|LE Magazine January 1999 |
Showdown in Berlin
'Harmonization,' truth-bending, camera-shy officials and a looming threat
By John Hammell
Racing through customs at Berlin's Tegel airport, I knew I had only a half-hour to reach Dr. Beth Yetley of the Food and Drug Administration, chief spokesperson and only voting member of the U.S. Codex delegation.
As the official U.S. representative, Yetley was spearheading an effort by the FDA to harmonize our supplement and nutrient laws with Europe's much stricter standards. She was conducting this effort despite two clear signals from the U.S. Congress that health supplements were to be specifically exempted from Codex harmonization.
I caught up with her as she sat on a bar stool at the Ravenna Hotel on the Grunewaldstrasse and, armed with a camcorder, finally had the chance to ask her why the FDA was choosing to ignore the will of the U.S. Congress. As proof, I was carrying letters from five members of Congress who were opposed to harmonization.
Dr. Matthias Rath put up billboards throughout Berlin urging opposition to the Codex commission. This one says, "Stop the drug cartel!" and "Health is a human right!"
The fact is, the Codex draft proposal, which was on the program of the Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Use, would deprive consumers of access to therapeutically potent levels of nutrients, set strict recommended daily allowances (RDA's), and make it illegal to include health information on labels. Consumers world-wide could be limited to RDA levels of nutrients, while anything without an RDA would be regulated as a "drug." A global ban could be instituted on the making of health claims for these products.
Consider this: With the exception of England and Holland, many supplements available in American health food stores are unavailable in Europe. In Germany, for instance, you can't even touch a bottle of vitamins unless it is handed to you by a pharmacist from behind a counter.
Yetley avoided my questions, but did acknowledge receiving copies of the letters from U.S. Rep. Dan Burton, chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, as well as Reps. Ron Paul, Peter De Fazio, Bob Stump and Merrill Cook.
The FDA announced its intention to harmonize its regulations to emerging Codex standards in an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) that was published in the Federal Register on July 7, 1997, Vol. 62, #129. Its so-called case is supported by the "Risk Assessment Model for Assessing Upper Intake Levels for Vitamins," generated by the National Academy of Sciences, which has already shown itself to be friendly to a pharmaceutical industry that relies on deadly current medical dogma.
Yetley's assistant, Dr. Christine Lewis, claimed that the "Risk Assessment" document had been uploaded to the FDA website for public review. When I challenged her to tell me when it had been made available, she said two days before the Codex meeting was to begin. However, when I used a search engine on the FDA's website (www.fda.gov/search.html), the document was nowhere to be found.
The meeting itself went no better. Ellen Matten, staff officer, U.S. Codex Office of the United States Department of Agriculture, joined forces with the German delegation to stop me from taking photos on the last day of the meeting because I "didn't have the permission of the Codex Chairman." Fortunately, the draft proposal did not advance at the Berlin Codex meeting, and is still bottled up due to grass-roots opposition. However, the stage has been set to move beyond the impasse as soon as June, unless further grass-roots action is taken.
The most visible grass roots effort at the meeting was led by Dr. Matthias Rath, who staged a courageous anti-Codex demonstration outside the gates. Rath, a pioneering orthomolecular physician formerly with the Linus Pauling Institute, put up eye-catching billboards and urged consumers to demonstrate in front of the gates leading to the German Ministry of Health where the Codex meeting was held. Rath assembled a crowd of more than 1,000 angry German consumers in front of the steel barricade that blocked the entrance to the compound. It was a tense scene as Berlin police clad in riot gear brandished automatic weapons and blocked the road to repel protesters. Inside, the chairman of the meeting stopped the proceedings and forced me to stop videotaping. (You can see excerpts from this videotape on www.iahf.com and on www.lef.org. We hope to soon have video clips from Rath's Berlin Tribunal, as well as his demonstration, available for online viewing and downloading.)
Citizens in the United States are protected from this sort of underhandedness by the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), which ensures access to vitamins and supplements. Publicly, the FDA has pretended to uphold DSHEA, but in reality the agency has been doing everything possible to harmonize our laws with international standards, while simultaneously attacking and undermining DSHEA.
To stop the FDA's attack on DSHEA, we need to support HR 2868, the Consumer Health Free Speech Act sponsored by Rep. Paul, which will have to be reintroduced in the new Congressional session set to begin in January. Congressional oversight is badly needed to stop the FDA. Taxpayer money shouldn't be wasted sending FDA officials to Codex meetings. I shouldn't have to go to Germany to defend my rights in America, just as consumers from other countries shouldn't have to travel abroad to defend their rights in their own countries.
But we may make a difference by writing, e-mailing and faxing our opinions. Send your comments in defense of health freedom to the following:
- The International Court of Justice, c/o Matthias Rath, M.D., Bedrigvenpark Twente 305, NL 7602K Almelo Netherlands.
- The Hon. Dan Burton, Chairman, House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, c/o Milt Copulos, House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, Room 2157 RHOB, Washington, DC, 20515. Fax: 202-226-2369
If we keep the pressure on, and can relay this information to enough people and apprise them of what's going on, no one will ever again be blocked from accessing the dietary supplements they need for their health.
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