Due to a technical problem on Wednesday Jan
16, we are upgrading the news management system by a Canadian
software company, which will be
completed in coming days.
It has taken longer than
anticipated. That is one of the drawbacks of outsourcing. C'est
la vie - even Google News updating falls behind at times!
News Headlines to Jan 16 2008
Today's News Links
Click for Monday's stories and links from Jan 17 2008
Namibian succulent that could ‘cure’ obesity.
Used for centuries by the San Bushmen
direct descendents of the first humans) of Namibia to stave off hunger
on long hunting trips.
plant has sparked interest for its perceived ability to suppress
appetite and is under investigation as a key weapon in the fight
With pharmaceutical giants such as Pfizer having
expressed an interest in the plant’s appetite suppressing
properties, there has been an explosion of speculation into its use
as a ‘miracle’ weight loss drug.
by such speculation vast quantities of the plant have been ripped
from the wild, decimating entire populations. The catch 22 is that
until its properties are proven few will invest in planting the
species as a commercial crop, but scientists fear that by the time
this is established for sure the plants may be on the verge of
make up the basis of over 50% of all prescription drugs, are threatened with
extinction; Future of human healthcare still overwhelmingly reliant on the plant
new global study reveals that hundreds of medicinal plant species, whose
naturally-occurring chemicals make up the basis of over 50% of all prescription
drugs, are threatened with extinction. Sparking off fears of a global health
care crisis, a consortium of leading experts acting through London-based
organisation, Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), are calling for
urgent action to help ‘secure the future of global healthcare’.
With 70% of all
newly-developed drugs in the United States, the world’s largest and wealthiest
pharmaceuticals market, being derived from natural sources, it is clear that
despite major scientific advances, the future of human healthcare is still
overwhelmingly reliant on the plant kingdom.
using up a wide range of the world’s natural medicines and squandering the
potential to develop new remedies“ says Sara
Oldfield, Secretary General of BGCI “And yet it is perfectly
possible to prevent plant extinctions”.
There was a time when scientists predicted that developments in biochemistry
would mean that most if not all new drugs would be simply synthesised in the
lab, however in recent years it has become increasingly clear that this is
unlikely to happen. For while scientists are able to artificially replicate
several medicinally-active compounds found in plants, a overwhelming number of
these are still eluding all attempts to copy them, or it is simply not
commercially viable to do so.
world’s most widely-used cancer drug, Paclitaxel, for instance.
Derived from the bark of several species of yew trees,
its complex chemical structure and biological function has defied all attempts
of commercial synthesis, gaining it the reputation for being “the
kind of drug that would be impossible to design from scratch”. Yet with, until
very recently, an average of 6 trees needed for just a single dose, its use has
decimated wild yew populations across the world, with 80% of the trees in
China’s Yunnan Province, once famous for its yew forests, destroyed within a
three year period. “The dramatic decline in a range of yew species, highlights
the global extinction crisis that is facing medicinal plant species.” says
Nowhere is this
dependence on medicinal plants more acute than in developing countries, with the
World Health Organisation estimating that an astonishing 80% of the global
population, some 5.3 billion people, rely on traditional plant-based medicine as
their primary form of healthcare, and in many cases collection and sales of
these plants provide their only form of livelihood. Yet it is exactly in these
areas that these plants are under most threat, putting the rural poor at the
sharp end of the looming healthcare crisis.
“The loss of
the world’s medicinal plants may not always be at the forefront of the public
consciousness, however it is not an overstatement to say that if the precipitous
decline of these species is not halted, it could destabilise the future of
global healthcare, putting many millions of lives at risk.” reports
Hawkins the report author.
What BGCI is
doing to tackle this:
The BGCI report for the first time combines the work of the world’s
leading botanists, conservationists, healthcare professionals and traditional
healers to identify which medicinal plant species are most at risk and what
steps are needed to save them.
calls for co-ordinated global conservation efforts to save medicinal plants
working with local communities and drawing on the skills and expertise of
botanic gardens that have been involved in medicinal plant study since their
first establishment 500 years ago.,” says Oldfield.
Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) is a membership organization linking
botanic gardens in over 120 countries in a shared commitment to biodiversity
conservation, sustainable use and environmental education. BGCI aims to mobilise
botanic gardens and work with partners to secure plant diversity for the
well-being of people and the planet.
Big Pharma faces bleak five years; 47% of Irish merchandise exports
were from industry sector in 2006