Traditional Knowledge [Ayurveda]

Ayurveda means the “science of life”. The word, ayurveda is composed of two words of Sanskrit, ayur (meaning life) and veda (meaning knowledge). Thus Ayurveda is a medical science of Ancient India. This ancient healing system has three foci:

1) Healing illness

2) Prevention of disease

3) Longevity or age reversal.

It is a traditional system of medicine and medication, based on experience and observation. In Ayurveda, every plant on earth is a medicinal plant. Ayurveda seeks to develop a method to identify and extract that medicinal power for appropriate use. This system of medicine and medication is more than 3000 years old. Ayurveda is extensively used in modern India and is fast proliferating in its International appeal. In the recent years Ayurveda has become a victim of Biopiracy, therefore its protection and preservation has become a matter of concern for India.

This foray is into the increasing trend of claiming patents on inventions that are familiar remedies in Indian homes.

Biopiracy or the stealing of indigenous knowledge from the biodiversity-rich developing countries is an exploding issue in Asia. Often plants developed over the centuries by the methods of traditional agriculture in the third world are used by first-world corporations as the basis of inventions. This is worrisome for India since patents, which were supposed to prevent piracy, have now become legitimized process for thievery of their traditional knowledge making it an exclusive property of multinationals.

The patents granted for instance on wound healing properties of Turmeric or a fungicide from Neem are some such examples of blatant Biopiracy of Indian traditional knowledge. Nevertheless, the patents on Turmeric, Neem has been successfully overturned and this just a first step in stopping Biopiracy.

However, the problem of Biopiracy may not be resolved with patent revocation and domestic biodiversity legislation alone. There is a need to provide appropriate legal and institutional means for recognizing the rights of the indigenous communities on their traditional knowledge, based on biological resources at the international level.

It is important that ownership of traditional knowledge be rejected. Such resources should remain accessible to all people. They are not commodities to be exploited by the corporate sector. Patenting indigenous knowledge is not acceptable. It is theft from generations past, present and future.

This article has case-studies on patents utilizing Ginger, Bitter Gourd and Ashwagandha and their uses.

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