Genetic resources are the natural resources of their countries of origin and need both national and international legal protection. There are several legal instruments governing the legal regime of such resources, including the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Convention was signed in 1992 and went into force in 1994. It is the belief of some scholars of developing countries that the CBD has certain omissions, among which the ex situ collections made prior to the coming into force of the Convention and the failure to recognize intellectual property rights of communities are the major ones. Ever since the adoption of the CBD by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) between industrialized and nonindustrialized countries about the ownership and access to biological resources arguments have been ongoing.
Access to the biological resources and equitable sharing of benefits emanating from the resources were some of the thorny issues during the negotiations of the Convention and the follow-up activities related thereto. It is evident that source countries of biological resources are developing countries while the developed ones are the most frequent users of the resources. The former are the exporters while the latter are the importers of the resources. Access to natural resources is dependent upon the consent of source countries since the issue touches upon one of the fundamental principles of international law – the principle of national sovereignty over natural resources.