Monday, 22 April 2013

Nigella Sativa

Nigella Sativa -- more commonly known as fennel flower -- has been used as a cure-all remedy for over a thousand years. It treats everything from vomiting to fevers to skin diseases, and has been widely available in impoverished communities across the Middle East and Asia. But now Nestlé is claiming to own it, and filing patent claims around the world to try and take control over the natural cure of the fennel flower and turn it into a costly private drug.

In a paper published last year, Nestlé scientists claimed to “discover” what much of the world has known for millennia: that nigella sativa extract could be used for “nutritional interventions in humans with food allergy”. But instead of creating an artificial substitute, or fighting to make sure the remedy was widely available, Nestlé is attempting to create a nigella sativa monopoly and gain the ability to sue anyone using it without Nestlé’s permission. Nestlé has filed patent applications -- which are currently pending -- around the world.

Prior to Nestlé's outlandish patent claim, researchers in developing nations such as Egypt and Pakistan had already published studies on the same curative powers Nestlé is claiming as its own. And Nestlé has done this before -- in 2011, it tried to claim credit for using cow’s milk as a laxative, despite the fact that such knowledge had been in Indian medical texts for a thousand years.

This isn't surprising, considering Nestle has a long track record of not caring about ethics. After all, this is the corporation that poisoned its milk with melamine, purchases cocoa from plantations that use child slave labour, and launched a breast milk substitute campaign in the 1970s that contributed to the suffering and deaths of thousands of babies from poor communities.

But we also know that Nestlé is sensitive to public outcry, and that it's been beaten at the patent game before. If we act fast, we can put enough pressure on Nestlé to get it to drop its patent plans before they harm anyone -- but if we want any chance at affecting Nestlé's decision, we have to speak out now, while its patent claims are still under review.

Don’t let Nestlé turn a traditional cure into a corporate cash cow. 

Sign the Petition. Click-Here

24th April 2013 Stop Press: In just a few days, over 160,000 people have signed our petition to Nestlé, calling for the company to stop trying to patent the traditional curative powers of nigella sativa. What's more, over 50,000 of you have shared the campaign with your friends -- and all this action is clearly having an effect on Nestlé.

Nestlé has written up an official response to our our demands on its site, but the conglomerate's defense is ridiculous: Nestlé claims everything is OK because it is not patenting the flower itself, just the flower's traditional medicinal use. Nestlé's official patent, filed in countries around the world, claims that it "invented" use of nigella sativa to treat allergic reactions, despite the fact that the flower has been used for this very purpose across the Middle East and Asia for over a millennium.

Nestlé's greedy grab at nigella sativa's curative power is not an error, it is part of a recurrent strategy by a corporation with a pattern of seeking to privatize and profit from traditional knowledge and other public resources.

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