the-south-asian.com January/February 2006
Page 4 of 4
Basmati – The King of Rice
Salman S. Minhas [Information Engineers, Lahore, Pakistan]
Rice is high in complex carbohydrates, contains almost no fat, is cholesterol free, and is low in sodium, unless you add salt to the cooking water. Generally all rice - both brown and white - is considered a good source of vitamins and minerals. Although almost all the nutrients are stripped from white rice when the bran layer is removed during milling, ninety percent of all American grown rice is enriched with thiamine, niacin and iron and in some instances riboflavin, Vitamin D and Calcium. White rice, because it is enriched, has more iron and thiamine than brown rice. Brown rice has five times more Vitamin E and three times more magnesium and provides twice as much fibre as white rice, but it is not an especially rich source of fibre. Rice bran alone is an excellent source of fibre. Rice is a fair source of protein containing all eight essential amino acids. It is low in the amino acid lysine, which is found in beans making the classic combination of rice and beans, popularly known as complimentary proteins, a particularly healthful dish. Rice is gluten free and easily digestible making it a good choice for infants and people with wheat allergies or digestive problems. A half cup of cooked white rice provides 82 calories; an equal amount of brown rice provides 89 calories.
Basmati Bio Piracy
In 1996, RiceTec corporation in Texas, which had been courting Basmati rice and trying to call their rice various names such as "Texmati, Kasmati & Jasmati , decided it was time to marry Basmati with the crude Texas cowboy rice variety. They applied for a patent in the US Patent Office and got one (No. 5,663,484) promptly.
RiceTec Corp. [120 employees, $10 million sales] of Texas, US, UK and Europe is owned not by Texans but by European royalty - the Earl of Lichtenstein, Hans Adam II is the President of RiceTec. Bordering Switzerland and Austria. Liechtenstein’s royal family, headed by the reigning Prince Hans Adam II, is the sole owner of RiceTech Inc. The billionaire prince, whose personal fortune is estimated at US $3.75-$4.5 billion dollars, is the largest private landowner in neighbouring Austria. On 24 September 1999, the four NGOs namely, Gene Campaign from India, RAFI from Canada, Berne Declaration from Switzerland and the Lichtenstein Society for Environmental Protection, demanded that RiceTec should voluntarily recall the patent on Basmati rice and stop using the name ‘Basmati’ for any of their products.
Indian exporters launched legal proceedings against RiceTec in the U.K. for trying to sell its American long-grain rice variety as Indian and Pakistani Basmati. RiceTec settled out of court with the Indian side, agreeing to withdraw Kasmati from the market for at least two years in return for a $30,000 payment to compensate for the company’s incurred losses. Similarly, in 1997, Greece rejected RiceTec’s application to register its brand names, Texmati, Jasmati, and Kasmati, in the country so that the company could market its products there.
For a detailed story on the Basmati Case Patent see the following links -- http://www.monthlyreview.org/0204clement.htm
see also the links below for information on related topics
There are several other similar cases of biopiracy that have gone on for some time. Patents on turmeric [A U.S. patent on turmeric was awarded to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 1995] , Neem [India won a 10-year-long battle at the European Patent Office (EPO) against a patent granted in1995 on an anti-fungal product, derived from "neem" by the US based W.R. Grace & US Department of Agriculture, marketing a product called "Margosan" ]
EPO initially granted the patent to the US Department of Agriculture and multinational WR Grace in 1995.
Patents on Amla, Jar Amla, Anar, Salai, Dudhi, Gulmendhi, Bagbherenda, Karela, Rangoon-ki-bel, Erand, Vilayetishisham, Chamkura, Brinjal and Jamun all need to be revoked. Yoga exercises have been patented in the west.
Indian Data Base for Traditional Medical Knowledge:
A $2m project, titled "Traditional Knowledge Digital Library"[ TKDL], under the leadership of Dr Vinod Kumar Gupta, who heads India's National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources (Niscair) will roll out a Data Base/ Data Warehouse of the country's traditional medicine in five languages - English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish - in an effort to stop people from claiming them as their own and patenting them. Ms Alison Brimelow, President Elect, European Patent Office visited the National Institute of Science Communication And Information Resources (NISCAIR), New Delhi on 19 August 2004 to get a hands-on view of the TKDL.
Some 100 doctors are involved in entering data of about 30-million pages from ancient medical texts and keying in information. Dr.Gupta believes that of the nearly 5,000 patents given out by the US Patent Office on various medical plants by the year 2000, some 80% were plants of Indian origin. These doctors are practitioners of ayurveda, unani and siddha, ancient Indian medical systems that date back thousands of years.
The TKDL Data Base to be available in 2006, will contain information on traditional medicines, including exhaustive references, photographs of the plants and scans from original texts. This TKDL Data Base will be put in the public domain, so that no one can claim these medicines or therapies as their own. Putting together the encyclopaedia is a daunting task. For one, Ayurvedic texts are in Sanskrit and Hindi, Unani texts are in Arabic and Persian and Siddha material is in Tamil language. Material from these texts is being translated into five international languages, using sophisticated software coding. There are some 54 authoritative 'text books' on ayurveda alone, some thousands of years old.
Then there are nearly 150,000 recorded Ayurvedic, Unani and Siddha medicines; and some 1,500 asanas (physical exercises and postures) in yoga, which originated in India more than 5,000 years ago. A patent application should always be rejected if there is prior existing knowledge about the product. In most of the developed nations like United States, "prior existing knowledge" is only recognized if it is published in a journal or is available on a database - not if it has been passed down through generations of oral and folk traditions. The tragedy is that India has suffered even though its traditional knowledge, as in China, has been documented extensively.
The Indian government spent some $6m alone in fighting legal battles against the patenting of turmeric and neem-based medicines. In the US, an expatriate Indian yoga teacher has claimed copyright on a sequence of 36 yoga asanas, or postures.
According to the WHO, 70% of the people living in India use traditional medicine for primary health care. Also, some 42% of the people living in the US and 70% of the people living in Canada have used traditional medicines at least once for treatment. By one estimate, a quarter of the new drugs produced in the US are plant-based, giving the sometimes much-criticized practitioners of alternative traditional medicine something to cheer about.
Knowledge is the global currency for the 21st century .South Asians need to collaborate and develop Quality Control and Grading systems in their high value agricultural products such as Basmati.
The various districts of Basmati in India and Pakistan need to develop a Basmati Trademark logo and use it in a similar fashion like the French wines "Appellation Controlle", which is pasted on each French wine bottle. In particular, the district and farm from where the Basmati originates needs to be printed on the Basmati packages for both local and export markets.
The middleman’s substantial share of the profit needs to be balanced through the use of Internet technologies. Commodities exchanges need to get into action in particular in Pakistan, so as to enable farmers to use financial products such as Futures and Options to stabilize and improve the financial condition of the farmers. Warehousing & Grading of agricultural products needs to be improved substantially, so that grain storage can help the supply–demand imbalance and a better price for such high quality premium products is obtained. Much in the same way as old wine is very expensive, old Basmati needs to get the same storage treatment and price. Irrigation practices require improvement over the old wasteful flood irrigation methods. Our 100 year old Irrigation system needs a complete overhaul including lining the canals that are not yet lined with bricks. Soil salinity issues, through the use of these old methods, needs to be addressed. Finally our University research scientists and agricultural engineers need to be given financial funding to develop their Knowledge Data Bases, research and produce even better products and research papers. The ratios of budgets allocated to the arms races need to be balanced by allocating more to infrastructure in Highways, farm to market roads, and rural telecommunications, instead of funding the western arms and military industries, by buying weapon systems and using them to fight each other in a self destructive fashion.
It is time to wake up in south Asia and defend, preserve and creatively develop the great south Asian agricultural & medicinal heritage & knowledge – one of the oldest, wisest and upcoming civilizations in the 21st century. It is time to start building the great United States of South Asia, starting with a united Punjabi century.
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