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The UN Convention on Biological Diversity requires its signatories to exchange information on biodiversity, share the benefits of exploiting it, and monitor the status of biological resources.

Yet researchers in developing countries — where most biodiversity is found — cannot access information about their nations' species when it is published in costly subscription-only journals in industrialised countries.

In this letter to Nature, Donat Agosti of the American Museum of Natural History says publishing descriptions of new species in such journals amounts to 'biopiracy' — the unfair exploitation of another country's biological resources — and hinders monitoring efforts by Southern researchers.

Agosti proposes treating descriptions of species like gene sequences, and making them freely available. He says international taxonomic bodies should make this a mandatory condition when accepting new species names.

Link to article in Nature

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