Access and Benefit Sharing Act – What it means to Ayurveda

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The ayurvedic medicine manufacturers and practitioners’ associations in Kerala are demanding to the Central and State governments that their concerns about the ‘Access and Benefit Sharing’ (ABS) Act should be eliminated before the ABS Act 2002 and the Rule 2004 are implemented fully in the state.

Even though certain states have implemented the ABS Act, there are some gray areas in the Act which need to be cleared immediately as they create confusion. Though the Act is supposed to be implemented in Kerala from June 1 this year, since the government has changed, it is unlikely to implement the Act soon, sources informed.

Pointing out certain gray areas that create confusion on benefit sharing, Dr P M Varier, national president of Ayurveda Drug Manufacturers’ Association (ADMA), said the association does not support the government to implement the Act as such because it will harmfully affect the small scale manufacturing units in the country. “More clarity has to come in certain provisions in the Act. ADMA has filed a case with the Nagpur court in Maharashtra against introduction of ABS and the association is waiting for the court verdict”, he said.

The Act demands fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of natural resources. For preparation of traditional medicines, the manufacturers use medicinal plants, herbs and other resources. The ABS Act mandates that out of the revenue they get from the sale of the products (drugs) they make, a certain percentage of it should be given to the government in lieu of exploiting the wild plants (natural resources).

According to Dr S Rajasekharan, former director grade scientist at the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute in Thiruvananthapuram, the amount levied from the users of natural resources will in turn be used for cultivating varieties of medicinal plants, herbs and for conserving wild plants with the support of local self governing bodies. Bio Diversity Management Committees will be formed under Corporation, Municipality and Punchayath levels and such committees will take care of the conservation of these herbs and plants. The local bodies are authorized to collect the levy from the users of these natural/genetic resources.

Dr Rajasekharan, who is the senior project consultant at the Kerala Bio Diversity Board, said access and benefit sharing is like collecting a royalty for the utilization of natural resources from those who commercialize the products they make out of these resources. If a manufacturer or a company engages in the production and sale of a product by utilizing the traditional knowledge, he is supposed to pay the royalty and licence fee to the biodiversity board as per the rules and regulations of the ABS Act and Rules. If an agreement (MoU) is signed in this regard it should contain specific indication about the percentage of ABS given for the harvest of natural resources.

“Everybody is utilizing the natural and wild resources, but nobody is taking initiative to replant the herbs or conserve the flora. The manufacturing companies are expending huge sum of money for advertisements for marketing their products and they make huge profit. Seventy percentage of their crude drugs are from the forest and even the rare species of vegetations are used for medicinal purpose. But they are unwilling to pay a little amount for conserving the natural resources. If the natural resources have to be protected, we need a sustainable harvest system and culture”, he said.

Dr Rejith Anand, general secretary of Ayurveda Medicine Association of India (AMAI) said government should implement the Act in such a way that it will not affect destructively the small scale manufacturers.

Source : Pharmabiz

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