Friday, February 4, 2011

Indian government competition for better skin whiteners draws fire

Killugudi Jayaraman - A scheme – perhaps the first of its kind in India - that sees the government’s science department team up with a US multinational to promote innovation has run into controversy.

In December 2010 the Department of Science and Technology (DST) launched a monthly competition in association with Cincinnati-based Proctor & Gamble (P&G) to solicit innovative ideas from Indian researchers. Winners were promised a cash award of $1000 and possible commercialization of their ideas by P&G, which has a beauty business worth over US$10 billion in global sales.

But the competition's first call - for skin whitening alternatives to hydroquinone, which is not approved for use in many places including the European Union - has prompted criticism from researchers who argue that such products help to propagate racist attitudes in the country. Meanwhile, the department's January challenge for cheaper alternatives to silicones in shampoos, lotions, fabric softeners, and other beauty products marketed by P&G has fared little better. The principal drawback of silicones is their expense and poor biodegradability but some researchers argue that India has more pressing issues for its scientists to address.

“I am shocked,” Pushpa Bhargava, a biologist and former vice-chairman of the National Knowledge Commission told Nature. “This would propagate wrong values as it smells of discrimination against darker people, especially women, and of racism.” ...

via The Great Beyond: Indian government competition for better skin whiteners draws fire.

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