BREXIT AND CETAHelke Ferrie November 1, 2016
The Real Story Behind the Drama – And How it Affects Your Access to NHPs
“The times they are a-changin’…” Nobel laureate Bob Dylan’s 1964 song
Among the core issues within the current drama around the Canada-EU trade deal (CETA), and the UK’s vote to leave the European Union (BREXIT), are food integrity, toxic drugs, natural health products, and the environment. On October 14, the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) began to unravel because something happened that nobody expected: Paul Magnette, Minister-President of the Wallonia region of Belgium and a Cambridge-educated law professor, gagged at CETA’s provision for a secret arbitration court without appeal provisions, serving solely multinational corporate interests capable of overruling past and future local laws. Wallonia has veto power for all of Belgium, and Magnette exercised it, supported by Wallonia’s parliament. As a result, our prime minister had to postpone his CETA-signing trip until all of Wallonia’s demands were met on October 28.
Magnette was unexpectedly supported by the German Supreme Court which ruled in September that, while Germany has the power to agree to international trade deals, it must also ensure such treaties are in line with Germany’s constitution. Strangely, the Canadian press reported this court decision as being the green light for CETA’s approval; it is not.
In March, Canada promised that EU governments would maintain the right to regulate food and environmental matters, but Magnette (being a lawyer) pointed out that such promises have no legal teeth. On Belgian TV, Magnette made it crystal clear: Wallonia’s refusal to agree to CETA was important to democracy for all of Europe. Magnette observed: “We all want globalization, but we need to ask first what kind of globalization we want.”
Also, not generally known in Canada is the fact that the UK voted to leave the EU for all the same reasons that appalled Magnette about CETA. To understand all this we need to go step by step.
Health Canada’s Blatant Bias Against Natural Health Products
In summer 2016, Health Canada launched a proposal called Consulting Canadians on the Regulation of Self-Care Products in Canada which proposed changes that could significantly alter the way natural health care products are regulated. Health Canada’s clumsy public relations exercise (6-week consultation period), worded in the vaguest possible manner, left consumers in the dark about details. Now it turns out that the final draft of the new regulations exists already but has not been provided (http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca). As lawyer Shawn Buckley of the Natural Health Products Protection Association (NHPPA) points out: “Real consultation would include providing the actual [proposed] changes and then asking for comments.”
Currently, as the Canadian Health Food Association (http://www.chfa.ca) points out, “Canada is a global leader in the regulation of natural health products [NHPs] because of its ‘pre-approval’ system, which means that all NHPs must be licensed by Health Canada before they are allowed to be sold.” Now Health Canada proposes to remove all product claims from labels and, instead, use a disclaimer: ‘Health Canada has not reviewed this product for safety and efficacy’. Not only would this be untrue because the supporting scientific evidence was consulted by Health Canada, it also hardly serves to inform Canadians correctly. Even worse, not only does Health Canada want to abandon its responsibility regarding NHPs, it also wants to sneak them into being regulated like chemical drugs which require toxicity tests. If this feels like a recurring nightmare, you are right! NHPs are not toxic and they cannot be subjected to toxicity tests as required for synthetic drugs.
Simultaneously, the U.S. FDA tried to rush through a public commenting exercise on what kind of “guidance” Americans should have on nutritional supplements (http://www.anh-usa.org). The actual issue in the U.S. is how new nutritional products should be allowed onto the market. On receiving news of the FDA’s thinly disguised attempt to limit the development of new natural health products, Americans cried bloody murder and forced this exercise to be extended to December, thereby alerting Congress to yet another dose of voter anger; and nationwide discussion has begun.
As an example of how Health Canada deals with Big Pharma versus NHPs, consider this: In 2007, Pfizer made a phone call to Health Canada complaining about a natural health product for smoking cessation manufactured by Winning Combination Inc. called Resolve. It turns out that this product competed with Pfizer’s anti-smoking prescription drug Champix. That phone call was enough to compel Health Canada to order Resolve off the market. But Winning Combination fought back. In April of this year, Federal Court Justice James Russell found that Health Canada had “lost all sense of objectivity and procedural fairness,” and ordered market approval for Resolve within 30 days. Judge Russell refused “to simply return the matter for reconsideration to a system that has shown itself to be so dysfunctional that it might simply plunge [Resolve] back into the quagmire and trigger more litigation.” Health Canada is appealing. (Globe & Mail; April 21, 2016)
European Union’s Blatant Bias Against Natural Health Products
Back in 2001, when Codex began controlling all natural medicine by insisting that everything must pass the drug test of toxicity before being sold, the European Union used Codex to decide on regulating NHPs, supposedly in the interest of Europe-wide harmonization. In Directive 2001/83/EC, sections 2 and 3 of its preamble, the EU stated: “The essential aim of any rules governing the production, distribution, and use of medicinal products must be to safeguard public health. However, this objective must be attained by means which will not hinder the development of the pharmaceutical industry or trade in medicinal products within the European Community.” The spirit of this EU Directive effectively guides Health Canada, the FDA, and regulators in Australia to this day.
In August 2005 the EU, basing itself on Codex, was going to remove all natural health products from the market until their safe upper and lower limits of toxicity and dosage was determined. But then legal action was brought against the EU by the UK Alliance for Natural Health, which stopped the Codex action from being implemented. (See Helke’s article in October 2005 issue)
As further evidence of the EU stance on NHPs, the Alliance for Natural Health in the UK reported earlier this year that the European Court of Justice handed down a ruling on a complaint involving vitamin D. It is now “illegal, EU-wide, for natural health product companies to communicate life-saving and disease-preventing information about their products even to health professionals” because health professionals “are likely to exercise significant influence over their patients.” (Ironically, drug sales reps may continue their sales and promotion of medications in doctors’ offices unhindered.) Indeed, this ruling and the many absurd EU Regulations on nutrition and health issues were among the main reasons the UK decided to leave the EU. The looming threat of CETA was another because it would have made any protest against Big Pharma products, GM-contaminated foods, Codex and the EU Directive pointless.
CETA Seen as a Toxic Trade Deal Created to Protect Corporate Profits
All of this becomes clear when carefully considering CETA. It was negotiated in secret from 2007 to 2014, finalized in August of this year, and intended to be signed on October 27th, even though its text had not yet been translated into the member states’ languages, as required for the EU, and had not yet been debated in the parliaments of its 28 member states.
Current estimates are that 80 to 90% of Europeans are opposed to CETA; 3.5 million citizens signed a petition against it. In September, some 320,000 people marched in protest against CETA in Berlin. Even members of the European parliament are protesting. Three European Parliamentarians, Eva Joly, Fabio De Masi, and Emmanuel Maurel, pointedly asked: if CETA is supposed to improve Europe’s standard of living in so many respects, then why are all the negotiations done in secret and why are all the democratic institutions on so many levels of government bypassed?
Central to these protests are protection of the integrity of food, drugs, agriculture (e.g. food purity in Europe means no GMOs and no pesticides), and the environment. Like NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, CETA provides for investment protection so transnational corporations can sue democratically-elected governments in secret tribunals over any public policy decisions that may negatively affect future profits.
In an insightful article by Ariel Katz (Globe & Mail; October 25) it was made clear that experts in constitutional law in Germany, Canada, and some other countries believe that the core intent of CETA is unconstitutional because CETA imposes on all countries involved (including Canada!) the right of multinational corporations to function outside the law courts of those countries. Katz stated that “agreeing to remove this controversial and unnecessary chapter seems like a wise move.” Indeed it would appear that ‘big business’ wants to bypass democratic debate altogether, especially dissent. But Wallonia insisted on the following: (1) That the secret arbitration provision must be taken out or Wallonia won’t allow Belgium to sign on to CETA; and (2) That all 28 EU member states must take CETA to their various parliaments for discussion and/or have their supreme courts rule on its constitutionality. A gargantuan democracy and supreme court fest is about to commence before CETA (in an even more humanized version) may take effect.
Among the examples of such investor protective provisions is the multi-billion Euro action currently ongoing against Germany, a country which voted to phase out all nuclear power plants after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. As a result, the nuclear power plant industry sued Germany for billions due to lost future income. In North America, NAFTA’s Chapter 11 has an extra-judicial court provision exactly like CETA’s. Thus NAFTA has made Canada the most frequently sued nation on earth with $171.5 million paid to date to companies that had expected higher profits; still pending are $2.5 billion worth of lawsuits.
In early October, NAFTA’s secret arbitration provision was invoked and Ontario got served a $28 million penalty for its moratorium on off-shore wind turbines due to this technology’s negative health effects. The turbine manufacturer Windstream Energy claimed a loss of $5.2 billion. No appeal is possible. Of course, our taxes pay for these fines. The previous version of CETA would have added even more potential lawsuits for Canadians and Europeans when objecting on health or environmental grounds to a business project.
As a point of interest: Wallonia has now forced the removal of this secret arbitrations provision from CETA. Since Wallonia has succeeded in having the provision removed, Canada will hopefully invoke our Constitution and also get this provision removed from NAFTA!
See The Council of Canadians’ five-minute video explaining NAFTA and CETA: http://canadians.org/ceta. Also see the 2016 analysis published by Tufts University “CETA Without Blinders” (http://www.gdae.org).
The Connection Between CETA, BREXIT and Natural Health Products
Until a few days ago it was expected that CETA would be signed on October 27, so political preparation for those who will benefit from this trade deal became high priority. That’s why it was seen by Health Canada as necessary to systematically reduce the availability of natural health products and further support Big Pharma’s patent aspirations as promised by CETA. Bayer already lists thousands of botanicals under consideration for drug development. Natural medicines work well and have verifiable science behind them, unlike Big Pharma offerings – most of which are under legal attack for fraud, injury, and death. Big Pharma reads the mainstream science journals too, after all. Botanicals are highly desirable for patent exploitation. It has now become clear that our regulatory authorities are in synch with Big Pharma’s agenda because CETA openly supports it.
Now that Bayer plans to acquire Monsanto, it would not only control a quarter of the world’s seeds, but also most of the genetically modified crops. Bayer’s assurance that it would not force GM foods onto European dinner plates is literally hot air because if CETA had not been stopped in its tracks by Wallonia, local governments would no longer be able to refuse importing GM foods.
BREXIT was fueled by longstanding anger against EU dictates. BREXIT advocate Boris Johnson can be seen in a BBC documentary series travelling through Europe asking people about their views on the EU. Many are furious at being told what bread they may bake and trade, what cheeses they may produce, what age-old medical practices they may use – all in the interest of EU-wide regulatory “harmonization”. The Alliance for Natural Health, headed by Dr. Robert Verkerk who is well-known to Vitality readers, has provided an analysis of what BREXIT will mean for Britons. For example, by regaining national sovereignty, legislative accountability returns (for more, visit http://www.anhinternational.org June 29, 2016). Once the UK leaves the European Union, EU laws no longer apply to Britain and neither do the EU-supported Codex guidelines nor the EU Directive with their restrictive regulations on natural health supplements. CETA supports the EU Directive and Codex, but with Britain leaving the EU, CETA no longer follows either, and because Wallonia forced CETA to be open to public debate in all EU parliaments, these toxic provisions will no longer slip in as intended. The times they are indeed a-changin’.
This article is based on information widely available in mainstream media reports in Canada and Europe. For details email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- For more info: http://www.nhppa.org and http://www.charterofhealthfreedom.org. Also, look for an article by Shawn Buckley in the Dec/Jan issue of Vitality
- Council of Canadians website: http://canadians.org
These are the places readers can go to in order to give Health Canada a piece of their minds and stop the foods-as-drugs process.
- http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca that’s Health Canada’s site and it provides the addresses to use to comment on their BS
- http://www.nhppa.org and http://www.charterofhealthfreedom.org push for health freedom and oppose Health Canada via Shawn Buckley who is gearing up for legal action
- http://www.chfa.ca is the Canadian Health Food Association’s site to send a message to your MP