Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Propagating Hoodia Gordonii

Propagating hoodia gordonii requires special licensing and is apparently difficult. Varieties of the hoodia cactus plant are grown for botanical gardens and green houses. These are probably not the hoodia gordonii variety.

Hoodia gordonii is highly sought after for its reputation as a natural appetite suppressant. Not all varieties of the hoodia cactus plant are believed to contain the natural appetite suppressant. Only the hoodia gordonii variety has been studied for this purpose and it is from this species that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa obtained the active molecule, p57.

The governments of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa requested that all 15 species of the hoodia cactus plant be protected, because they were concerned that the other species could be mistaken for hoodia gordonii and harvested for use as an appetite suppressant. For this reason propagating hoodia gordonii requires special permitting and exporting any species of hoodia cactus plant requires a CITES permit.

In the Northern and Western Cape areas of South Africa, no on is allowed to collect any varieties of hoodia cactus plant without a valid permit. No one is allowed to harvest or transport any hoodia material without a valid permit. Propagating hoodia gordonii requires a relevant permit and export requires a phyto-sanitary certificate from the National Department of Agriculture, as well as a CITES certificate. In order to protect all species of hoodia cactus plant in the wild propagating hoodia gordonii in Namibia (with or without a permit) is not allowed until the government has reviewed the status of the species.

The countries in southern Africa are not only concerned about protecting the hoodia cactus plant from extinction. When the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research identified the molecule which is responsible for the appetite suppressing abilities of hoodia gordonii and licensed the rights for further development to Phytopharm, they also entered into a benefit sharing agreement with the San communities. The San peoples traditionally used the hoodia gordonii plant for several medicinal purposes and assisted the CSIR in identifying the species. The governments are concerned that hoodia trade may infringe on this benefit sharing agreement, as well as the patent rights.

Propagating hoodia gordonii in the wild is carried out by the wind. Seeds are carried away from the mother hoodia cactus plant in a way that is similar to how dandelion seeds are spread. Collection of hoodia gordonii seeds from wild plants interferes with this process. Propagating hoodia gordonii commercially may be beneficial to mankind, but may eventually cause the extinction of the plant in the wild.