Beijing, China, 23 August 2013—How can companies trading in and manufacturing Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) products in China become more sustainable in their management of medicinal plants supply chains? What are the current harvesting and trade practices in the TCM industry in China? How can the FairWild Standard support the shift towards sustainability in harvesting and trade?
These were some of the questions discussed at a workshop held earlier this month in Beijing that brought together TRAFFIC, the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies (WFCMS), Wecome Pharmaceutical Ltd and the WWF China Programme Office.
The meeting marked the start of implementation of a project on Engaging the Private Sector in sustainable management of medicinal plants—the multiplier effect, to be carried out in China’s Zhejiang and Hunan Provinces from 2013 to 2015.
China, the origin and biggest centre of production for many medicinal and aromatic plant materials used in TCM, produces a wide variety of plant-based herbal medicines and ingredients that are consumed both within China and worldwide. However, wild TCM plant resources in China are under threat, with populations declining across the country, in large part owing to over-harvesting to meet high demand from the TCM and herbal products industry.
In response, TRAFFIC, WWF, IUCN, the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and others developed the FairWild Standard, which provides guidance on sustainable and equitable sourcing of wild plant products. The Standard and guidance tools are now being used by industry to improve product sourcing guidelines; by governments to design harvest and trade controls; by communities in their management systems; and by intergovernmental agreements, e.g. the Convention on Biological Diversity to provide the framework and reference for sustainable use of plant resources, including for the delivery on the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC).
In China, sustainability principles embodied in the Standard were applied in the Upper Yangtze area through an EU-China Biodiversity Programme project, implemented from 2007-2011 by WWF, IUCN and TRAFFIC, in collaboration with government and research institutions. This project succeeded in improving management and harvest of the berries of Southern Schisandra (Schisandra sphenanthera). The berries are widely used in traditional medicine, and also locally in non-medicinal food and beverage products. Additional project benefits included improved protection of Giant Panda habitat and the establishment of lasting trade relations between local harvesting communities and Chinese and US herbal product manufacturers to support sustainable harvesting and fair trade, an achievement that received a prestigious award. The International Trade Union of Genuine Regional Materia Medica (TUGRMM) – a trade alliance for the sustainable production of wild medicinal plant species was established as another project development, providing a basis for dialogue between producer associations, private sector, NGOs.
“Funding secured through the EC China Environmental Governance Programme will build on the success of the initial project in China’s Upper Yangtze area by expanding the work into Hunan and Zhejiang Provinces,” said Dr Jianbin Shi, Head of TRAFFIC’s programme in China.
In the new project, TRAFFIC will join WFCMS, Wecome Pharmaceutical Ltd and WWF to create a potent mix of conservation expertise and TCM industry practices, linked to Chinese medicine societies. The project will support the sustainable management of medicinal plants and contribute to improved rural livelihoods and environmental governance in Hunan and Zhejiang Provinces through establishing green supply chains among TCM stakeholders.
Addressing participants at the beginning of the meeting, Mr Li Zhenji, Secretary General of WFCMS emphasized the role his organization plays in standardizing TCM practices, including through the development of TCM standards and engagement with relevant industry associations and specifically through TUGRMM.
Mr Liu Zhongliang of Wecome Pharmaceutical Ltd confirmed the long-term commitment of his company to engage in sustainable sourcing practices and his support for a shift in the TCM industry towards sustainability.
“We are looking forward to the implementation of this project, which brings together TRAFFIC, the private sector and TCM practitioners to support the TCM industry’s moves towards improving the sustainability of supply chains, strengthening sustainable collection skills by producer groups, and increasing the participation of the private sector in decision-making and with government dialogue,” said Anastasiya Timoshyna, TRAFFIC’s Medicinal Plants Programme Leader.
This communication has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this communication are the sole responsibility of TRAFFIC and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.