European Patent Office arrives at historic decision

On March 8, two months to the day, the EPO (European Patent Office) revoked a patent it had granted to the US Department of Agriculture for a Neem-based crop fungicide.

Kudos to India Inc., who, for ten long years protested on grounds of “biopiracy”, to protect their traditional knowledge base about Neem, its properties and it’s numerous applications in the fields of medicine, personal hygiene, agriculture, even in cuisine!

Neem is a plant species, renowned for it’s fungicidal and medicinal properties. It has been used for over centuries – over two millenia – both, by Indian farmers as well as by the Indian scientific community. Every part of the Neem tree has a medicinal property. Neem is also popularly known as Margosa and another species is termed the Persian Lilac. The Sanskrit name for the Indian Lilac or Margosa, is “Arishtha” or “sickness reliever”.

Starting from the Neem seed, to its flower, fruit, leaf, twig, bark, gum and it’s oil, this plant has been therapeutically used to control and/or cure ailments such as anorexia, leprosy, respiratorial, dermatological, intestinal, osteopathic, ophthalmic and some sexual diseases! Neem Oil is believed to be used even for preventing pregnancies, lowering cholesterol and to treat some types of cancers. If a child is down with chicken-pox, you may want to fan the baby with some neem leaves on stalks – it’s certain to soothen the pain. In farms and fields, to keep termites at bay you may want to use neem-based fungicides and insecticides.

If you walk into a South Asian grocery store you may find neem-based soaps, toothpastes, and ayurvedic medicines on the shelves. And if you’re looking for herbs, Neem will be sitting not far from cilantro and fenugreek. That’s what you may commonly refer to as Curry Patta or Curry Leaves.

Now, not surprising, is it, why the world would like to patent the Neem and it’s derivatives, while India takes for granted the enormous wealth of resources it owns. Wake up, India… don’t wait for the world to shake you out of your reverie!


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