agenda for some years, but without much constructive progress being made.

Poor nations, often rich in diversity, have demanded assurances that commercial benefits will be shared. But companies have hesitated to commit themselves to expensive deals.

At this week's meeting, delegates from developing countries are expected to seek a new, binding treaty setting stricter rules for benefit sharing. Privately, one negotiator says to Nature that Europe may play a key role in the discussions. If it sides with the developing countries, they might just get their way.

Link to full Nature article 

Reference: Nature 427, 576 (2004)