• Every summer and winter, members of the Korku tribe near Melghat, Maharashtra, don big cotton outfits covered in fine mesh and head out to the forests.
  • Yarsa goomba, a fungus that grows on a caterpillar, found only in the Himalayas and used widely in Chinese medicine for its supposed aphrodisiac properties.
  • Or the mahua tree, which isn’t rare, but its flowers — used for chutneys, pastes, and alcohol — are only collected from mature trees, many of which grow in forest land.
  • It is loved by both sloth bears and people, and plans are afoot to package and sell mahua liquor on a large scale.
  • The local and the indigenous communities in Uttarakhand, who reside in the high Himalayas and are mainly tribals, are the traditional ‘pickers’ of this biological resource.
  • Through the ages, this knowledge is preserved and passed on to the next generation.
  • The knowledge as to when, and in which season to find the herb, its character, the distinct qualities, the smell, the colour, are all part of this traditional knowledge.
  • This knowledge, may not strictly qualify as an intellectual property justify of these communities, but nevertheless is a ‘property justify’, now recognised for the first time by the 2002 Act (India’s Biological Diversity Act), as FEBS [Fair and Equitable Benefit Sharing].”
  • India’s Biological Diversity Act, 2002 is in line with India’s international commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity, which call for both the sustainable use of biological resources, and also for access and benefit sharing.
  • The judgement indeed upholds the spirit of the Biological Diversity Act, although the modalities have not been worked out and dues remain unpaid by companies and industrial units.
  • At the end of the day, the benefit-sharing system is truly sustainable, as the money will go to the Biodiversity Management Committees, who will then use it for activities that sustain the biological resource — such as maintaining a water source, creating basic facilities for drying and storing the resource, or capacity building of the collectors and growers.
  • Under the biodiversity Act, benefit sharing does not cover ‘normally traded commodities’ such as wheat, rice and cotton.
  • But it does cover other biological resources used commercially, and this should include Korku forest honey, especially as it is sustainably harvested.