Thursday, December 08, 2005

India hits back in 'bio-piracy' battle

By Soutik Biswas
BBC News, Delhi

In a quiet government office in the Indian capital, Delhi, some 100 doctors are hunched over computers poring over ancient medical texts and keying in information.

These doctors are practitioners of ayurveda, unani and siddha, ancient Indian medical systems that date back thousands of years.

Yoga exercises have been patented in the west
"The tulsi (holy basil) plant has medicinal qualities
"People outside India are not aware of our immense traditional knowledge wealth"
VK Gupta, project director

One of them is Jaya Saklani Kala, a young ayurveda doctor, who is wading through a dog-eared 500-year-old text book for information on a medicine derived from the mango fruit.

"Soon the world will know the medicine, and the fact that it originated from India," she says.

With help from software engineers and patent examiners, Ms Kala and her colleagues are putting together a 30-million-page electronic encyclopaedia of India's traditional medical knowledge, the first of its kind in the world.



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