Or is it?
It comes from an article I read yesterday in the ([gasp] PRINT!) newspaper. It deals with the commercialization of yoga and the patenting of yogic asanas in the US.
The article says that many asanas are patented in the US, of course just to make a bigger buck. In India, these same asanas cannot be patented as they qualify as "traditional knowledge and methods" (which cannot be commercialized). The problem, of course, is that the US's patent laws preempt all other countries' patent laws, so this may (unfortunately) change in India as well. Thankfully, as it stands, yogic asanas cannot be patented. To ensure that this is so, many (both religious and secular) practitioners of yoga are compiling libraries of asanas and having them approved as "traditional knowledge" to ensure that they can never be patented in India.
I applaud this measure. Sure, companies need to make a buck somehow. But what about those people who practice yoga through traditional means instead of going to a company's yoga program? Would they be patent violators?
Of course, the same goes for the commercialization of ayurveda and basmati rice. As both are part of traditional Indian culture, they will undoubtedly be protected at least initially in India, but not in the US. In fact, ayurveda already goes under several different trademarked names in the US, while basmati rice has been patented by an agricultural company (oh, the gall!). The problem eventually becomes, in each case, the US's broader patent laws causing other countries legislating to achieve parity in the scope of patents. This means, then, that traditional practitioners of ayurveda would eventually be considered patent violators; something similar to the effort to stop the patenting of yogic asanas would need to be undertaken here. The case of basmati rice is more serious; farmers of basmati rice in India who already make pretty meager livelihoods (at best) would be completely put out of business.