KUALA LUMPUR: Banning research into ketum, which is used in traditional medicine, will mean a loss to the country since Malaysia is only one of the few host countries for the tree, says natural resources and environment minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.
He said ketum leaves were highly valued for their medicinal properties and the tree grew well in Malaysia.
“If we ban ketum research, we will lose something that does not exist in many countries. It is part of our biodiversity, of high value and easy to grow,” he said.
Wan Junaidi said this at a news conference after the Dewan Rakyat passed the Access to Biological Resources and Benefit Sharing Bill 2017 today.
This bill aims to regulate the biodiversity sector and enables the authorities to take action to prevent theft and trade of plants and wildlife in Malaysian forests.
It will also ensure the benefits from the country’s biological resources, such as traditional herbs and medicines, are fairly and equitably shared to generate new wealth.
The bill will empower enforcement officers to enter any premises to inspect, validate or seize biological resources.
Wan Junaidi said he himself had carried out research on ketum when he served as the deputy home minister.
“I spoke extensively with professors in universities, including Universiti Malaya. I know ketum leaves have valuable medicinal and pharmacological properties. However, ketum use needs to be controlled,” he said.
He said various countries, such as Thailand and the United States obtained ketum leaves from Malaysia for research which had caused concern that patents on the results might be registered in those countries.
The new bill, however, does not allow ketum to be commercialised since its control comes under the home ministry.
The existing laws ban the sale of ketum water or processed ketum materials as they are governed by the Poisons Act 1952.