Saturday, 14 July 2018

Monsanto loses right to patent seeds

Opponents of genetically modified crops received a boost when the Delhi High Court upheld the Indian Patent Act, which states that seeds and life forms cannot be patented, and the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001 (PPV&FR Act), which biotechnology multinationals have tried to undermine, and ruled that key plant genetic material cannot be patented. This ruling is a significant which forbids Monsanto from stopping supplies to seed companies is a boost to domestic seed companies, and will curb the ability of multinationals to establish a seed monopoly. The court was deciding a dispute between Monsanto and Indian seed companies over interpretation of law, especially Section 3(j) of the Indian Patent Act and applicability of PPV&FR Act for transgenic plants.

Image result for indian farmers win against monsantoThe courts ruled that Monsanto Technologies LLC does not have the patent for Bt Cotton seed varieties ‘Bollgard’ and ‘Bollgard II’. The Bench permitted Monsanto three months to register the seed varieties under the Plant Varieties Act (PV Act), which would entitle them to trait fee (royalty) as fixed by the Government, give it control over plant reproductive materials, but not the key genetic material, which would be available to the public for further research and development.

The ruling is a boost to domestic seed companies that used Monsanto’s gene to prepare Bt Cotton seeds for farmers, and will seriously curb the ability of multinationals to establish a seed monopoly in India, which is the goal of the GM industry. This could downsize the market for genetically modified seeds in India (in any life form) and pave the way for more environmentally sustainable agriculture.

Bt Cotton was pushed into India by the backdoor, which emboldened the MNCs to try to create monopolies in GM food crops, viz, Bt Brinjal (scuttled by then Environment Minister) and GM Mustard. Illegal trials of many GM food crops have been exposed in many places. The ruling vindicates efforts to protect farmers’ rights and India’s food security. The Competition Commission of India has been urged to take note of the judgement, complete its investigations into the company and ensure full refund of Rs 7,000 crore extracted as excess royalty from eight million farmers since 2002.

The judgement is especially rewarding in view of covert attempts by officials of the Union Ministry of Agriculture to help the company during hearings last year. It is also realised that whilst the Government of India stands aloof from the dispute between two private parties, the court should be apprised of the views of the Union Government, in writing, as its judgement could impact multiple litigations regarding seed patents and transgenic traits, in which the Centre is involved. A ruling delivered without knowledge of the Centre’s views could adversely affect the Indian farmer and consumer.
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There is some concern that the law laid down in this case could be extended to other crops like rice, wheat, soyabean, groundnut among others and even animals like chicken, pig, sheep, goat, wherever a transgenic trait is introduced. Briefly, Monsanto’s patent from the Indian Patent Office (No. 214436) included the ‘nucleic acid sequence’ and process to insert the same in plant cells, and covered 27 claims. Monsanto claimed its invention comprised of identi??cation of desired gene (Cry2Ab) from the DNA of Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) bacteria, which is found naturally in soil; making (synthesising) nucleic acid sequence by copying the Cry2Ab for insertion into a plant cell; and the method of inserting the said nucleic acid sequence into a plant cell. Monsanto claimed its patent is a biotech invention containing infusion of Bt gene into the cotton genome, and eradicating pests afflicting the cotton plant. It sold 50 Bt Cotton ‘Donor’ seeds to the Indian company Nuziveedu and its subsidiaries under licensing agreements in 2004 and 2015, which the companies used in their breeding programme to inherit the Bt cotton trait to their proprietary cotton plant varieties. Monsanto never licensed any ‘technology’.

It was argued that the Bt Trait cannot be sold directly to farmers, but has to be transferred into superior cotton hybrids through traditional plant breeding methods so that the seeds have the agronomic traits required for production of cotton. Moreover, “plants” are excluded from patentability by Article 27(3)(b) of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.

Registration of a plant or transgenic variety under Section 28 of the PV Act confers certain exclusive rights to the breeder; Section 30 allows researchers to use any registered variety for developing new
varieties; while Section 39 gives farmers the right to save, sow, re-sow, exchange, share and sell farm-saved seeds of any protected variety, including transgenic variety.

The ruling forbids Monsanto from stopping supplies to seed companies and holding farmers hostage. Monsanto will have to abide by Indian laws to operate in India. Reluctance will help revive the native seed industry which has been undermined by the agri-MNCs and their links with public-funded agricultural institutions that never bothered to assess the impact of GM seeds on soil, animal and human health.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Benefits of Maca Powder - a new superfood?

Image result for macaDespite being revered for its medicinal properties for thousands of years, maca root is one of the newest remedies to take centre stage in the natural health community, and its newfound superfood status is well deserved. Researchers are continually turning up new health benefits associated with this powerful root vegetable.

What is maca? 
Known by its scientifi name, Lepidium meyenii, maca is a type of cruciferous vegetable native to the Andes of Peru. Maca has a similar appearance and size as radishes or turnips with green tops
and roots that range in color from yellow to purple and black.
The pleasant-tasting root is usually available in powder form after being harvested and grounded down. Not only is it a natural source of healing nutrition, but it also has a long history of being a safe superfood that has been consumed for its health benefits for thousands of years in regions of the Andes Mountains.

It’s also considered an “adaptogen,” a name given to certain herbs,
plants and natural substances that help the body naturally adapt to
stressors like a busy schedule, demanding job or illness. Not only that, but maca provides a host of important micronutrients and
is jam-packed with antioxidants, and it has been shown to improve
sexual health, balance hormone levels, and improve energy, mood and memory.

Maca Root Benefits
1. Rich in Antioxidants
2. Enhances Energy, Mood and Memory
3. Improves Female Sexual Health
4. Balances Estrogen Levels
5. Boosts Male Fertility

1. Rich in Antioxidants
Maca root acts as a natural antioxidant, boosting levels of antioxidants like glutathione and superoxide dismutase in the body. Antioxidants help neutralise harmful free radicals, fighting off chronic disease and preventing damage to cells. One test-tube study in 2014 demonstrated that polysaccharides extracted from maca had high antioxidant activity and were effective in fighting free radical damage. 

Image result for macaAn animal study in the Czech Republic even found that  administering a concentrated dose of maca to rats not only improved their antioxidant status, but also significantly decreased levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the liver and reduced blood sugar, helping prevent the development of chronic disease. Meanwhile, another test-tube study showed that the antioxidant content of maca leaf extract could even protect against neurological damage.

Improving your antioxidant status may be beneficial for preventing
conditions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes by preventing
oxidative stress and cell damage. However, despite these promising results, more studies are needed to understand how the antioxidants in maca root may affect humans.

2. Enhances Energy, Mood and Memory
Those who regularly use maca powder report that it makes them feelmore awake, energized and driven, often relatively quickly after
beginning to use it. Plus, maca can help increase energy without giving you the “jitters” or a sense of shakiness like high level of caffeine can.Clinical trials have shown that maca may positively impact energy and stamina. Maintaining positive energy levels can also help improve mood,and some early studies have even found that maca may reduce symptoms of depression.

It remains unclear exactly how maca increases energy levels, but it’sbelieved to help prevent spikes and crashes in blood sugar andmaintain adrenal health, which regulates mood and energy throughout the day. Keeping energy levels up may also help prevent weight gain as well.
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Several studies have also found that maca root benefits memory and focus. In fact, two animal studies in 2011 found that black maca was able to improve memory impairment in mice, likely thanks to its high antioxidant content.

3. Improves Female Sexual Health
Multiple studies have confirmed that maca benefits female sexual
health through several different mechanisms. Maca root may be able to improve sexual dysfunction and boost sex drive in women. One study looked at the effects of maca root on postmenopausal
women with sexual dysfunction caused by the use of antidepressants. Compared to a placebo, maca root was able to
significantly improve sexual function. Another study had similar
findings, reporting that maca was well-tolerated and able to improve libido and sexual function. 

A study in 2008 also found that maca root benefits both psychological symptoms and sexual function in post-menopausal women. In fact, maca was able to reduce menopause-associated depression and anxiety after six weeks of treatment. Maca is also able to balance female sex hormones and has even been shown to alleviate symptoms of menopause. Balancing hormone levels is crucial to many aspects of reproductive health and can help reduce symptoms like infertility, weight gain and bloating.

4. Balances Oestrogen Levels
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Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone responsible for regulating the reproductive system. An imbalance in this vital hormone can cause a slew of symptoms ranging from bloating to irregular menstrual periods and mood swings. Oestrogen levels that are too high or low can also make it difficult for a woman to ovulate and become pregnant. Maca root can help balance hormone levels and control the amount of oestrogen in the body. One study published in the International Journal of Biomedical Science gave 34 early post-menopausal women a tablet containing either maca or a placebo twice daily for four months. Not only did maca help balance hormone levels, but it also relieved symptoms of menopause, such as night sweats and hot flushes, and
even increased bone density.

5. Boosts Male Fertility
So what about maca root for men? Studies show that maca powder
benefits male sexual health and fertility as well. One study out of Peru found that supplementing with maca for eight weeks increased sexual desire in men. (12) Meanwhile, another study in 2001 found that maca helped improve sperm quality and motility, two important factors when it comes to male infertility.

Maca may also benefit sexual dysfunction as well. A 2010 review
summarised the results of four clinical trials evaluating the effects of maca on libido and reported that two of the studies showed an
improvement in sexual dysfunction and sexual desire in both men and women. However, the other two trials did not find a positive result, sofurther research is still needed.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

CBD Oil in the UK

Related imageThe issues surrounding medical marijuana and the legalisation of CBD in the United States are pretty well known. This is not the case in the United Kingdom so you may be surprised to learn that CBD oil sold in the UK is legal, with caveats. In this CBD, we outline what CBD is, how it can help you, its exact legal status in the UK, the types of products available and the most reputable companies.

CBD Basics
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of over 100 identified compounds (called cannabinoids) in the cannabis plant. It is probably the second best known (behind tetrahydrocannabinol or THC), but it is the most abundant compound. Unlike THC which is known to get you ‘high,’ CBD is non-psychoactive which means it is even safe for kids to consume it.

Cannabinoids are agonists and bind directly to the cannabinoid receptors on your cells. These receptors are found all over the body, especially on the skin, digestive tract and also in your reproductive organs. When you consume cannabis, you are ingesting agonists that interact with different cannabinoid receptors in the body. These receptors are part of the larger endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The ECS is an enormous network of cell receptor proteins with various functions. Your ECS is involved in mood, immune function, motor control, memory, sleep, appetite, pain perception, bone development and much more. The ECS also has four primary functions: energy balance, immune balance, stress recovery and neuroprotection. CBD interacts with the balancing system to provide users with medicinal benefits.

The CBD molecule has a similar composition to chemicals created naturally by the body known as endocannabinoids. Rather than getting bogged down by scientific details about why CBD works, let’s check out a few benefits.

CBD Oil Benefits
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The rising demand for high-THC cannabis strains meant that CBD took a back seat for far too long. Legal issues surrounding THC finally ensured the development of the CBD market. Over in the United States, the case of Charlotte Figi brought CBD into the international spotlight.

Charlotte suffers from Dravet’s Syndrome, a rare condition which caused the unfortunate girl to have hundreds of seizures a week. After taking a cannabis strain with a high CBD content and practically no THC, her seizures were reduced to a couple per month. Soon, medical research found that CBD was not only useful for kids with epilepsy, but it also had a variety of uses. You can take CBD if you suffer from any of the following:

  • Diabetes
  • Chronic pain
  • An anxiety disorder
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Depression
  • Motor disorders
  • Cancer
  • Psychotic disorders

There has been a variety of medical studies which show that CBD is capable of helping patients with each of the above conditions. While it is not necessarily a ‘cure,’ CBD can significantly improve your mood and ease painful symptoms with no side effects. Crucially, an increasing number of patients are dumping their addictive prescription medication in favour of cannabidiol. However, what is its current legal status of CBD oil in the UK?

CBD in UK Laws
On October 13, 2016, the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) decided to classify CBD as a medicinal ingredient. It confirmed and updated the decision on December 30, 2016. This is a significant change to the law in the UK as it means CBD is not just a ‘food supplement’ like it is in the United States.

According to the director of inspection and enforcement at the MHRA, the organisation decided that CBD was medicine. It came to that conclusion based on evidence that people are using the product in the belief it will help their medical condition.

It is a decision designed to improve the standard of CBD on the market which is potentially great news for consumers. Previously, people were forced to purchase their CBD on an unregulated and potentially dangerous market. Now, manufacturers have to prove that their CBD products meet a set level of quality, safety and effectiveness standards. However, there is some concern that the MHRA’s set of criteria is too strict which may lead to a shortage of CBD.

Image result for chronic painThe decision is bad news for smaller suppliers because if manufacturers require a license to sell or else they have register CBD products as traditional herbal remedies, they will pay a small fortune. The application costs over £100,000!

It is important to note that cannabis is still illegal as it is not considered to have therapeutic value. As a result, you can be arrested and charged with possession. We hope this landmark decision is the beginning of a drive to legalise marijuana in the UK (at least for medicinal purposes), but we have to admit, such a ruling is a long way away if it ever happens at all.

Types of CBD Products Sold in the UK

CBD Hemp Oil
CBD oil is the most popular product sold in the UK. It is available in different strengths and comes in the form of oil that has been extracted from the cannabis plant via supercritical CO2 extraction. The best brands sell full spectrum CBD oil which means you benefit from a host of terpenes and legal cannabinoids. To consume, simply place a few drops beneath your tongue, hold it for a few seconds and swallow.

Alternatively, you could create an e-liquid from it and vape in the same way as you normally would with an e-cigarette.

CBD Capsules
If you don’t like the taste of oil, you can get your fill of CBD in capsule form. Simply swallow with water and reap the rewards of this amazing medicinal product.

CBD Edibles
If you have a sweet tooth, why not try a CBD edible? You can purchase gummy bears, taffy, and mints filled with premium quality CBD.

CBD Lotion & Balms
If you suffer from joint pain or chronic pain in a specific part of the body, a lotion made with CBD can provide therapeutic relief. It takes a little longer to work than oil but its effects last longer.

Where to Buy CBD Oil in the UK
Although the MHRA ruling should improve the standard of CBD sold in the UK, it is best to focus on reputable companies with an established reputation in the marketplace. Elixinol is a world-renowned CBD seller, and its oil has been featured in publications such as CNN, National Geographic, Newsweek, and CBS to name but four.

The company was founded by Paul Benhaim who has been involved in the industry since 1991. As well as selling CBD oil in the UK, Elixinol also offers hemp oil liposomes, Respira hemp oil, and balm.

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Then there is Purekana. While PureKana does not have a British presence, it does ship internationally and sells one of the best forms of CBD oil in the world. It is a relatively new company but has already gained brand recognition around the globe. It specialises in CBD oil but also offers CBD gummies, capsules and ointment.

Final Thoughts on CBD Oil UK
The UK CBD market is far from saturated, but you must still perform due diligence when purchasing CBD oil or any other product. CBD is capable of reducing the painful symptoms of a wide range of illnesses and is a natural alternative to prescription drugs.

The MHRA ruling should improve the quality of CBD oil sold in the UK, but it has also led to an air of uncertainty. Will all sellers need a specific license? Will they be prosecuted for selling without such a license? There are numerous unanswered questions, but we hope things are made clear soon.