For centuries all over the world, traditional healers have been discovering the healing powers of plants and compounds around them. Then passing on this knowledge of remedies for all kinds of ailments and illness with huge benefits to mankind (Ethno Botany).
Western pharmaceutical companies have used (stolen) the lion’s share of such local knowledge. These ancient medicinal discoveries have been exploited by drug companies which have stamped their own patent on the treatment and failed to return any share of the profits to local communities that discovered and developed them.
There has been a big push at international level to improve the way local knowledge is shared and plough some of the money back into the local communities.
And there are a number of high profile cases which show that local people are fighting back.
A typical example is the Hoodia cactus, an indigenous plant of the Kalahari desert in Southern Africa, it was discovered to have weight loss properties which could make it an excellent weapon against obesity.
Eaten for thousands of years by the bushmen to stave off hunger the plant was at the centre of a bio-piracy row which should now see local people given a percentage of the profits the cactus has yielded.