Nearly 200,000 people around the world are petitioning Nestlé after the company applied for a patent trying to take over the natural cure of the fennel flower and turn it into a costly private drug.
Around the world, Nigella sativa—more commonly known as fennel flower—has been used as a cure-all remedy for over a thousand years. It addresses everything from vomiting to fevers to skin health, and has been widely available in impoverished communities across the Middle East and Asia.
In a paper published last year, Nestlé scientists claimed to “discover” what much of the world has known for millennia: that Nigella sativa extract could be used for “nutritional interventions in humans with food allergy”.
“Instead of creating an artificial substitute, or fighting to make sure the remedy was widely available, Nestlé is attempting to create a Nigella sativa monopoly and gain the ability to sue anyone using it without Nestlé’s permission,” explained Kaytee Riek, campaign manager for SumOfUs.org, a global consumer watchdog organization. “Nestlé has filed patent applications, which are currently pending, around the world.
Prior to Nestlé's outlandish patent claim, researchers in developing nations such as Egypt and Pakistan had already published studies on the same curative powers Nestlé is claiming as its own. And Nestlé has done this before—in 2011, it tried to claim credit for using cow’s milk as a laxative, despite the fact that such knowledge had been in Indian medical texts for a thousand years.
“We know Nestlé doesn’t care about ethics,” continued Riek. “After all, this is the corporation that poisoned its milk with melamine, purchases cocoa from plantations that use child slave labor, and launched a breast milk substitute campaign in the 1970s that contributed to the suffering and deaths of thousands of babies from poor communities. Nestle needs to drop its patent plans before it harms the health of people around the world.”