the Indian origin of medical knowledge, used to develop modern treatments, will be given due recognition in Britain from now on. Presently, there is rampant misrepresentation of traditional treatment methods such as ayurveda and unani. Multinationals falsely market them as their innovations. But this bio-piracy will no longer be possible in the uk, where the patent office has agreed to refuse all applications that fail to recognise the Indian history of their product.
This victory for India's traditional knowledge in medicine comes after a decade of campaigns against misleading patenting. The battle began in 1995 when the European patent office granted the us Department of Agriculture and the multinational chemical company W R Grace rights over an anti-fungal product derived from neem. The neem tree is native to India and its qualities have been known for over two thousand years. Such a patent would have forced the inheritors of this ancient knowledge to pay for the right to use it, but in 2005 it was revoked and appeals refused.
Meanwhile, a US $2 million project is underway to compile a multilingual encyclopedia documenting traditional medical practices, including ayurveda, unani and siddha. The Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (tkdl) will be in English, German, French, Japanese and Spanish with over a million entries. tkdl will ensure that age-old information is easily accessible. South Africa, Mongolia and Thailand are also expected to create such catalogues.