This is even more truer of India!
The controversy centres on the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, a searchable database of more than 230,000 formulations. Some 200 researchers took eight years to create the database after scouring ancient texts on Indian systems of medicine — Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Yoga — in Hindi, Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian and Urdu. The database is available in English, Japanese, French, German and Spanish. (via India protects traditional medicines from piracy : Nature News).
‘Discovery’ of ‘modern’ medicine
The Western ‘cure’ for malaria, quinine came from cinchona tree bark – which was a known cure earlier than its ‘discovery’ by the West. The two biggest cancer drugs, vincristine and vinblastine came from the Madagascar periwinkle – which was again part of traditional knowledge. The drug reserpine comes from Rauwolfia serpentina a plant native to India, Sri Lanka, etc.
With 200.000 plants medications already in a Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, Indian Traditional Medical Pharmacopiea could be the world’s largest!
By the way, Dr. Mansukh Wani and the late Dr. Monroe Wall, ‘discovered’ another two important compounds in cancer chemotherapy, taxol (extracted from yew trees, most famous being the Himalayan yew) and camptothecin (from the Chinese ‘happy’ tree) – for which they received many awards.
The true source of genius
Dr.RA Mashelkar, a senior scientist and administrator, writes:
“A recent study by an Indian expert group examined randomly selected 762 US patents, which were granted under A61K35/78 and other IPC classes, having a direct relationship with medicinal plants in terms of their full text. Out of these patents, 374 patents were found to be based on traditional knowledge …”
Another writer notes,
in the early 1990s roughly one quarter of all prescription drugs sold in the United States contained plant products – half of those were from the tropics. The value of those compounds was greater than $6 billion per year.
Hiding your sources
In the past few decades, Western ‘innovations’ have proliferated – in basmati rice (by RiceTec), isabgol (psyllium by Kellogg), neem oil (by WR race), haldi, arhar dal extracts, ngali nut (for arthritis, from India, Sri Lanka and Solomon Islands), jar amla (for hepatitis) – and these ‘innovations’ have been exposed for what they are – piracy.
Interestingly, Viagra, the brand name seems to be rip-off from the Sanskrit word for tiger – व्याघ्र vyaghra. Chinese have long believed that tiger bones make a good aphrodisiac.
Yogasanas have been patented in the USA
Based on the above survey and cases, the Indian Government has initiated a project - Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL). Based on TKDL data
The European Patent Office (EPO) has rejected 15 patent applications of various international companies during the past one year after it found they had used India’s traditional medicinal knowledge to prepare certain products.
“We identified 36 cases of bio-piracy and took them with EPO. Fifteen cases have been already rejected by the EPO.
We expect another 21 to be rejected soon,” V K Gupta, Director of Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), a project to conserve and share the knowledge on the Indian medicine systems, said. The government has embarked upon digitalising the traditional knowledge under TKDL project.
The government started the TKDL project in 2001. About two lakh medical formulations have been digitalised under it.
With more than 200,000 lakhs formulations, stretching to 1 crore pages, the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) is a mine of Indian medical knowledge. It is now exposing how Western drug companies have been using traditional sources to create ‘intellectual property rights and patents – and use the same against the very people who created the knowledge in the first place. The Western pharma industry’s dependence on ever-greening their patents for continued prosperity has hit a wall with the growth in Indian challenge.
Kellogg’s Bran Buds cereal containing Isabgol – psyllium husk.
For Indian medical systems, it is the beginning of a renewal. For Western medical systems, this the beginning – of the end. And they ‘know’ it.
In February 2002, India, China, Brazil, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Kenya, Peru, Venezuela and South Africa — countries that are rich in biodiversity — signed an alliance to fight bio-piracy and press for rules protecting their people’s rights to genetic resources found on their land.
It was Einstein who said, “
The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.