Nestlé denies 'rooibos robbery'

2010-05-28 10:34

Johannesburg - Food company Nestlé on Friday denied contravening the country's Biodiversity Act in a so-called act of rooibos robbery.

This followed allegations by environmental groups, the Berne Declaration and Natural Justice, earlier this week that five recent patent applications by Nestlé on the use of rooibos and honeybush were in conflict with South African law.

Nestlé spokesperson Ravi Pillay said the company had not carried out any research activities in South Africa on these plants and had  not collected any materials in South Africa.

"South African suppliers provided rooibos and honeybush extracts and material to two Nestlé research facilities in Switzerland and France, which used it as part of their fundamental research programme in bioactive ingredients," he said.

Pillay said Nestlé's subsidiary Nestec had, following research, filed several patents in Switzerland to protect its research results, which showed potential benefits for consumers.

"Nestec has not filed any patent relating to the plants themselves, or extracts of the plants.

"Nestlé has not made any commercial use of these patents, and has no plans to do so in the near future," Pillay said.

He said that should Nestlé decide to make commercial use of these patents, it would of course fully comply with the benefit-sharing provisions of the South African Biodiversity Act.

Both the Berne Declaration and Natural Justice alleged that Nestlé had committed rooibos robbery.

The parties accused large corporations of neglecting their obligations to seek prior informed consent and to share benefits when using genetic resources from developing countries.

"Rooibos and honeybush are both endemic to the South African Western and Eastern Cape provinces and both plants have a long tradition of use in the region, also for related medicinal purposes."

The parties said that according to the Biodiversity Act, a company needed a permit from government to do research with commercial intent on genetic resources occurring in South Africa.

"Such a permit can only be obtained if a benefit-sharing agreement has been negotiated.

"The department of environmental affairs of the South African government confirmed to Natural Justice and the Berne Declaration that Nestlé has never received the permits to use these South  African genetic resources."

As well as manufacturing food products, Nestlé holds a 30.5% participation in L'Oréal - the biggest cosmetic producer worldwide - and 50% in Innéov, a joint venture with L'Oréal.

- Sapa 

  • Lou - 2010-05-28 10:49

    I, for one, has stopped buying any Nestle products.

  • Ir8m8 - 2010-05-28 10:56

    Another blatent case of big corporates raping the developing whats new

  • michael - 2010-05-28 11:11

    Greed, greed greed and more greed!

  • Comrade Mike - 2010-05-28 11:22

    Go for it Lou, Nestle must be quivering at the thought of you not eating a Barone. Its business, if we want to do business with the rest of the world, things like this are going to happen. We still make port here. Should we stop making Camenbert cheese in the Cape? Powerful businesses always win at the end of the day, get used to it.

  • Bossie - 2010-05-28 11:28

    A storm in a tea cup?

  • Joe - 2010-05-28 11:38

    Ravi you should be ashamed to be part of this rape. It is corporate thugs like you we Africans need to be the most aware of. Wiyhout knowing you would have robbed us, stolen from us and say that really you did nothing wrong! May you and ilk like you be robbed of things you treasure most

  • @Lou - 2010-05-28 12:30

    you my hero bru...nestle looses 1 customer of a massive base....???

  • Major Shistirrer - 2010-05-28 12:34

    Seems like Nestle has absolutely no corporate conscience. This is not the first scandal Nestle are involved in - remember Mrs Mugabe and the dairy farm? I say let's boycott these thugs! No more Nestle products for me and my family!

  • Jan Boland - 2010-05-28 13:24

    I will write to Nestle and their related companies and notify them of my intention to stop buying their products. I will encourage my friends and family to do the same. It is time for us to speak and vote with our wallets. Bloody agents!

  • Michael Bernard - 2010-05-30 14:45

    Being a Swiss myself, I am disgusted with the reported attitude of Nestle. Looks like in Switzerland everything is for sale, if the price is right. Ovomaltine was sold to a firm on the little island, Toblerone was sold to Kraft in the US ( what do THEY know about choccies??)The big chemical firms in Basel like Ciba-Geigy,Hoffmann-LaRoche, Sandoz mess in the international Drugs market.Swissair was dumped, albeit it was salvageable and both Nestle (and Coke) are buying out( mineral) water suppliers....and now Rooibos? Is Nestle's arrogance on par with the gigantic size of their new Bryanston ( SA ?) Head Office. Yeah, I guess money is all what counts, bugger South African interests.!

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