'l'he recording of traditional knowledge: Will it prevent 'bio-piracy'?
by Sangeeta Udgaonkar
Excerpted from: Current Science 82 (4): 413-419.
Traditional knowledge is not protected within the patent system as it stands
today. The turmeric case highlights the problems faced by India in preventing
bio-piracy. The recording of traditional knowledge seeks to reduce the possibility
of bio-piracy, but looks to future legislation to effectively protect the
rights of the people. Some important structural changes based on a sound legal
footing are proposed, which can be easily incorporated within the present
databases, and would go a long way in preventing bio-piracy and protecting
the interests of the knowledge-holders footing.
The recording of traditional knowledge is taking place today. It is imperative
that the method of recompense be in place before the information being recorded
is made public. Failure to do this would be doing a grave injustice to those
who developed this knowledge through generations.
Traditional knowledge is in demand as a source of information of the possible
properties of biological material. It is valuable knowledge. We should place
its value high, not devalue it completely by giving it away free. Unless we
do so, no one else will acknowledge that it has any value at all. Intellectual
property rights, including patent rights, are rights over knowledge. We have
that knowledge. Let us not give up our rights. In dealing with patents we
are dealing with a law designed for businessmen. Let us also have a business-like
approach to the problem. By designing the structure of the traditional knowledge
database appropriately, it is possible to make the knowledge available to
all and at the same time retain the control necessary for benefit sharing
to be operationalized. This would go far in ensuring that cases of 'bio-piracy'
are prevented in the future.