The Sixth U.N. Conference on Biodiversity opened in The Hague yesterday, with more than 2,000 delegates from 200 countries gathering to discuss the protection of the world’s plants and animals. The main agenda items for the two-week conference include encouraging governments to halt deforestation and designing a policy to share and protect global genetic resources. The latter issue is particularly pressing for poor tropical nations, which are rich in species that could contribute to new pharmaceuticals and other products, but lack the money and infrastructure to study such species. The U.N. Environment Programme hopes the conference will yield first-ever guidelines on how to equitably share the world’s genetic and biological resources; the plan on the table would grant companies access to resources in exchange for returning a share of the profits to the country of origin.

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