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Read your comments Sunday, 1 June, 2003, 19:32 GMT 20:32 UK
Have your say
The Anti-Fat Pill and the Bushmen was broadcast on BBC Two on Sunday, 1 June, 2003 at 1915 BST.

Have your say

We will be posting your comments here straight after the programme.

Because of the high volume of correspondence we receive, we cannot guarantee to publish every single e-mail.

Great programme, surely some investment into the living conditions of the bushman is required now? Not after the pharmaceutical companies have made their billions. Also, there are other herbal products that can help obesity that contains the Indian herb Gymnema. It tastes awful, but it does have the benefit of stopping you from enjoying chocolate and sweet things.
Sandra Smithson, England

I was surprised by the constant use fo the word 'cactus' for Hoodia gordonii. The Hoodia is without doubt a succulent that bears a strong resemblance to many cacti. However the term cactus only applies to members of the Cactaceae family, which is almost entirely restricted to the Americas.

Plants of very similar appearance fill the same ecological niches in Africa, Asia and Australia, but are not related to the true cacti. Hoodia, for example, is a member of the Asclepiadaceae family (named after Asklepios, the god of medicine, for the medicinal properties of many family members). However much it may look like a cactus, it is not. When it comes to cacti, all that glitters is not gold...
John Blake (avid reader and amateur botanist)

I lived in Botswana for three years, and was awestruck by the bushmen and their resilience, their culture and vast knowledge. It was distressing to see the way they have been treated by Africans and Europeans alike. We have an obligation to support them, in their journey, ensuring all that is owed is paid, and that they are given the space to rebuild themselves.
Sam Colborne, UK

The only people who will profit from this product, if it is a success, are the lawyers and pharmaceuticals.
Eamonn, England

Hoodia is not a cactus - there are no native cacti in the Old World. The Cactaceae is a family only found in the New World. Hoodia is a genus belonging to the Asclepiadaceae. It is possible this was mentioned (I missed the first 10 minutes), however, the Radio Times said it was a cactus. Nevertheless - an interesting, thought-provoking programme.
Victoria Matthews (botanist)

Would we watch our children and family struggle for life, would we live in a hovel? No

Ann Dadd
Having lived in Botswana for many years on a cattle farm close to the Namibian border I have many memories of the Bushmen people. I was astounded at the claims in the programme by the pharmaceutical company that they could not find the San. They were not really looking seems to be the real answer. But my main point is that knowing the San a little bit I believe that there is nothing guaranteed to finish them off completely more than them suddenly becoming wealthy. I am sure they would most benefit from having a secure guaranteed reserve created for them (possibly straddling the Namibia/Botswana border) where with the provision of a clean water supply they could continue their traditional lifestyle. Or to stop the Botswana Government taking away the reserve they already have. I also believe that trying to impose on them our definition of what is a civilised way of life will end the San/Bushman forever.
Peter R Barry, Weybridge

Having just watched this programme I am puzzled. If the Sand people have been eating it for years, it suppresses their appetite, they appear to suffer no ill effects and it grows naturally, why are Pharmaceutical companies involved, why the lengthy tests? Surely it could be harvested like any other crop and sold as such. If it was mooted that celery had similar properties could the same happen?
Daphne Birkby

We lived in South Africa and Namibia for the past 25 years and could have taken him to numerous San tribal councils with our eyes closed. My wife actually worked with the Ju Huan tribe in the middle of the Kalahari. The fact that Phytopharm's CEO was in cahoots with the CSIR also does not surprise us. It is one of the last bastions of apartheid still run by whites for white interests. Signing a deal with the South African government excludes Bushmen people living in Botswana, Namibia and Southern Angola who are also privy to the knowledge that forms the intellectual property at the core of the debate.
Lindsay & Nuala Scott, Scotland

Best documentary on the subject of weight loss products I've seen in a long time

Please help them now! Not when it's too late. We take basic health care, sanitation and education for granted. Would we watch our children and family struggle for life, would we live in a hovel? No. Then why do we ask our fellow men and women to do so?
Ann Dadd, England

Thank you for a fascinating programme. Tonight's programme made a clear case for the San people to be rewarded for their involvement in the development of a new medicine - which may not have been discovered without them.
Ben Hayes, London

I'm wondering what the pharmaceuticals will think of a natural drug with potential like this. Natural substances such as this plant may (or may not) contain are not patentable and therefore may represent a significant threat to Artificial Anti Obesity drugs. I am wondering if the Pharmaceutical companies have any involvement in the testing and whether they may downplay its therapeutic affects (If any). Is there any possibility that if this substance does not pass the testing whether there will be investigations to rule out 'foul play' by the Pharmaceuticals involvement which may be direct or indirect.
Mr Adrian Peirson, UK

The bushmen should buy land with profits from the cactus

Christine Wheatley
Best documentary on the subject of weight loss products I've seen in a long time. The one problem that needs to be highlighted more, however, is the potential long term effects of taking a powerful appetite suppressant like this. One thinks of enhanced osteoporosis in women who are genetically predisposed to such age related symptoms, and other vitamin and mineral deficiencies in long term users from first World culture populations. The indigenous peoples of the Kalahari region have had thousands of years to adapt their biological systems to the beneficial effects of the active ingredient in this Cactus, but other populations may not do so. The other take on this is the food industry as I'm sure everyone realises. This product will not be in their interest and they may well try to suppress the licensing of this.
Andy, UK

I have just watched the programme on the cactus that is reported to reduce the appetite. I do not believe it is fair to assume that all obese people eat at least three tubs of Hagen Daaz ice cream. As an overweight woman, I cannot stand chocolate, biscuits, crisps or sweets. I never eat breakfast and eat on average one meal per day. Society would assume however, that since I am a few stones heavier that I should be that I gorge all day long. I believe that the programme re-iterated the misconceived belief that overweight people eat like pigs.
Alexandra Alderson, UK

The bushmen should buy land with profits from the cactus
Christine Wheatley, England

Full marks to the reporters and others involved. However, it is my understanding that the problems of the bushmen have mostly been created by their being dispossessed on account of the need to mine the Kalahari for diamonds - there is also, as illustrated, the abhorrent treatment of the tribe by the multinational pharmaceutical companies - is it not rather ironic, to say the least, that a very small number of an ancient African tribe, lose their identity because of the greed of the west?
Margaret (Mulligan), Cornwall

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