Hyderabad, Oct 16: The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, on Tuesday said protecting and promoting biodiversity has always been an integral part of the ethos and civilization, and added that this can be seen in the thousands of sacred groves that are found all over the country.
” Our traditional systems of agriculture and medicine depend on plant and animal biodiversity. Conserving the wild ancestors and relatives of the cultivars we use today is of paramount importance to us,” said Dr. Singh in his remarks at the inauguration of the High Level Segment of the 11th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity here.
Dr. Singh said that there has been concern that this public knowledge may become restricted in its use because of the application of the modern intellectual property system in recent years.
” India has tried a unique approach to protection of traditional knowledge by establishing a Traditional Knowledge Digital Library. This database has 34 million pages of information in five international languages in formats easily accessible by patent examiners. This Library promotes the objectives of the Nagoya Protocol on the issue of protection of codified traditional knowledge systems such as the celebrated Ayurveda,” said Dr. Singh.
“We decided to build this knowledge database because of the patent on the use of neem extract in Europe and another on the use of turmeric as a healing agent. Since then, because of this database, over 1000 cases of biopiracy have been identified and over 105 claims withdrawn or cancelled by patent offices,” he added.
Dr. Singh said that the treasure trove of traditional knowledge should be used for the benefit of all humankind rather than for private profit.
“We will continue to work to strengthen our institutions to record this knowledge, to value its science and to provide benefits to its custodians. Multilateral agencies like the WIPO and some countries have approached us for assistance in setting up such libraries and our government will be happy to provide necessary assistance,” he added.
Stating that Indian farmers have always believed in the free use of seeds, Dr. Singh said: ” The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights’ Act of India confers intellectual property to farmers through registration of seed varieties. In our Patent Act we have adopted disclosure requirements on the origin of inventions based on biodiversity. But I believe a lot more needs to be done. We need to build on this experience and build living germplasm laboratories in our fields.”
Dr. Singh further said that in recent years it has become increasingly more difficult to find common ground on environmental issues
” This is, indeed, unfortunate given that there is today a much higher global awareness of environmental risks and concerns. It is this consciousness that should provoke us to greater action even as we cope with the pressures of the current global economic downturn,” he added.
Dr. Singh expressed his delight on the fact that negotiations regarding biodiversity have achieved remarkable success.
“India has recently ratified the Nagoya Protocol and formalised our commitment to it. I would urge all the Parties to do likewise because concerted global action is imperative and cannot brook any further delay. Despite global efforts, the 2010 biodiversity target that we had set for ourselves under the Convention on Biological Diversity was not fully met. This situation needs to change,” said Dr. Singh.
“The critical issue really is how to mobilise the necessary financial, technical and human resources, particularly the incubation, sharing and transfer of technology,” he added.
The Prime Minister said that he was pleased to launch the Hyderabad Pledge on the occasion of this conference and announce that our Government has decided to earmark a sum of US$ 50 million during India’s presidency of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to strengthen the institutional mechanism for biodiversity conservation in India.
“We will use these funds to enhance the technical and human capabilities of our national and state-level mechanisms to attain the Convention on Biological Diversity objectives. We have also earmarked funds to promote similar capacity building in developing countries,” he added. (ANI)