CAM / Nutriceutical = Biopiracy
Brazilian Berry Destroys Cancer Cells In Lab
PLEASE FORWARD THIS TO ANYONE YOU THINK WOULD BE CONCERNED ABOUT THESE ISSUES:
The article that I am forwarding to you below was sent to me by a physician
colleague of mine and depicts just some of the evolving threat to traditional
medical knowledge and the ecology of medicinal herbs.
It is necessary for you all to be aware of the enormous consequences for the
survival of native culture and traditional natural medical knowledge created
by the current development of the Complementary and Alternative Medicine
(CAM) industry and the Nurtriceutical industry in the USA. In America there
are regular meetings of the progenitors of the CAM industry in Washington,
through the White House Commission on CAM Medicine Policy, the NIH CAM
Center, also at university and hospital based CAM centers and at CAM
conferences and private meetings. This activity is occurring under the radar
of most practitioners of alternative medicine and most Americans who utilize
natural medicine in their healthcare. Nevertheless the CAM hierarchy is
moving forward aggressively to put into law their agenda which will have a
meaningful effect on our medical freedom and on the sustainability of
traditional natural medical systems.
I presented at a large medical conference in Tibet this summer, and found
that the Chinese govt. is trying to impose on Tibetan medicine an identical
agenda that the CAM industry and the Nutriceutical industry in the USA have
begun to impose on all natural medicine here. That is, 1) forcing the system
into the Western biomedical model and 2) into the structure of the existing
medical industrial complex and 3) aggressively attempting to turn herbal
medicines into exploitable consumer products. The more that we create a
parallel system here with CAM the more we become part of the global problem
facing traditional medicine and the ecology of herbal medicines.
As the medical industry rushes forth to find ways to "integrate" alternative
medicine, the 30+ year grassroots alternative medicine movement is being force
d aside with the building of the new CAM industry. In the context of the
awareness that millions of healthcare dollars are being spent on alternative
health practices, there has come an attempt to regulate and control this
expansion of our medical freedom. To its credit, CAM has been a vehicle
through which people's access to certain alternative medical procedures has
been expanded. However, these procedures do not represent the full value of
the traditional medical systems from which they are appropriated. The
CAMization of natural medicine has begun to bring to the field all the
aspects of commerce and hierarchy that have harmed the practice of allopathic
medicine. It has also created a situation where the theft and exploitation
of traditional medical knowledge, i.e. biopiracy, will become more common in
Read this article and work at becoming more informed about these issues.
Then call your senators, congressional representatives about your concerns.
Carefully watch what is going on in your statehouses relative to the CAM
agenda being put into law in your state.
Drug Firms Are Accused of Stealing
Poor Nations' Traditions, Biology
RANCHERIA NABALAM, Mexico -- When a pregnant woman goes into labor, Hilaria
Rodriguez does what generations of Mayan midwives before her have done: She
hikes into the hills to find medicinal plants that will speed up delivery,
stop excessive bleeding or relieve the mother's pain.
For nearly a half century, Ms. Rodriguez, 69, has practiced herbal medicine
both to honor the traditions of her ancestors and to meet basic necessities.
Until five years ago, there was no medical clinic or pharmacy in this poor
village tucked in the highlands of southern Chiapas state.
"We are still curing ourselves with the plants," she said. "It is what allows
us to survive."
It also has drawn the interest of big pharmaceutical companies, which are
developing the medical traditions of Mayans, as well as indigenous peoples
around the world, into high-priced drugs.
The practice has brought an escalating battle over ownership of natural
While the process of collecting genetic resources, known as "bioprospecting,"
is nothing new, it has increased exponentially over the past 20 years,
spurred by dramatic advances in genetic engineering that allow scientists to
more easily manipulate active compounds in plants, soils and fungi.
For hundreds of years, scientists have tapped jungles, rainforests, deserts
and farms in Latin America to develop new agricultural products and modern
medicines ranging from aspirin to the anti-malarial drug quinine.
But a wave of resistance is growing among newly politically active Indians
fighting centuries of exploitation, and from governments slowly awakening to
the need to protect the right to benefit from dwindling natural resources.
In Mexico, an organization representing Indian doctors, backed by aid groups
and academics, waged such fierce opposition to a bioprospecting project in
Chiapas that Mexico's environmental agency stopped issuing permits last fall.
The move resulted in at least the partial suspension of that program and
another in Mexico's deserts.
Opponents say that in the absence of national and international laws to
regulate bioprospecting, the practice is nothing more than biopiracy -- the
expropriation of genetic materials with no fair return to the people they are
The critics worry that companies may patent the genetic materials they
discover -- preventing communities in the future from using their own
resources -- and claim scientists fail to obtain full permission from local
populations before launching their research programs.
Both supporters and detractors of bioprospecting claim that the 1992 United
Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, an international treaty designed
to protect host countries and Indian communities, is riddled with loopholes
and poorly implemented. The U.S. never ratified the convention.
The new administration of President Vicente Fox has pledged to make the issue
a priority, said Victor Manuel Villalobos, executive secretary for Mexico's
Intersecretarial Commission on Biosecurity, a collaboration of six Cabinet
Mr. Villalobos said the government plans to create national centers for the
preservation of genetic resources and to pass a law guaranteeing benefits for
all Mexicans, including the Indians who live in the most biologically rich
"Mexico is a mega-diverse country biologically, but it has not been protected
scientifically or legally," Mr. Villalobos said. "The Fox administration is
going to elevate this theme to its important place."
The change can't come soon enough in Chiapas, where a full-scale war has
broken out between the Council of Traditional Indigenous Doctors and Midwives
from Chiapas and the Maya-International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups.
The latter is a collaboration between several U.S. government agencies, the
British company Molecular Nature Ltd., the University of Georgia at Athens
and the San Cristobal de las Casas branch of the College of the Southern
Program director Brent Berlin, a professor of anthropology at the University
of Georgia at Athens, said the project's goals were to combine the search for
new drugs and agricultural products with programs to help Mayan communities.
Such programs included training students in scientific research, helping
develop profitable new uses for medicinal plants and conducting
investigations on local health problems.
Researchers also planted medicinal gardens in eight communities designed to
promote traditional medicine.
Mr. Berlin said he received permission to proceed from nearly 50 communities
representing more than 30,000 people. Under agreements forged with the
participants, the communities would share any profits if commercial products
were developed, but Mr. Berlin said he warned them that financial windfalls
were a long shot.
But the Council of Traditional Indigenous Doctors claims Mr. Berlin ignored a
large number of communities opposed to the project and failed to truthfully
explain his group's motives to those who agreed to participate.
They also claim the program has damaged the cooperative spirit of Indian
communities long used to trading knowledge and customs at no cost.
"They get together a small group and try to work out these individual
negotiations in the absence of any law," said Rafael Alarcon Lavin, an
adviser to the council. "Without law, whatever project arrives in Mexico and
whatever they do is going to be biopiracy."
The irony is that the Maya-International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups was
designed to be a model in benefit-sharing and respect for local communities,
said Joshua Rosenthal, biodiversity program director at the Fogarty
International Center of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which
administers the program.
"What we've tried to do is work hand in hand with governments and communities
to provide examples of how this can be done in an ethical and efficient way,"
Mr. Rosenthal said.
The Chiapas dispute underscores the complex moral and ethical issues involved
in bioprospecting, said Arthur Caplan, director of the center for bioethics
at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
"History, culture, religious views about plants and nature and our
relationship to them -- and also just plain economics -- they're all
interconnected here," Mr. Caplan said.
In Mayan and many other Indian communities, plants are seen as gifts from the
gods -- bestowed on traditional healers to cure illnesses afflicting both
body and soul -- and they are treated with reverence and respect.
"The plants are not mine," said Ms. Rodriguez, speaking in the Tzeltal Indian
language. "They aren't of anyone. They are of all the people. No one should
sell them or authorize anyone to take them."
Rancheria Nabalam is a tiny, rural community about 50 miles east of the
highland city of San Cristobal de las Casas.
Many of its residents live in tin-roofed shacks with no transportation to
hospitals miles away and scarcely enough money to put tortillas on the table.
Buying expensive medicine is out of the question.
"We have always lived in the mud, under the rain, with a lot of sickness,"
Ms. Rodriguez said. "When there is a problem, we can usually find a solution
in the plants."
The Fox administration will try to develop laws with all of bioprospecting's
complex issues in mind, Mr. Villalobos, the government official, said. He
said it would invite scientists, civilians and Indian representatives to
Mr. Caplan, at the University of Pennsylvania, said the international
community needs to come up with a worldwide treaty that both acknowledges the
potential scientific value of bioprospecting and the necessity to share its
"It makes no sense to put up barriers to medical cures or the possibility of
finding better food. That can't be in anyone's interest in the long run," he
said. "The trick is to come up with a fair, just economic return."
EU laws on sale of vitamins 'valid'
July 12 2005
Controversial new European laws which could outlaw thousands of vitamin and mineral supplements were upheld by European Court judgesy.
The European Court of Justice rejected British health food industry claims that the proposed Food Supplements Directive, coming into force on August 1, breaches EU rules.
The surprise decision goes against an opinion delivered by the same court's advocate-general in April, advising that the rules should be scrapped because they contravene basic EU principles of "legal protection, legal certainty and sound administration".
The judges countered that the proposed arrangements, designed to tighten controls on the growing market in products sold under the health food heading, can go ahead as planned.
Health food companies have to submit natural remedies, vitamin supplements and mineral plant extracts - many of them in long-established regular use in a £300 million-a-year market in the UK - for approval and inclusion on a list of recognised food supplements.
The judges backed the move saying: "A 'positive list' system is appropriate for securing the free movement of food supplements and ensuring the protection of human health."
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