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Herbal bio-valley project is on, says Minister

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Thiruvananthapuram , July 20

THE State Government has initiated steps to develop the Silent Valley Biosphere Reserve as a `herbal bio-valley' based on the recommendations of the M.S. Swaminathan Commission, said Ms K.R. Gouri Amma, State Minister for Agriculture.

She made these remarks while inaugurating a seminar on `Evolving an action plan to facilitate the development and utilisation of medicinal plants' organised by the Kerala Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (Kinfra) in the city on Saturday.

The `bio-valley' will provide the "biological software essential for a dynamic medicinal plant industry," she said. India and Kerala are well placed to take advantage of the growing demand for herbal and medicinal inputs for a range of products, given their strong traditional base in the use of medicinal plants, she added. However, great care has to be taken to protect medicinal plants from the threat of degradation of their habitat, Ms Gouri Amma added.

Mr Som Pal, Member, Planning Commission and Finance Commission, who was the chief guest at the inaugural session, said that Kerala is well-placed to leverage its rich resource base of herbal and medicinal plants. Issues that need to be addressed while evolving an action plan for the development of medicinal herbs include the creation of an inventory of such plants, publication of this inventory, identification of rare and endangered species and their resurrection, creation of awareness about the importance of medicinal plants and so on, he declared. Creating a collaborative network on medicinal plants with nations such as China will be extremely useful to India, he emphasised.

Mr N.R. Madhava Menon, Vice-Chancellor, West Bengal University of Juridical Sciences, who presided over the meeting, said the need of the hour was to discuss issues related to medicinal plants within the context of the World Trade Organisation and its sweeping powers. The law, while facilitating economic development, must also guarantee that the practitioners of traditional medicine get their due, he added.

Mr K.S. Money, Chairman, Agricultural and Processed Foods Products Export Development Authority, Mr K. Lakshminarayanan, Technology Management Group, UN Asia Pacific Centre for Transfer of Technology, Dr K. Mohandas, Director, Sree Chitra Thirunal Institute for Medical Science and Technology, Mr P.H. Kurien, Secretary-Industries, Kerala, Dr P. Pushpangadhan, Director, National Botanical Research Institute and Dr G.C. Gopala Pillai, Managing Director, Kinfra, also addressed the inaugural session.

The seminar examined several different themes related to the cultivation and utilisation of medicinal plants. While the commercial cultivation and scientific harvesting of herbs and medicinal plants was discussed at one technical session, other sessions examined patent laws and other legal issues related to the herbal industry and the issue of quality control for herbal drugs.

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