Changes in intellectual property rights systems have lead to the privatization of genetic resources and subsequently to the proliferation of new agricultural biotechnology products. Since these innovations have the potential to increase agricultural production while limiting environmental degradation, the benefits from these technologies could be far-reaching. However, while intellectual property rights are intended to encourage innovation in the private sector, private sector domination of the development of new products may skew the distribution of benefits away from marginally productive agricultural areas where poorer communities live. The primary purpose of this paper is to explore the tension between the public goals of encouraging innovative use of genetic resources and supporting the equitable access to genetic resources. The paper also discusses overlapping systems of intellectual property rights on genetic resources, and how this complex system of rights for genetic resources influences the relationship of users and producers of genetic knowledge. The paper will include a discussion of private and public good aspects of genetic resources and how various intellectual property systems affect genetic resource use. The paper will also examine the challenge of creating public policies and legal systems that encourage innovation and ensure the equitable distribution of benefits from genetic resources.