Thursday, June 26, 2008

India fights United States

Here's a story : from 17th century Kerala: The Portuguese had anchored off the Malabar coast and were received with warmth by the king Zamorin. After a few days, the palace guards rush breathless into the court, lit with alarm. "Your Majesty, the foreigners are on the hill slopes," they report. "uprooting pepper vines and carrying them away to the ships. If they begin to grow these in their lands we will lose our trade." The Zamorin is unperturbed: "Ah, don't worry too much. They may take the vines but how can they take our monsoons." Such was India's calm then, it had an extreme generosity and a willingness to share its wealth with the world.

By October, 1996 when the prestigious New Scientist magazine wrote under the title, "Pirates in the garden of India", India's sanguine magnanimity was to end. A crisis was brewing. India had to do something.Universities in united states had started big research projects on what are "dadi ma ke nuskhe "in India, and register patents in US before India does.India had to do something.

And the war began.........

In May, 1995 the US Patent Office granted to the University of Mississippi Medical Center a patent [#5,401,504] for "Use of Turmeric in Wound Healing."
Well, well, well. Some discovery, that. Indians grow up with a constant awareness of turmeric. It permeates their life. It is an easy and generous plant [curcurma longa] that grows throughout the sub-continent. The tuber when dried keeps practically forever. It is a condiment that adds character to Indian food and helps digestion. Turmeric powder heals open wounds. Drunk with warm milk, it stems coughs, cures colds and comforts throats. Indians paint doorways with turmeric paste as an insecticide. Women in the south make a depilatory skin cream with it. Add the juice of fresh lime to dry turmeric, let it marinate for three days, dry it in the sun and grind it to a fine powder and voila, you have the brilliant red kunkum that 'dots' Indian women's foreheads and surrounds the gods in the temples.Roots are exchanged between people as a formal symbol of goodwill. Indians place freshly uprooted plants at the altar during Pongal and offer worship.
(if you any other use of termuric then write as a comment)
For Indians turmeric is a benevolent goddess. For sound reasons, it transpires. Indian physicians had always packed their kits with turmeric. Now West's formal research was confirming many of its virtues. It is now believed to be able to treat dysentery, arthritis, ulcers and even some cancers. It is also found to protect the liver.Turmeric's grace is stunning cancer researchers.

India's Fightback.................

Consider the implication of 'turmeric patent' #5,401,504. If an expatriate Indian in America sprinkles turmeric powder -- just as her ancestors in India have done for centuries-- on her child's scrape, she would in fact be infringing US patent laws and was open to prosecution.

The patent was promptly challenged by Dr. R A Mashelkar, an Indian scientist who has done much to awaken India to Intellectual Property Rights issues. After four months of submissions it was established that the use of turmeric as a healing agent was well-known in India. For some centuries, one is tempted to add. The patent was annulled.

But there were more battles ahead.

In 1996, Vandana Shiva -- an icon for Third World Knowledge Rights -- began to challenge the patent granted to the firm of W.R.Grace & Co by the European Patent Office, Munich for 'fungicidal uses of neem oil'. Now, it so happens that neem is as much a divine object in India as turmeric is. With far less education than modern scientists the Indian farmer over the ages had integrated neem into his work. It is a part of India's religious life, to sublimate anything of value to divine levels in order to engender an esteem and sensitivity for it. Shiva and Ajay Phadke [who had researched neem for Rhone Poulenc in India] flagged ancient Indian texts for their eminences in Munich to convince them that there was no 'novelty' factor in neem's magical properties that Grace had unveiled-- Indians had known them for long. This patent too was vacated.

India Wins...........

Two battles won indeed, but there are many ahead. London's Observer reported that there were more than 100 Indian plants awaiting grant at the US patent office. And patents have already have been granted to uses of Amla, Jar Amla, Anar, Salai, Dudhi, Gulmendhi, Bagbherenda, Karela, Rangoon-ki-bel, Erand, Vilayetishisham, Chamkura etc, all household Indian names.These need to be vacated.

Bio-piracy doesn't affect just India. Much of Africa and Latin America are prowling grounds for First World's knowledge pirates.

But India is emerging as a vocal and effective battler against the Untes States' Knowledge pirates.

Whenthe US introduced IPRs in the Uruguay Round as a new issue, it accused the Third World of 'piracy'. The estimates provided for royalties lost in agricultural chemicals are US$202 million and US$2,545 million for pharmaceuticals.

However, as the RURAL ADVANCEMENT AND FOUNDATION INTERNATIONAL(CANADA), in Canada has shown, if the contribution of Third World peasants and tribals is taken into account, the roles are dramatically reversed: the US owes US$302 million in royalties for agriculture and $5,097 million for pharmaceuticals to Third World countries."

In these two biological industry sectors alone, the US owes $2.7 billion to the Third World. This debt will not be paid by the US unless we have our biodiversity legislation in place.

India won the battle ,but there is a need to keep your intellectual rights with yourself.Indians can no longer think like king Zamorin of kerela
Knowledge pirates of united states steal monsoons also.......

No comments: