Stealing what is ours
THE traditional Indian systems of medicine such as Auyrveda, Unani and Siddha, are facing a threat from an unlikely quarter - the World Trade Organisation's (WTO'S) rules on Intellectual Property Rights (IPRS). With the US and various other multinational companies reportedly on the rampage to acquire patent rights on medicinal herbs of India and China, the government, too, has woken up to the need to protect the nation's substantial wealth of flora and fauna as well as traditional knowledge from falling into the hands of foreign powers.
Shanta Shastri, secretary, department of Indian systems of medicine and homeopathy which functions under the ministry of health and family welfare, "The onslaught of multinational companies in registering new trademarks is also clear from the recent basmati controversy." Recent intervention by the concerned government bodies - the Indian Council of Scientific Research and the ministry of environment and forests - foiled foreign companies' attempts to patent Indian herbal plants such as haldi (turmeric) and neem. "However, what is most distressing is that some of the well known medicinal herbs have already been patented abroad, while many more are in the offing," Shastri said.