Deepmala 12 – Economic of Traditional Knowledge

The issue of economics based on traditional knowledge and biodiversity are complex. India, with approximately 8% of world’s biodiversity and as one of the greatest storehouses of traditional knowledge, has the potential of becoming a major player in the global trade in herbs-based formulations, medicines and products. An estimate by the EXIM Bank puts the international market of medicinal plants – related trade at US $60 billion per year growing at about 7% annually. India has only 2.5%shareof this market.

Knowledge-rich companies and researchers from the developed world have been attracted to the wealth the poorer countries have in their biodiversity and the traditional knowledge systems. Some argue that the access to such biodiversity and community knowledge by the industrially developed nations is necessary for the larger welfare of mankind as this advances knowledge and leads to new products which contribute to the well being of global consumers. However, this is not the point. The point is that this access to the resources of the poor does not benefit them in any way, while their natural resource and intellectual property continues to be appropriated and exploited.

Many researchers who have obtained knowledge about biodiversity and its uses from local innovators, communities and institutions do not even acknowledge their contributions, let alone sharing of the benefits resulting from such knowledge. One recalls here the case of a new antibiotic. This was launched in the USA based on the discovery of peptides in from skin by a researcher who had found three tribes in Africa and America, which knew about the wound healing capabilities of the frog skin and were using it for that purpose. However, not benefit was given to the tribes. We need to reach are understanding between the capital rich and biodiversity rich countries to share the benefits for a common good of the making.