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Medicinal Plants Sector in India with Reference to - UNCTADORG

By Josephine Ray,2014-08-13 13:51
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Medicinal Plants Sector in India with Reference to - UNCTADORG ...

    R. B. S. Rawat

    Chief Executive Officer

    National Medicinal Plants Board

    Government of India

    E-mail: nmpb22@indiatimes.com

MEDICINAL PLANTS SECTOR IN INDIA WITH REFERENCE TO

    TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE & IPR ISSUES*

    India has 16 Agro climatic zones, 45000 different plant species out of which 15000 are medicinal plants. The Indian Systems of Medicine have identified 1500 medicinal plants, of which 500 species are mostly used in the preparation of drugs.

    The Indian Systems of Medicine, particularly Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, & Homoeopathy medicine largely use plant base materials, minerals, metals, marine and products of animal origin. Our ancient texts had documented medicinal uses of a large number of plants. These plants are being used for preparation of medicines for centuries.

    A new trend has, however, been noticed that foreign countries have evinced interest in medicinal plants available in India and well documented in our books indicating the formulation in which they are used. A number of medicinal plants and their uses have been patented by foreign countries. There has been criticism by the people and in the press on this growing trend of patenting of our medicinal plants and their uses. Some of the well-known plants Kala Zeera, Amaltas, Indian Mustared, Karela, Brinjal, Neem, Gudmar etc. have patents. Some of the patents have been successfully contested by India.

    These patents have been granted because the knowledge about the uses of these plants is not available in the format and manner which the patent examiners can have easy access. Therefore, it was considered __________________________________

    mik-094….02(VK)

    Paper presented at: International Seminar on Systems for the Protection of Traditional Knowledge, organised by Ministry of Commerce, Government of India & UNCTAD, New Delhi, April 3-5, 2002.

    necessary to bring the knowledge contained in ancient texts & in public domain in patent compatible format to prevent patenting by others.

    Current trends all-over the world has shown that for one reason or the other, people are not only willing to try natural medicine especially those of plants based but are also actively seeking non-conventional remedies. As a result there is a global resurgence in the trade of herbal medicine. International market of medicinal plants is reported to be over 60 billion US dollars per year, which is growing at the rate of 7%. India’s contribution to this large pool is just to the tune of a few hundred crore rupees only which is expected to be raised to Rs.3000 crores by 2005. There is thus an enormous scope for India to emerge as a major player in the global herbal product based medicines. But unfortunately various lacunae pertaining to quality of herbal drugs do exit which are the major hindrance to come up to the expected level of trade of these medicines both within and outside the country. This requires a grand strategic plan to augment the availability of quality raw materials and standardised finished products. In this context it seems important to find out ways and means of increasing availability of raw materials to ensure quality formulations and to invest in Research and Development.

    The action plan of the Board envisages the following activities:

    1. Encouragement for cultivation of selected medicinal plants backed

    by buyback arrangements.

    2. Registering raw drugs traders.

    3. Simplification of Transit permit/legal procurement certificate for

    transportation of raw drugs.

    4. Thirty one (31) selected priority medicinal plants, like Ashwagandha,

    Brahmi, Atis, Guggal, Sanai, Musli etc., which are in great demand

    both in domestic and international market to be brought into mik-094….02(VK)

    Paper presented at: International Seminar on Systems for the Protection of Traditional Knowledge, organised by Ministry of Commerce, Government of India & UNCTAD, New Delhi, April 3-5, 2002.

    cultivation status for the overall development of the medicinal plants

    sector.

    5. General and specialised surveys of the international market for

    medicinal plants and products to be undertaken for identifying niche

    areas.

    6. Registration of farmers/cultivators and traders of medicinal plants to

    be entrusted to the respective State Medicinal Plants Board /

    Vanaspati Van Societies.

    7. R & D studies in the areas of post harvest management shelf life,

    storage and simple agro techniques to be taken up through CSIR,

    NBRI, CIMAP, ICFRE, RRLs, DBT, Horticulture and Forest

    Department.

    8. Constitution of State Medicinal Plants Board in every State/UT of

    the country for overall development of medicinal plants sector.

    9. Efforts to create mass awareness about the importance of medicinal

    plants among the people and publish distribution material for the

    purpose.

    The Medicinal Plants Board has formulated some schemes for funding the projects related to development, creating awareness about the therapeutic uses of plants, marketing and cultivation of some selected medicinal plants having assured market. The Operational Guidelines for funding the project proposals for above activities have been formulated by the Board

    A) Promotional schemes would be related to:

    1. Research & Development in medicinal plants sector including

    drug-testing labs for validation and certification of farmers

    produce.

    2. In-situ conservation and ex-situ cultivation of medicinal plants

    for restricted sustainable harvesting.

    mik-094….02(VK)

    Paper presented at: International Seminar on Systems for the Protection of Traditional Knowledge, organised by Ministry of Commerce, Government of India & UNCTAD, New Delhi, April 3-5, 2002.

    3. Production of quality planting material

    4. Extension activities:

    i) Training/seminar/workshop

    ii) Visit of growers to demonstration spots and

    research institutes.

    iii) Extension material on agro-techniques

    5. Marketing information service on medicinal plants for domestic

    as well as global market.

    6. Survey and inventorization of medicinal plants.

    B) Commercial schemes would be related to:

    1. Ensure supply of quality planting material in bulk to the

    farmers by way of appropriate technology viz. vegetative

    propagation, tissue culture etc.

    2. Production of medicinal plants in bulk as per demand and

    supply position of most preferred species.

    3. Area expansion for selected species in the specific agro-climatic

    zones.

    4. Develop proper harvesting techniques.

    5. Semi-processing of produces viz. collection, grading, drying,

    packing etc.

    6. Develop innovative marketing mechanism.

    mik-094….02(VK)

    Paper presented at: International Seminar on Systems for the Protection of Traditional Knowledge, organised by Ministry of Commerce, Government of India & UNCTAD, New Delhi, April 3-5, 2002.

ISSUES RELATED TO INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS (IPR):

    India is behind the rest of the world in patents both quantitatively and qualitatively, even when comparison is made with our neighbour China. The continued illiteracy and confusion about patents is a serious matter. Our pool of knowledge that is protected by patents, even in areas where we have a competitive advantage is rather poor. Take the area of herbal products, where so much emotion has been raised. The number of herbal patents between 1995-1998 was 1889, out of which China had a share of 889, and the Indian share was next to nothing.

    Medicinal plants represent not only a valuable part of India’s biodiversity but also a source of great traditional knowledge. Knowledge-rich companies and researchers from the developed world have been attracted to the wealth of the poorer countries have in their biodiversity and the traditional knowledge systems. Some argue that the access to such biodiversity and community knowledge by the industrially developed nations is necessary for the larger welfare of mankind as this advances knowledge and leads to new products which contribute to the well being of global consumers. The point is that this access to the resources of the poor does not benefit in any way, while their natural resources and intellectual property continues to be appropriated and exploited.

    We are on the verge of witnessing a convergence of proprietary knowledge-based scientific and technical invention and innovations making considerable impact on knowledge-based economies of the future. This has brought with it a compulsion to put intellectual property protection on ‘top priority’ of the international community. Over the last three decades, there has been a growing realization and concern for traditional knowledge (TK), encompassing a wide range of applications. This includes human health, medicine, treatment of animals and birds, conservation of water, increased productivity and the art that is associated mik-094….02(VK)

    Paper presented at: International Seminar on Systems for the Protection of Traditional Knowledge, organised by Ministry of Commerce, Government of India & UNCTAD, New Delhi, April 3-5, 2002.

    to it. The wealth of this traditional knowledge is almost unbounded and has provided solutions to diverse problems through the centuries, often involving new approaches, based on this knowledge. However, these invaluable functions of accumulated knowledge are mostly un-documented, and passed on from generation to generation through the spoken word, practical demonstrations and frequent improvements made over long periods of study and applications.

    The absence of proper documentation of verbally expressed traditional knowledge, whether in codified or published form, has contributed to its vulnerability to large-scale exploitation by innumerable sources including multinational companies who conveniently tap its resources and subsequently patent some of them. This is the reason for which the world edges towards a deregulation of regional markets and, a proliferation of trade occurs with domestic and indigenous communities. An increasing need is felt among these communities who are the actual store-house of this traditional knowledge and culture, as also among the intellectual property right (IPR) expert, that protect such communities from uncontrolled exploitation of their inheritance, heritage and creativity by outsiders and multiplication industrial interests must be bound under very clear contract laws.

    The urgency for protection of the human, ethical and economic rights of the holders of traditional knowledge is gaining acceptance more, because of the improper and unchecked exploitation of this knowledge and the related natural resources base and, the resulting destructive depletion. This perspective has an unfathomable developing country, of commercial benefits accruing to multinationals big business house, mostly from the developed countries. Therefore, finding effective measures to protect these areas of traditional knowledge, especially those from the developing countries like China, Latin, America, India, South Africa, Indonesia, Sri mik-094….02(VK)

    Paper presented at: International Seminar on Systems for the Protection of Traditional Knowledge, organised by Ministry of Commerce, Government of India & UNCTAD, New Delhi, April 3-5, 2002.

    Lanka and others which are known powerhouses in ancient histories, traditional knowledge and cultures is considered to day to be of prime importance.

    TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE DIGITAL BANK(TKDL):

     The government of India has set up a Traditional Knowledge & Digital Library (TKDL), namely, an electronic database of traditional knowledge in the field of medicinal plants. Such a database would enable the Patent Officers all over the world to search and examine any prevalent use/prior art, and thereby prevent incorrect grant of patent based on knowledge in public domain, including knowledge associated with medicinal plants. The issue had also been taken up at the international level in the Inter Government Committee of the World Intellectual Property Organisation to ensure that TKDL is prescribed as a non-patent literature and minimum PCT documentation to ensure that patent examiners are duty bound to search the said database for any prior art.

    The primary objective of TKDL is that of avoidance of grant of patent on the traditional knowledge of the country. Therefore, it is imperative to understand in detail the process relating to grant of patent in IP office and the requirements of a patent examiner.

    The Task Force on TKDL found that out of 4896 references on 90 medicinal plants in USPTO patent database, 80% of the references were on seven (07) medicinal plants of Indian origin. Of the 762 patents on medicinal plants studied, about 360 could be categorised as traditional. The TKDL will have 35,000 Ayurvedic Slokas/Verses form identified books which are available in Indian Cosmetic & Drug Act and will have 1,40,000 pages of information in each language, which will be easy to retrieve. The TKDL will have the objective of preservation, protection and wealth creation.

    mik-094….02(VK)

    Paper presented at: International Seminar on Systems for the Protection of Traditional Knowledge, organised by Ministry of Commerce, Government of India & UNCTAD, New Delhi, April 3-5, 2002.

    The international acceptance of the TKDL project is promising. India’s Traditional Knowledge (TK) database has been selected for pilot study by 170 member states.

    CONCLUSION:

    1. There is a need to document the indigenous knowledge related

    to Indian herbs and plants and their medicinal and other uses

    and convert it into easily navigable computerise data base for

    easy access and to secure patenting rights; to discourage other

    countries for patenting Indian heritage; to transfer knowledge

    to all sectors who are interested to know about our Indian

    Systems of Medicine; most of our knowledge is in Sanskrit,

    Arabic, Persian and other classical languages, which needs to

    be translated to other modern languages.

    mik-094….02(VK)

    Paper presented at: International Seminar on Systems for the Protection of Traditional Knowledge, organised by Ministry of Commerce, Government of India & UNCTAD, New Delhi, April 3-5, 2002.

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