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Legislation by stealth

MagazineMay 2002 (Vol. 13 Issue 2)Legislation by stealth

Several weeks ago, one of our fundamental freedoms was removed

Several weeks ago, one of our fundamental freedoms was removed. Taking away freedoms in a democracy is best done by stealth, as any politician will tell you, and that is exactly what happened on 12 March. A piece of legislation was passed - without fanfare and with barely a whisper in our media - that has more far-reaching implications than any other in recent times.

The legislation we're referring to is the European Directive on Vitamin Supplements. Clothed in the righteous banner of consumer safety, the directive mandates that the upper limits on food supplements should be standardised across Europe. This legislation will be covertly enacted one unobtrusive step at a time. It hasn't stipulated the mandatory upper limits yet and won't do so for some months, after a committee of food technocrats has determined them. Nevertheless, judging from the pressure being exerted by countries like Germany, the limits set could be so low - 1/50th or even less of what many nutritional doctors recommend as therapeutic doses - that many of us will be forced to take a bucket's worth of vitamin pills every morning just to maintain the levels we now enjoy in most products on UK shelves.

For all but the most well-known supplements, the directive amounts to an outright ban. Anything not listed in the directive's highly conservative list of approved supplements will become illegal. This will throw out loads of supplements with proven benefit for many conditions - for example, boron and many types of selenium.

This is the first of many insidious moves by the drug industry, which threw considerable resources at this bill, to limit consumer choice in healthcare. Realising the enormous sea change in the public mind away from technological medicine and toward natural remedies, the pharmaceutical industry took the desperate, vicious lunge of a dying dragon.

Its intention is to eliminate the competition - today, vitamin supplements and tomorrow, other forms of alternative medicine. Indeed, a draconian herbal medicines EU directive is currently being drafted. Bit by stealthy bit, your freedom of choice in healthcare will be eliminated.

There was little any one of us could do to stop the passage of this bill. At the time of the voting, the only real voices of dissent were the MEPs representing Britain, Holland and Sweden, the only EU member states allowing high dosages in vitamin supplements. But there is something we can do now.

With our American friends People Against Cancer, What Doctors Don't Tell You has been quietly at work organising a day of international protest on an unprecedented scale. We are enlisting the help and financial support of hundreds of organisations and companies within the field of alternative medicine (see enclosed flyer). Our plan is to educate the public on what has happened, and to rally support throughout the US and Europe. We can also boycott the new lower-dose products and help to set up a black market via the Internet.

By refusing to buy the new harmonised products, we can use the strongest weapon we have against the European Union and the drug industry: economics, pure and simple.

The US Food and Drug Administration recently attempted to place vitamin supplements under its own dominion, subject to the same laws as drugs. Such a large volume of protest resulted - through simple measures such as petitions signed in healthfood shops and the like - that eventually the US Congress caved in and passed an alternative law, protecting vitamin supplements as food and not subject to the same regulations as drugs. When then-President Clinton signed the law into effect, he said it had been the result of the largest grass-roots movement of protest ever seen since the Vietnam war.

We have three years before the EU law is enforced. There are millions of us who are interested in alternative medicine. Together, we can protect the most precious freedom we have: the right to stay well through whatever means we choose.

Lynne McTaggart & Bryan Hubbard


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