PAUL SOLMAN: To Shiva, by contrast, intellectual property is often piracy by the rich from the rest of us. Take the neem tree for example, N-E-E-M.
: It's called the village pharmacy in India. It can be used for hundreds of things.
PAUL SOLMAN: People brushing their...
VANDANA SHIVA: We brush our teeth with it. We use it for skin treatment. It's even used as a contraceptive, the oil. We use the oil for lighting, but we also use the oil for therapeutics. It's ayurvedic medicine. It's -- it's wonderful to get rid of pimples. It's the magic treatment.
PAUL SOLMAN: Wait a second. This is...I think you're selling me a bill of goods here.
VANDANA SHIVA: No, but it is.
PAUL SOLMAN: The magic neem tree? I mean...
VANDANA SHIVA: It is. It is magic.
PAUL SOLMAN: Magic enough, anyway, to make an organic pesticide from neem seed oil.
When the infamous union carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India leaked poison gas in 1984, killing thousands, Shiva asked herself a question.
VANDANA SHIVA: Why should people die for horrible toxic pesticides, when we have wonderful trees, like neem, which give us pest control? And I started to plant trees. I started to distribute neem to farmers, train them. And then, in 1994, I find a patent held by W.R. Grace. Well, Grace claims to have invented the neem, invented the use of neem for biopesticide. *So, we challenged a patent held jointly by them and the United States Department of Agriculture. We fought that case 11 years. We won it. But this was a case of biopiracy.
See more of this interview from The News Hour on PBS with Vandana Shiva