Biology Reference
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exploitative nature of taking resources without returning benefits, but also the
related injustice of obtaining monopoly control over foreign resources through the
international patent system.
For example, the neem tree has been used in traditional medicine in India, Sri
Lanka and Burma for hundreds of years. Yet an international agrochemical business
filed for a patent based on the neem tree's medicinal properties, involving samples
from India, without disclosing this history of prior use. In 2005, Vandana Shiva and her
supporters famously won a ten-year legal battle to revoke the patent (Sheridan 2005 ).
Before concerns over such exploitative use of developing country resources led to
the adoption of the CBD, a different kind of benefit sharing was envisaged. Instead
of relying on a common-heritage principle, which could be (and often was) equated
with a free-for-all - first come, first served - the United Nations brokered two treaties
about resource use, which specified that all of humanity had to benefit. Both the UN
Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies
( 1979 ) and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea ( 1982 ) made the principle of a
fair common heritage explicit. These treaties declared that the seabed and the ocean
floor, including its subsoil, as well as the surface and the subsurface of the moon, were
not to become the property of any state, organization or individual. Instead, the use of
their potential resources was to be carried out so as to benefit humankind as a whole.
However, in the 1990s the USA's Clinton administration undermined the com-
mon-heritage approach to resource use with a superseding agreement that opened
seabed resources on a first-come-first-served basis without benefit-sharing require-
ments. 1 It is in this context that the CBD was adopted.
3.2.2 Objectives
The main response of the international community to concerns about the exploita-
tion of developing country resources is the CBD, adopted at the Earth Summit in
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992 (CBD 1992 ). The adoption of the CBD is one of
the great policy success stories of the twentieth century. After exceptionally wide
processes of consultation, 193 parties have ratified this broad and participatory
convention. Only Andorra, the Holy See, South Sudan and, notably, the USA have
not, as at the time of writing. 2
The CBD aims to achieve three objectives:
• The conservation of biological diversity
• The sustainable use of its components
• The fair and equitable sharing of the beneits arising out of the utilization of
genetic resources.
1 This revision and the Clinton administration's role in imposing it are discussed in Pogge ( 2008 :
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