Ownership and Sustainability Issues of Botanical Medicines
AbstractThe World Health Organization estimates that more than
70% of the world’s population, especially those who reside
in the tropics, rely almost exclusively on plants as a
primary source of medicines. Over the last decades an
awareness has grown of the pharmacological potential of
medicinal plants, and a potentially bright future for drugs
developed from natural products. At the same time, the
use of plants in medical practice contributes to the growing
threat to species and ecosystem preservation. This
paper expands the narrow view of plants as sources for
pharmaceutical development to discuss botanical medicine
from an economic and human development perspective.
I consider strategies that can ensure that the benefits
that accrue from utilization of indigenous plant knowledge
become positive forces for human development. Issues of
sustainability are discussed vis à vis poverty, protection
of ecosystems, and the potential for future use and longterm
viability of medicinal species. Issues of ownership
also are presented in the context of intellectual property
rights, with particular reference to the inadequacy of patent
rights to protect indigenous knowledge.
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