A number of stories in the past few days have highlighted some novel initiatives to “mainstream” traditional medicine in Africa and China. First there was an article in The Economist on the effort by the Association for African Medicinal Plants Standards to develop a pharmacopoeia, or database of plants used in traditional medicine. By early next year this will include information on about 50 plants and how they are used across Africa. Then today there’s a report from a WHO meeting in Lusaka saying that institutionalizing traditional medicine would improve the care provided by African health systems. And there’s also news that the Chinese government has launched a programme to test the safety of traditional medicines, the latest in a series of projects on traditional medicine in China (see links at bottom of the page).
Coffee trouble brewing
The question is: would Ethiopia trademarking its Sidano and Harar coffee result in a better return to local farmers through increased leverage or in a worse return through higher prices. Read about it here. I’d be tempted to bet on the former, or Starbucks wouldn’t be protesting so much. Or is that too cynical?
The whole thing turned out to be probably based on a mis-translation, but a story that the Chinese were trying to make and market “tequila” has led to this rapid-fire, rather fun run-through the concept of geographic indications in Salon’s How the World Works section. Actually, geographic indications may turn out to be a very useful form of IPRs for developing country products based on biodiversity.