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When resources become valuable, various social and institutional pressures come to bear to enclose them in a property rights regime. Given the substantial progress of biotechnology and the life sciences, genetic resources found in biological diversity are experiencing such pressures. The question of how much commodification or commercialization of genetic resources is appropriate is of global concern; it affects the distribution of wealth in and among societies and countries. This article explores the emerging treaty law on intellectual property and biodiversity. It inquires What is biodiversity? and Why is biodiversity preservation important? It then focuses on the United Nations Framework Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), concluded on 5 June 1992 at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit. Finally, it compares the CBD to other treaties relevant to intellectual property and biodiversity, using a two-part framework: the treaties are either property-oriented, such as the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS), or commons-oriented, such as the CBD and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources, negotiated under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization, has the potential to become the most important in the field.

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Environmental Law Review