India seeks to revive WTO talks to check biopiracy

Amiti Sen New Dehi | Updated on May 23, 2018

India and some other nations plan to deliberate on ways to expedite talks on amending the TRIPS pact   -  joxxxxjo

Joins Brazil, South Africa, China to plan for a conference on TRIPS, biodiversity in June

India has set in motion plans to revive talks on linking the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) pact of the World Trade Organisation to the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) to check instances of biopiracy and misappropriation of traditional knowledge by global corporates.

Next month, India and a group of like-minded members of the WTO, including Brazil, South Africa and China, have planned a conference in Geneva on TRIPS, CBD and biopiracy to deliberate on ways to expedite talks on amending the TRIPS. The countries seek to bring in legislation such as benefit sharing and disclosure of source to stop biopiracy, a government official told BusinessLine.

“While the agenda of the on-going Doha round of the WTO clearly states that the relationship between the TRIPS Agreement and the UN Convention on biodiversity, the protection of traditional knowledge and folklore need to be looked at, the issue stands abandoned for the last few years. India and some other countries are determined to revive it and bring it back on the table,” the official said.

In the past, attempts have been made in Europe and the US to patent medicinal properties of plants such as neem, turmeric and ashvagandha which have been used as traditional medicines in India for centuries. “While India was able to stop the patents from being granted, many such attempts are successful and clearly show the adverse effects that a patent monopoly over traditional knowledge can have on indigenous communities that hold such knowledge,” the official said.

Source of origin

India wants that the TRIPS agreement should make it compulsory for patent applicants to disclose the source of origin of the biological resource and evidence of consent and benefit sharing with the traditional knowledge holder so that indigenous communities are not at a loss. Other WTO members which have been actively advocating the need to revive talks on TRIPS and CBD include Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, the African Group, the African-Caribbean-Pacific Group, Peru, and Thailand.

“There are a large number of developing nations that are interested in an effective global legal regime to check biopiracy as it is difficult to do so only through national laws. It is the developed countries that have been hindering the discussions. But the poorer countries are now determined to revive the talks as they are the worst victims of biopiracy,” the official said.

India circulated a work programme on the relationship between TRIPS and CBD at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires in December 2017. “Although the work programme was not adopted it generated a lot of interested amongst members and we got many queries on the matter,” the official said.

Published on May 23, 2018

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