Friday, June 17, 2016

NYT "advises" Modi not to patent cow urine, calls it dangerous move stemming from obsession with the animal

By Our Representative
In an unusual Opinion article (June 16), titled “Mr Modi, Don't Patent Cow Urine”, the New York Times (NYT) has wondered why the BJP government, which released India’s first National Intellectual Property Rights Policy last month, is calling for “protecting traditional remedies like cow urine.”
Calling the move “dangerously misguided” for a policy paper which “reaffirms the basic tenets of India’s admirably farsighted patent laws”, NYT says, “Even as the Modi government’s new policy paper reiterates the need to limit patents in the name of public health, it repeatedly argues for plucking ‘traditional knowledge’ out of a multimillennial cultural commons and patenting it.”
Pointing out that “with this move the B.P is picking up unfinished business from its previous excursion in power, when it”, the daily recalls how that was the time when “the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Center for Research in Cow Science, an outgrowth of Hindu nationalist groups, first tried to patent cow-urine technology in India.”
NYT recalls how “in the early 2000s, when the BJP led the governing coalition of the day, the CSIR, a state-funded network of research laboratories, started promoting cow-urine technology as a treatment for diabetes, infections, cancer and even DNA damage.”
Written by Achal Prabhala, a writer based in Bangalore, and Sudhir Krishnaswamy, a professor of law at Azim Premji University, Bangalore, the NYT article says, quoting a report, “Over the last decade the CSIR has spent around $50 million on patent applications, including for using cow urine in health tonics, energy drinks and chocolate.”
“Patenting cow urine is a natural extension of the Hindu right’s obsession with the cow”, the paper continues, adding, “It makes ideological sense for a nationalist party that rides on a wounded Hindu psyche to claim that Indian science was well ahead of Western science.”
However, it underlines, “But this is bad history. A large part of what India claims as its indigenous heritage isn’t exclusively ours: Unani medicine comes from Persia; the origins of homeopathy are German.” The approach stems from the BJP’s “nativist, Hindu-pride approach to patents”, it adds.
“India’s patent laws, currently under consideration as a model in South Africa and Brazil, are a world-class innovation”, NYT says, insisting, however, the country’s “cow-urine technology, which has yet to garner much interest abroad, is not.”
“To patent cow urine isn’t just silly”, NYT says, adding, it stems from the ruling BJP’s “famously obsessed with the cow, which is venerated in Hindu cosmology.”
“Most Indian states have now banned cow slaughter”, the daily points out, adding, “The government of Punjab wants to tax alcohol to pay for shelters for stray cattle. Last year, after a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh was lynched by a mob for eating beef, a cabinet minister from the BJP demanded to know who else was “involved in the crime” — meaning the beef eating, not the man’s killing.”
“It should probably come as no surprise, then, that the BJP is also touting the medicinal virtues of consuming cow urine”, NYT says, adding, “The therapy is mentioned in the Ayurveda, an ancient healing system described in Hinduism’s foundational texts.”
“Today, the Indian government holds more than a dozen patents related to cow urine and has filed applications for them in nearly 150 countries. Many nations, including the United States, France and South Korea, have recognized these, but not India, which has much stricter standards for patents. For now”, the daily says.

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