THE AYAHUASCA CASE
Vine of the soul
For innumerous generations, shamans of indigenous tribes in the western
Amazon Basin have processed the plant Banisteriopsis caapi to
produce a ceremonial drink known as "ayahuasca". The shamans
use ayahuasca (which means "vine of the soul") in religious
and healing ceremonies to diagnose and treat illnesses, meet with spirits,
and divine the future.
"Da Vine" - discovery of Loren Miller?
An American, Loren Miller obtained a US Patent in June 1986, granting
him rights over an alleged variety of B. caapi he had called
"Da Vine". The patent description states that the "plant
was discovered growing in a domestic garden in the Amazon rainforest of
South America." The patentee claimed that Da Vine represented a new
and distinct variety of B. caapi, primarily because of the flower color.
1999 - patent annulled
The Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin
(COICA) - an umbrella organization representing over 400 indigenous groups
- learned of the patent in 1994. On their behalf the Center for International
Environmental Law (CIEL) filed a re-examination request on the patent.
CIEL protested that a review of the prior art revealed that Da Vine was
neither new nor distinct. They argued also that the granting of the patent
would be contrary to the public and morality aspects of the Patent Act
because of the sacred nature of Banisteriopsis caapi throughout
the Amazon region.
Extensive, new information was presented by CIEL, and in November 1999,
the USPTO rejected the patent claim agreeing that Da Vine was not distinguishable
from the prior art presented by CIEL and therefore the patent should never
have been issued.
2001 - patent stands again
However, further arguments by the patentee persuaded the USPTO to reverse
its decision and announce in early 2001 that the patent should stand.
Because of the date of filing of the patent, it was not covered by the
new rules in the US on "inter partes" re-examination. CIEL were
therefore unable to comment on the arguments made by the patentee that
led to the patent being upheld," commented the Commission on Intellectual
Property Rights" in London. **
Indigenous peoples continue protesting against this patent. So did BENKI
ASHANINKA, the representative of the Amazonian indigenous people ASHANINKA
at the international workshop "Growing
Diversity" in may of 2002 in Rio Branco, Acre: " ...this
shows the lack of consciousness and respect for other cultures ."
(Click here for the
Commerce in the US - plantations in Hawaii
Ayahuasca is also used in religions like "Santo Daime" and "União
do Vegetal" These religions were founded in Brazil in the last century
and have spread the use of ayahuasca all over the world.
In the US the drink was classified as an illegal substance because it
contains the hallucinogenic dimethyltriptamin (DMT). In august 2002 it
became legalized for religious purposes. Since then the commerce of the
so called "Caapi Vine" is growing. The plantations are located
in the US and in Hawaii.
here for an on-line sale of American Caapi Vine)
"DA VINE" PATENT (AYAHUASCA)
(Click the number for more information
|MILLER LOREN S (US) *
||Banisteriopsis caapi (cv) 'Da Vine'
*We do not know if, or to what extent
the term biopiracy applies to each of the holders of patents and trademarks
here mentioned. However we consider questionable the patenting and registering
of trademarks over plants that are traditionally used by the inghabitants
of the Amazon. We invite the holders of these rights to write a comment
to defend themselves.
Amazonlink.org does not accept any responsibility for possible consequences
of errors or omissions in the provided information.
- Integrating Intellectual Property
Rights and Development Policy.
- Report of the Commission on Intellectual
- Commission on Intellectual Property
Rights. London 2002