The Biodiversity Law in Costa Rica was the first of its kind in the world to encapsulate all the principles of the International Biodiversity Treaty signed at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992. The law ensures sustainable use of organic resources, and fair distribution of the benefits and costs derived from them. But now, the groundbreaking law, passed in April, could be declared null and void, following a complaint of unconstitutionality filed recently by the second vice president, Elizabeth Odio, who is soon to take over as Costa Rica's full-time environment minister.

"We are extremely concerned about this action, which declares two fundamental articles of the law unconstitutional," said Isabel McDonald of Costa Rican environmental umbrella group Federation for the Conservation of the Environment (FECON), one of the organisations that drafted the law. "This basically paralyses implementation of the law," it said. On the other hand, according to Odio, an expert jurist, the law creates two autonomous, publicly funded bodies to oversee biodiversity resources, which is not only inadmissible under the country's constitutional rules, but would set a dangerous precedent for government institutions, leading to their disintegration.

The law's creators are willing to change its unconstitutional aspects, and wonder why Odio took the drastic step of initiating a legal procedure which can stall its implementation for one or two years, instead of trying to negotiate a solution with them.

Odio, currently serving as a magistrate in the International Court of justice in the Hague, The Netherlands, said she is willing to find a negotiated solution when she visits Costa Rica next.