Hoodia Gordonii Propagation and Cultivation

Hoodia gordonii is highly sought after for its reputation as a natural appetite suppressant. Because hoodia gordonii propagation (natural reproduction of the species) in the wild is threatened and cultivation is so difficult, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) placed all hoodia species, not just hoodia gordonii, on a list known as Appendix II in January of 2005. Appendix II is a list of species which are not currently threatened by extinction, but have the potential to become threatened if trade is not closely controlled. This means that special permits are required to trade or export hoodia gordonii plants or seeds in raw or processed forms. The governments of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa requested that all 15 species of the hoodia genus be protected, because they were concerned that the other species could be mistaken for hoodia gordonii and harvested for use as an appetite suppressant. None of the other species were traditionally used by indigenous peoples as an appetite suppressant, but those who have only heard that hoodia is an appetite suppressant may believe that this applies to all species. The government’s goal is to protect hoodia gordonii propagation in the wild and propagation of the other species, as well. In the Northern and Western Cape areas of South Africa, no on is allowed to collect hoodia gordonii plants or seeds without a valid permit. No one is allowed to harvest or transport any hoodia material without a valid permit. Cultivation 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 hoodia gordonii propagation in Namibia, no harvesting, no collection of plants or seeds is permitted (with or without a permit) until the government has reviewed the status of the species. The countries in southern Africa are not only concerned about protecting hoodia gordonii propagation. When the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research identified the molecule which is responsible for the appetite suppressing abilities of hoodia gordonii (it is unclear whether the molecule is found in hoodia gordonii plants or seeds, or only the stems or flowers) 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. Hoodia gordonii propagation in the wild is assisted by the wind. Seeds are carried away from the mother plants in a way that is similar to the way that dandelion seeds are spread. Collection of hoodia gordonii plants or seeds interferes with this process. Cultivation of the species may be beneficial to mankind, but may eventually cause the extinction of the plant in the wild.

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