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Sunday, 1 June, 2003, 19:32 GMT 20:32 UK
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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.
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...
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.
The only people who will profit from this product, if it is a success, are the lawyers and pharmaceuticals.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
The bushmen should buy land with profits from the cactus
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?
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