Magazine article New Internationalist

Kava Craze: Transnational Corporations to Monopolize Ceremonial Plant [for Drugs and Cosmetics]

Magazine article New Internationalist

Kava Craze: Transnational Corporations to Monopolize Ceremonial Plant [for Drugs and Cosmetics]

Article excerpt

A ceremonial plant used in the South Pacific has become the target of multiple patents (see NI 293 on genes). Over 100 varieties of kava are grown by many South Pacific nations as a cash crop as an ingredient in an important ceremonial drink. But now corporations from the US, Europe and Japan are filing patents for the exclusive use of the plant for commercial purposes, and for methods of processing and preparing it.

French company L'Oreal, for example, has patented the use of kava to reduce hair loss and stimulate hair growth. Owned by Nestle, one of the world's biggest food and drink companies, and France's richest woman, Liliane Bettencourt, L'Oreal has obtained or is seeking patents in the US, Canada, Japan, China, Germany, France, Italy, Britain, Spain, Hungary and Poland. In North America and Europe, kava is being aggressively promoted for a variety of uses -- including its anti-stress and tranquillizing effects.

In Europe alone, extracts are being sold by at least 14 drug companies. The German company Willmar Schwabe has patented its use in treating strokes, insomnia and Alzheimer's disease. …

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