NEW LAWS RESTRICTING HERBS AND VITAMINS VIA CODEX ALIMENTARIUS
by: Panel at Total Health 98: Suzanne Harris JD, Zoltan Rona, MD, David Rowland, PhD, and John Hammell
CODEX ALIMENTARIUS BACKGROUND
Codex Alimentarius means "food code". The Codex Alimentarius Commission, formally established in 1962, is a subsidiary of a joint program of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization's Food Standards Programme. The Commission, composed of member governments including Canada, is mandated to set international reference standards for trade in all kinds of food products such as raw and processed foods, pesticide residues, contaminant levels, labelling, nutritional content, etc.
In October of 1996, the Codex committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses (NFSDU) met in Germany and considered a proposal offered by the German government which is part of a process which will result in binding new global trade rules for health supplements. Food and drug laws of all member countries will be "harmonized" to emerging international standards. The German proposal is outlined below:
Proposed Draft Guidelines for Dietary Supplements (The German Proposal):
1. No dietary supplement can be sold for preventive (prophylactic) or therapeutic use;
2. No dietary supplement sold as a food can exceed potency (dosage) levels set by the commission. Dietary supplements of higher potency will be sold as drugs and sold by the pharmaceutical or phytopharmaceutical companies. Supplements without an RDA (e.g. Coenzyme Q10) would be illegal to sell because they would all become drugs;
3. Codex regulations for dietary supplements would become binding (the GATT escape clause would be eliminated);
4. All new dietary supplements would be banned unless they go through extensive Codex testing and approval.
How else will they monopolize unpatentable botanicals? This will automatically restrict access and elevate prices. Expensive prescription only or expensive over the counter drugs will replace the present inexpensive, free availability of herbs, botanicals, vitamins and minerals. The German proposal is supported by the drug giants Hoechst, Bayer and BASF, the three daughter companies formed when the Nuremberg War Trials disbanded the IG Farben Cartel of Nazi Germany. These companies are the ones now pushing the hardest to prevent access by the public to nutritional supplements.
THE CODEX PROCESS AND THE PRESENT STATUS OF THE GERMAN PROPOSAL
Codex Alimentarius is divided into a series of bodies which include the Codex Commission and the Codex committees. The Codex Commission meets every two years to consider new standards which have been drafted and revised at the Codex committee level. The active Codex committees meet at least once a year. (For schedules, see www.fao.org; then look for Codex Alimentarius). Codex has an 8 step adoption process, and once it reaches step 8, it goes to the Commission and they adopt it or reject it. In 1996, the German proposal was at Step 5, but in June 1997, due to tremendous grass roots pressure on governments, principally in Canada, the U.S. and the Netherlands, the Codex Commission sent the proposal back to Step 3. In October, 1998, the German proposal was again considered, but there was such massive disagreement that the NFSDU committee voted to retain it at Step 4 and form a special working group consisting of Canada, the U.S. and the European Commission (EU) to redefine the issues. This working committee will present a discussion paper at the next Codex meeting which will propose possible definitions and standards. The German proposal has at present been taken off the step system and side-tracked, but it is definitely not dead. The U.S. and Canada are presently jointly funding an ongoing process at the National Academy of Sciences to replace the USA's RDA's (recommended daily allowances) and Canada's RDI's (recommended daily intake) with an entirely new daily reference intake system which includes redefining upper limit standards (ULs) for dietary supplements. This project puts high potency vitamins and minerals in real danger of being restricted.
The following discussion by the panel at Total Health 98 outlines some of the key issues that underlie this emerging conflict:
Suzanne Harris holds a juris-doctorate degree in law and an honours degree in
political science, specializing in international organizations. She has been an
arbitrator for the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris and is co-founder of
the Law Loft, an independent think tank, and co-producer of the Law Loft Report, a
nightly news analysis and broadcast from KCXL in Kansas City. She is the leading
expert on how international organizations affect health freedom in North America.
VIOLATIONS OF OUR HEALTH FREEDOMS
Health freedom along with many other freedoms are disappearing in the United States and Canada. At the Law Loft, we disregarded every-thing already written about our current problems with health freedom and worked strictly from original documents to determine why our health freedoms and other freedoms are disappearing. We ultimately discovered that there is an international movement afoot aiming to destroy health freedom in every country on the planet. This movement does not begin at any particular parliament or congress. It appears to start on the drafting tables or conference tables of the transnational corporate board rooms. It is not exactly for the purpose of destroying health freedom as such; it is rather for the purpose of stealing what is yours and making it theirs, and very possibly, having long term control of everybody's access to most of the health products that you and I buy today and take for granted. This is being done to us through a variety of mechanisms in the very sincere hope that we won't catch on until it's too late. The first mechanism is a new matrix of international organizations that are taking shape generally outside of the United Nations and are removing sovereignty from all of the individual nations which are members of these organizations.
Everybody, United States, Canada, the Europeans, Japan, most of Asia and South America have signed agreements pledging total harmonization of their laws, including food and drug laws, to international standards in the future. And that is being achieved through different vehicles including interim agreements such as the one that was agreed to last year between the U.S. and the European Union. So you need to think in terms not only what is of immediate benefit to you in Canada, but what will have long term benefits.
CODEX ALIMENTARIUS LIMITS NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY
In the health freedom movement, the organization at the moment which presents the greatest challenge to you is the Codex Alimentarius Commission which is a joint program of the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Codex's history is extremely interesting because it is a kind of model for this type of transnational takeover. Codex seemed benign in the beginning, as most of these things do, because they seem to have no discernable forceful impact on regulations at home. That all changed with the adoption of NAFTA and GATT because each of those agreements contained within them Sanitary (Health) and Phytosanitary agreements. Suddenly the harmless old Codex became enforceable. Nowadays Codex guidelines carry a lot of weight because they are enforceable through the World Trade Organization, whereas before you had the choice whether or not to accept its international guidelines. Enforcement is carried out by withdrawing other trade privileges conferred by the trade agreements. I have been saying this for several years now, and in some quarters it has provoked a fair amount of laughter and comments like, "That can't possibly be true, because the trade representative told us it wasn't true". Read the documents, you will get a nasty shock. The detractors have now disappeared into the closet because the World Trade Organization has issued its final decision on the European beef hormone case...
CAN CODEX FORCE US TO BUY WHAT WE DON'T WANT?
In the interest of public health, Europeans refused to have beef and beef products from cattle given artificial growth hormones imported into the European Union. The United States and Canada then filed actions against the European Union at the Dispute Settlement Body of the World Trade Organization. The initial opinion basically gave everybody a minor heart attack because it said, "If you don't follow Codex regulations on health and safety issues, what you do is illegal under these new international agreements". In their final decision, the World Trade Organization has backed off a bit from this original position and said they would leave it to the committees of the WTO to harmonize, but they maintained that in the case of beef hormones, what the European Union did was illegal and they have to change it to conform to the international rules.
NEW GLOBAL RULES FOR HEALTH
So here we are affected not only by what happens in Ottawa or Washington, but also by what happens at these Codex meetings. Unfortun-ately, the Codex meetings take place all over the world in little committee meetings with the major meetings occurring in Geneva or Rome every two years, and the documentation is not generally available. So over the last couple of years I have followed them around to pick up the documentation, and in general terms this is what they are up to: ***They want to limit internationally and nationally, access to vitamins and minerals and all kinds of dietary supplements. They want to limit potencies and combinations. In the case of potencies, they want to limit them to useless levels, reserving the right to sell and produce the higher potency products to the drug companies and the big phytopharmaceutical companies, principally of Germany and France (which are also connected to the big drug companies). ***They want to pass off genetically engineered foods around the world in every market without labelling. ***They want to speed up the process of approval of food stuffs so as not to impede international commerce, and their solution is to let the corporations police themselves. ***They want to gut the powers of all the regulatory agencies such as Health Protection Branch in Canada and the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. and leave the shells in place, but take the power away and transfer those powers to the international level. This is already in progress!
HEALTH PROTECTION BRANCH (CANADA)
This gives you one important lesson that is not obvious. You don't want to support anything that would dismantle the Health Protection Branch, but understanding that, you have to limit them at the parliamentary level to do the right thing. For information about the HPB "transition" and the November 4 Standing Committee Report on Natural Health Products (www.hc-sc.gc.ca/english/archives/releases) see the article by M. Hawkins, National Coalition for Health Freedom.
WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO)
Codex is simply one among many international threats. Other threats include the World Health Organization which has international reference agency status under both the GATT and NAFTA under the technical barriers to trade agreement.
MULTILATERAL AGREEMENT ON INVESTMENT (MAI)
In addition, we have MAI on the horizon. It has been called "NAFTA on Steroids". I agree with Mr. Clarke's characterization of this proposed international agreement as "corporate rule treaty". In other words if it passes, they win and we all lose.
MAI was originally slated for signature in Spring of 1997, but has been delayed. You may think it has disappeared, but secret negotiations are continuing behind closed doors, and MAI will be reactivated at some future date. As outlined by Paul Hellyer in his book, The Evil Empire, "The Canadian government has been aggressively promoting this treaty which has been negotiated in great secrecy by the 29-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, France. It is supported by international banks and multinational corporations including some in Canada, and is in reality a bill of rights for these banks and the corporations they control. It will hand over our sovereign rights concerning who may or may not invest in our countries to an unelected world organization run by big business. The treaty would make it impossible for Canadian legislators either federal or provincial to alter or improve environmental standards for fear of being sued by multinational corporations whether operating in Canada or not. This will create a world without borders ruled by a virtual dictatorship of the world's most powerful central banks and multinational companies. This world is an absolute certainty if we all sit on our hands and do nothing." (Contact Paul Hellyer at 535-4144 or www.canadianactionparty.ca). (Ed.)
CODEX AIMS TO PROFIT THE MULTI-NATIONAL PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES
Companies look for a regulatory framework that will maximize their profits. They don't really care about what happens to you or me. Profit margins are believed to be highest when you take things like vitamins and minerals in high potencies, and herbs and botanicals, and turn them into over the counter drugs because in that class you can limit competition by setting the obstacles high enough that the small companies can't compete, and you can charge a great deal more money for your product. At the same time you can also make therapeutic claims for your product. If your bottle of garlic says "ancient anti inflammatory and anti-infectious cure", it will sell better. So the bigger companies, especially the ones with the German and French connections, all see this as a golden opportunity to make more money by turning these products into over the counter drugs, whether you call it a third category (a separate third category, "neither food nor drug") or a drug. From the consumer point of view this approach is disastrous because it means low potency product at high price. All of the pharmaceutical companies have already begun a massive buyout of the German phytopharmaceutical companies, so a herbal company in Germany is likely to be owned by Monsantos etc.
STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TO RESTORE YOUR HEALTH FREEDOM
You have to define your objectives now, which is maximum availability of multiple combinations, unlimited combinations of herbs, vitamins and botanicals in high potencies without government limitation on potency, but with cautionary labelling. You have to ask yourself, what forces out there are against my best interests? In the health freedom field they are: drug companies, dietary supplement companies that are linked to drug companies and producers of novel and genetically engineered foods. In terms of this international contest, you would be better off if you keep your dietary supplements as food. You would be better off if you can form a coalition between the Japanese drug act which is flawed, the American drug act which is flawed and the Canadian drug act which is also very flawed and try to create something that is better than what you have already got. Then with that three-part coalition, you can then confront the European Union and the South Americans. If you don't do that, if you don't think in terms of the international picture as well, you will ultimately lose, because in the harmonization meetings between the different regional blocks, your position will simply just get out-voted.
ZOLTAN RONA, M.D.
Dr. Rona has a general practice in which he specializes in nutrition and preventive
medicine. He is a columnist for Alive magazine, Health Naturally and the Toronto
Star, and has written several books on health, including Return to the Joy of Health
and is medical editor of The Encyclopedia of Natural Healing.
The Codex process is secretive, documentation is generally unavailable to the public, and there is little coverage in the media. Four steps have already been taken in the Codex process over the past few years on the German "Proposed Draft Guidelines for Dietary Supplements" (outlined in Part I). When the Codex process reaches step 8, these restrictions will be finalized. If Codex Alimentarius has its way, then herbs, vitamins, minerals, homeopathic remedies, amino acids and other natural remedies you have taken for granted most of your life will be gone. The name of the game for Codex is to shift all remedies into the prescription category so they can be controlled exclusively by the medical monopoly and its bosses, the major pharmaceutical firms. Predictably, this scenario has been denied by both the Canadian Health Food Association and the Health Protection Branch of Canada (HPB).
The Codex proposals already exist as law in Norway and Germany where the entire health food industry has literally been taken over by the drug companies. In these countries, vitamin C above 200 mg is illegal as is vitamin E above 45 IU, vitamin B1 over 2.4 mg and so on. Shering-Plough, the Norway pharmaceutical giant, now controls an echinacea tincture which is being sold there as an over the counter drug at grossly inflated prices. The same is true of ginkgo and many other herbs, and only one government controlled pharmacy has the right to import supplements as medicines which they can sell to health food stores, convenience stores or pharmacies. The Codex proposals have the backing of Canadian Codex Commission representatives. Further evidence of Canadian involvement is the position of the Canadian Health Protection Branch (HPB) on what is, or is not, a food or a drug. For example, garlic, ginger, licorice and peppermint are considered to be foods when sold as spices. If a grocery store manager makes claims for their therapeutic effects, they then become drugs via an HPB mechanism which remains to be defined.
Stop Codex human rights violations by banding together to demand health freedom and an end to Codex.
John Hammell is a legislative advocate and the founder of International Advocates
for Health Freedom (IAHF) located in Hollywood, Florida. Their main goal is to
gather and disseminate information so that we will be in a better position to fight
back. He works along with health freedom fighters world-wide like Citizen's Voice
for Health Rights and Freedom for Choice in Health Care in Canada.
GERMAN PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES BEHIND CODEX PROPOSALS
Around the world, the pharmaceutical industry is attempting to get safe herbs and supplements classified as drugs just as they have here in Canada. They are trying to impose stricter regula-tions in order to have control of the market. They are trying to set things up to the advantage of these German phytopharmaceutical companies and their American partners by raising the hurdles so that the smaller companies can't clear them. This seems to be a theme that is constant throughout the world. The German Codex proposal backed by German pharmaceutical companies actively seeking to control the dietary supplement business threatens to block consumer access to vitamins and minerals within the therapeutic range (megadoses).
In a recent conversation, John Hammel mentioned that tremendous grass roots opposition all over the world has helped to delay the passing of the German Codex proposal. Most recently, at the September, 1998 Codex meeting in Berlin, Dr. Matthias Rath, M.D. formerly a director with the Linus Pauling Institute, staged demonstrations, and he plans to file a formal legal complaint to the International Court of Justice against international pharmaceutical companies including Hoechst, BASF, Bayer and Merck (see website www.rath.nl).
GREEN PAPER ON HERBS
In January 1998, at the request of the European Commission, the European Medicine Evaluation Agency released a draft report called the "Green Paper". This report proposes that if a herb is medicinal or affects physiological functions in any way, it is a medicine and should be exclusively sold as a drug. It is now a criminal offence in Europe to sell herbs as foods which makes it the same as selling other illegal drugs. This was all brought about by EEC6565.
BEWARE OF SUPPLEMENT COMPANIES WHICH SUPPORT CODEX
There are some health companies out there who are selling vitamins, minerals, herbs etc. who are supporting Codex. There is an entity called the European-American Phytomedicine Coalition which is at work on both sides of the U.S. Canadian border. It is comprised of American and Canadian herb companies like Quest, Nature's Way, NuLife and others which have formed alliances with German phytopharmaceutical companies. Over the last decade or so, the multinational pharmaceutical companies have been buying up smaller phytomedicine and supplement companies (see Genetic Engineering News, Apr 15/97, Vol.17,No.8 and Herbalgram> at www.healthy.net/hwlibraryjournals/herbalgram/1995/summer/features/phytomed.html). It is in their best interest to sweep their smaller competition off a cliff. We know who these groups are through their stands on these issues. It is to their advantage to present a lot of disinformation which they have been doing. They really want supplements categorized as drugs. Here in Canada any company which is behind the third category (which stipulates that herbs and supplements should be a separate third category, "neither food nor drug") is a company that you cannot trust (see Dr. Rowland's section). In the States, any company that is not in favour of HR2868 is a company that we can't trust.
NOT ALL CONSUMER ADVOCACY GROUPS ARE GOOD FOR THE CONSUMER
There is an organization called Citizens for Health which has been actively promoting the concept of herbs as drugs through the German phytopharmaceutical companies. In the U.S., they do not endorse HR2868 which aims to remove food from the current overly-broad statutory definition of drug and this group is likely heavily influenced by American companies which have formed partnerships with German phytopharmaceutical companies. The Canadian Coalition for Health Freedom is also actively pushing the third category which would give a monopoly to the largest herb and vitamin companies so they could do away with their smaller competition through unnecessary regulations. I would urge you to oppose this very strongly.
DAVID ROWLAND, Ph.D.
Dr. Rowland has a Ph.D. in nutrition and is a master herbalist. He is a
representative for Freedom of Choice in Health Care, publisher of Health Naturally
and author of 20 books about nutrition and health.
CANADA'S HEALTH PROTECTION BRANCH
The government and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health want to regulate substances like herbs and vitamins, now considered foods under the Food and Drugs Act and put them into a third category. The first category would be for food, the second category for drugs, and the third category for supplements (separate from food or drugs). We don't need a third category. This will effectively destroy smaller competitors, and keep these products out of the public domain (that is make them available only by prescription), and there is absolutely no reason to do it because existing regulations in Canada's Food and Drugs Act gives Health Canada all the power it needs to protect us from harm and fraud in the sale of dietary supplements and natural health products.
In Canada it is illegal to say on a bottle of vitamin C that it prevents scurvy. The Food and Drug Act prevents it. That is a violation of the charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is also idiocy and we accept it. We let them get away with it. One by one, they are taking things off the market such as amino aids tryptophan and L-carnitine. Both tryptophan and L-carnitine used to be sold in health food stores for about $14 a bottle for 100 capsules. Now they are only available by prescription for $120 to $190 a bottle. So you see what the motive is. Health Canada is participating in the take-over of this industry. There are vested interests everywhere, but what gives them the power to do this? In Canada, by definition in section 2 of the Food and Drugs Act, a drug includes any substance which is used in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of a disease or disorder. This means that the nature of the substance and its safety are irrelevant to the definition. The only thing that matters is what you are using it for. So the moment you make a claim that it improves health in any way, it becomes a drug.
* * *
WHAT CANADIANS CAN DO Share this information about Codex Alimentarius with others. It's amazing how few people know what's going on. Have educational talks at your local groups, call talk show hosts, send letters to newspapers. Several lawsuits on both international and local levels on this matter are pending. To get involved, or offer pro bono services please contact Helen at CHOC at 416-654-8003 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Write, fax and phone the Canadian Codex Delegates and tell them that:
* access to dietary supplements is your right, and dangers from chronic use can best be handled by proper labelling;
* dietary supplements should be traded in international commerce as food;
* Canada should revise its definition of food under the Food and Drug Act so as to clearly include dietary supplements.
Canadian Codex Delegates (no postage required):
Chief Delegate for Canada: Ron Burke, Director, Bureau of Food Regulations,
Room 200, HPB Building, Tunney's Pasture, Ottawa K1A 0L2
phone: 613-957-1828 fax: 613-941-3537 email: email@example.com
Margaret Cheney, Bureau of Nutritional Science, Banting Research Center
3rd Floor (2203A), Tunney's Pasture, Ottawa K1A 0L2
phone: 613-957-0352; fax: 613-941-6636 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Christina Zehaluc, (same address as Margaret Cheney)
phone: 613-957-1739; fax: 613-941-6636 email: email@example.com
PUT YOURSELF ON THE "CODEX DISTRIBUTION LIST:
To receive documents dealing with ongoing Codex issues, or attend a Codex meeting as an observer as part of the Canadian delegation, write, fax or email:
Santina Scalzo (assistant to Dir. Ron Burke) at 613-957-1749
fax: 613-941-3537 email: santina firstname.lastname@example.org
If you attend the Codex meeting as a delegate observer, or if you are on the distribution mailing list, you will be sent documents and asked for your comments which may be included in your country's presentation at the Codex meeting. Public consultation with industry representatives and other interested parties occurs on a regular basis, so let them know your views! See the government Codex website at www.fao.org (then go to Codex) for documents and agendas.
We encourage you to support your local consumer advocacy groups by becoming members and volunteering your service. For more information, please contact:
CONSUMER HEALTH ORGANIZATION, Libby Gardon
phone: 416-490-0986 fax: 416-490-9949
email: email@example.com website: www.consumerhealth.org
CITIZEN'S VOICE FOR HEALTH RIGHTS, Debbie Anderson
phone: 604-793-9087 website: www.citizensvoice.org email: firstname.lastname@example.org
NATIONAL COALITION FOR HEALTH FREEDOM, Miriam Hawkins
(*not the same as Canadian Coalition for Health Freedom)
phone: 416-537-5898 email: email@example.com
CANADIAN HEALTH COALITION, Mike McBain
phone: 613-521-3400 X308# website: www.healthcoalition.ca
FREEDOM OF CHOICE IN HEALTH CARE, Marilyn Nelson
phone: 416-282-6496 email: firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.yesic.com/~fchc
CITIZENS CONCERNED ABOUT FREE TRADE, David Orchard
phone: 416-922-7867 fax: 416-405-8784 website: www.davidorchard.com
INTERNATIONAL ADVOCATES FOR HEALTH FREEDOM, John Hammell, Legislative Advocate
toll free: 1-800-333-2553 fax: 1-954-929-0507
website: www.iahf.com email: email@example.com
LAW LOFT, Suzanne Harris, J.D.
c/o KCXL-1140 AM, 310 S. LaFrenz, Liberty, Missouri 64068
phone (between 5 and 5:10 EST): 816-576-7800 or fax: 816-792-8258
TETRAHEDRON INC., Len Horowitz, Ph.D., Box 2033, Sandpoint, Idaho, 83864
phone: 208-265-2575 email: firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.tetrahedron.org
MATHIAS RATH, M.D., website: www.rath.nl
ZOLTAN RONA, M.D., phone: 920-9241 fax: 920-7109
email: email@example.com website: www.srvitamins.com
DAVID ROWLAND, Ph.D., phone: 705-746-7839 fax: 705-746-7893.
email: firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.hnmag.com
The following consumer groups support certain agendas considered by our panel not to be in the best interests of consumers:
Canadian Coalition For Health Freedom
Canadian Health Food Association