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Rules are needed to govern the exploitation of biological resources. But basic economic principles suggest that commercial interests will be unwilling to pay for rights to access and exploit biodiversity found in developing nations.

In this letter to Nature, David Simpson and Roger Sedjo respond to suggestions that new 'ownership' rules might realise the potential of bioprospecting to lead to new drug developments (see Can 'plant passports' put bioprospecting back on track?). They say that despite new products being potentially worth billions of dollars, governments of developing countries have often been misled about the value of their biodiversity.

The low ratio of success to failure and the abundance of natural chemicals that have yet to be tested for pharmaceutical potential are among the factors that will deter researchers from paying much in return for the opportunity to seek new products, say Simpson and Sedjo.

Link to full letter by Simpson and Sedjo in Nature

Reference: Nature 430, 723 (2004)