Mr. Modi, Don’t Patent Cow Urine

June 16, 2016

The Modi government has been active in ensuring that products made from cow urine are patented around the world. This article examines the ramifications these patents have had on Indian patent law which has strongly resisted lobbying efforts by big pharmaceutical companies to allow for easier patents.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is famously obsessed with the cow, which is venerated in Hindu cosmology. Most Indian states have now banned cow slaughter. The government of Punjab wants to tax alcohol to pay for shelters for stray cattle. Last year, after a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh was lynched by a mob for eating beef, a cabinet minister from the B.J.P. demanded to know who else was “involved in the crime” — meaning the beef eating, not the man’s killing.

It should probably come as no surprise, then, that the B.J.P. is also touting the medicinal virtues of consuming cow urine. The therapy is mentioned in the Ayurveda, an ancient healing system described in Hinduism’s foundational texts. In the early 2000s, when the B.J.P. led the governing coalition of the day, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, a state-funded network of research laboratories, started promoting cow-urine technology as a treatment for diabetes, infections, cancer and even DNA damage.

Today, the Indian government holds more than a dozen patents related to cow urine and has filed applications for them in nearly 150 countries. Many nations, including the United States, France and South Korea, have recognized these, but not India, which has much stricter standards for patents. For now.