Last May, when we first launched the Health Freedom Movement, we thought that fighting the EU directives threatening to dismantle natural medicine was simply a matter of education.
We spent weeks ushering to a meeting all the leading lights of natural medicine, intending to create one big 'supergroup' to fight these directives. Of the 50 organisations at the meeting, only a handful stayed behind to offer their services. At a later meeting when we asked supplement manufacturers to help us to help them save their own industry, only Neways and Forever Living reached into their pockets. All the rest of the money we've had - and we've been self-supporting since we started - has come from the public.
What I didn't do - and what any good journalist should always do - is follow the money.
For all intents and purposes, the supplements industry is the pharmaceutical industry. According to statistics compiled in 1998 by Frost and Sullivan, 70 per cent of the vitamin/mineral supplement market is controlled by big pharma. Most drug companies, recognising the profits to be made in 'natural' health, have created their own 'nutriceutical' subsidiaries.
The pressure to pass the Food Supplements Directive, the one that will ban high-dose supplements, has largely come from umbrella trade organisations such as the International Alliance for Dietary Supplement Associations (IADSA), which represents 8500 companies and the 39 trade associations on six continents.
These supplement organisations, which advise industry, are dominated by the pharmaceutical big boys.
Take a peek at the membership of the US Council for Responsible Nutrition. This 'vitamin trade association', comprising 120 dietary supplements companies, is largely made up of drug giants like Wyeth. As for IADSA, chairman Randy Dennin also happens to work for a subsidiary of Pfizer, the largest pharmaceutical company in the world.
The Food Supplements Directive is a masterstroke of modern antitrust corporate manoeuvring. In one move, it will 'dumb down' vitamins to the cheapest and less bioavailable forms that can be produced in greatest bulk, thus maximising the profits of the pharma giants and squeezing out their innovative high-dose competitors. Any future innovative formulations will be forced through expensive regulatory procedures which, of course, only the big boys will be able to afford to patent and sell at high prices like a drug. And since none of the dumbed-down vitamins will have much in the way of therapeutic value, prescription drugs will be the only medical option left in town.
It is up to you the consumer, abandoned by the health trade, which is set to prostitute itself to make a quick buck, to vote with your feet and your purse. In mid-July, the UK Parliament is set to ratify the Food Supplements Directive. A loud enough protest will stop it in its tracks.
If you value health freedom, it is vital that you join the thousands who are marching on 15 June in London, Ireland, France and other European countries to protest these directives (see p 9). This will tell the government in Brussels and at home that you intend to boycott these harmonised products and vote out their supporters.
Never underestimate the power of your own voice, but most important of all: never underestimate the power of your own purse.