One of the achievements of the first Rio Earth Summit, held 20 years ago, was the creation of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
The convention's objective was to conserve natural habitats by allowing genetic material to be used as a natural resource for sustainable development.
In 1990, Costa Rica's National Biodiversity Institute signed a pioneering contract with the US pharmaceutical giant Merck to isolate extracts from rainforest plants in the search for medical remedies.
It was the first country to recognise its rights to benefit from its biological resources and became a model for the UN convention.
The implementation of biodiversity "prospecting" continues to face growing opposition, however, from political figures and climate change sceptics.
Al Jazeera's Tom Ackerman reports.