yoga and seeds

February 24, 2009 § 5 Comments

i was shocked when i first read a few years ago about patenting seeds.

In 1998, Mr. McFarling bought 1,000 bags of genetically altered soybean seeds, and he did what he had always done. But the seeds, called Roundup Ready, are patented. When Monsanto, which holds the patent, learned what Mr. McFarling had sown, it sued him in federal court in St. Louis for patent infringement and was awarded $780,000.

The company calls the planting of saved seed piracy, and it says it has won millions of dollars from farmers in lawsuits and settlements in such cases.

how can a company have the right to own life?

but, frankly that is a huge corporation that in the US is legally treated as a person but has no moral conscience and must according to law work first and foremost in the interests of its stockholders…

but then this afternoon i read this:

Since its arrival in Britain and America in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when it was popularised by Beatles guitarist George Harrison, among others, Yoga has become a $225 billion industry.

In India, however, it remains collective knowledge – practiced in public parks where gurus often teach fast breathing exercises, like pranayam, and different ‘sun-salutations,’ free of charge.

But as the number of Western yoga teachers has grown, there has been a steady increase in patent applications claiming each pose in their class is not part of the ancient discipline of mind and body, but their own unique invention. In the United States alone, there have been more than 130 yoga-related patents, 150 copyrights and 2,300 trademarks. Now India’s Traditional Knowledge Digital Library is being made available to patents offices throughout the world so they can establish whether the claim is a genuine innovation or “prior art” from Indian systems of medicine.

So far a team of yoga gurus from nine schools have worked with government officials and 200 scientists from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to scan 35 ancient texts including the Hindu epics, the Mahabharata and the Bhagwad Gita, and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras to register each native pose.

The attempt by US teachers to patent traditional poses has caused disbelief and anger in India, where it has been practiced for around 6,000 years.

this too is a form of patenting life.  1000s of years of communities’ knowledge now owned by some US citizen/ ‘yoga teacher’ because he made some ‘innovations’ on ancient human movement and breath.

full disclosure: i have taught ‘yoga’.  i am not licensed. but i appreciated what the movement philosophy in yogic texts allow for me and others to integrate our movement and our thinking.  there is not much original under the sun.  in my experience many people who practices yoga sooner or later discover what movement works for them and make ‘innovations’ on the movement and postures to fit their current needs.  that is what is beautiful about human beings and yogic science.  flexibility.

i cant imagine trying to own that.  or patent it.

the posture that is acceptable in the face of the incredible amount of knowledge that these texts and teachers have gifted over the millenia  is gratitude.  i have questioned often the cultural co-optation of making money from teaching yoga.  the fact that we teach an art and science that we have access to because of our incredible economic and military privilege in the us.

where is the moral conscience of these yoga teachers?  fuck this.  how the hell are you going to call it ‘yoga’ and then claim that you thought of that unique way of bending over and teaching your toes?  if you call it yoga (which is a sanskrit word)–you lost any right to a patent.  the reason that someone in india isnt suing you for stealing their cultural knowledge ‘yoga’ is because it is collective knowledge.   the best we are doing is borrowing that knowledge for a short amount of time.  and then we give it back.

i cant imagine what these yoga teachers are thinking…

but then i cant imagine suing someone for saving seeds.

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