Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Codex: Europe and Beyond

Switzerland, like much of Europe and Asia, has a long history of using natural remedies for health care. This is evident when traveling through Switzerland where drugstores and pharmacies throughout the country sell both natural and pharmaceutical products, often side by side. Switzerland is a highly developed, wealthy country complete with its own pharmaceutical giants, who would like consumers to buy their pharmaceutical products over long-standing, successful, natural remedies. But cultural heritage and attitudes run deep. In Switzerland, druggists and pharmacy owners must go through years of education and apprenticeship, including not only the study of pharmaceutical products but also of herbal and homeopathic remedies.

Natural remedies of the highest quality are made in Switzerland, Germany, France and other European countries. These natural products and medicines are displayed in pharmacy windows often with equal or greater representation than conventional products.

There is a threat to this balanced presentation of health options and to consumer choice in Europe – and soon the world. The European Union and parts of Switzerland, not withstanding their long tradition of natural remedies and health care, are implementing laws concerning supplements and herbs that are extremely restrictive in terms of availability, and allowable vitamin, mineral and herbal potencies.

CODEX – Neither a Camera, Nor from The Da Vinci Code

The European Union has accepted a devastating set of guidelines known as the Codex Alimentarius: Guidelines on Vitamin and Mineral Food Supplements. The controversial Codex guidelines are connected to the World Trade Organization (WTO), in itself a controversial conglomerate of multinational interests. Under the guise of consumer best interest and free trade, the WTO is aggressively pursuing global standards of commerce favorable to large industries such as pharmaceuticals, agriculture and other products. Free trade does not equal Fair trade, nor does it guarantee the best interests of people around the world involved with small-scale, sustainable, local and Fair-trade enterprises. In the Codex, the focus is on global standards for nutritional supplements and herbal remedies.

The official line is that of public safety - a thinly veiled cover-up for market control. In countries where the Codex is being enacted or will be enacted, there are restrictions to consumer choice and availability. In brief, the Codex is limiting the allowable maximum potencies to minimum levels. Pharmaceutical companies will be allowed to sell certain high potency vitamins and minerals, requiring prescriptions. Some currently permissible vitamins and minerals will be eliminated all together. Some herbs will be restricted or no longer available. Product information, crucial to consumer empowerment and choice will be limited. Synthetic instead of natural sources for supplements will be utilized. With the broad control of supplements and herbs comes more possibilities for patented products, further limiting access and driving up costs.

Norway and Germany have already adopted these standards so Vitamin C potency is limited to 200 mg and Vitamin E at 45 IU – over these is considered illegal. As a reference point, in the United States the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine has set upper tolerable dosage limits for Vitamin C at 2,000 mg for adults and the upper tolerable dosage limit for Vitamin E at 1500 IU.

Some governments are opposed to the Codex guidelines noting that traditional medicines, homeopathic remedies and other alternative medicines should continue to be available to people building on rich cultural and historical knowledge, and should not be analyzed the same way as pharmaceutical drugs.

A sustainable future includes true accessibility of nutrients and botanicals, and building on a millennia old knowledge base of traditional healing, not on the ultimate control of natural healing substances by multinational, pharmaceutical corporations whose real goals have to do with profits not individual or planetary health.

For more information about Codex:
Natural Solutions Foundation –
American Holistic Health Association –
Official Codex site -
Food Supplements: The EU Threat -
For more Information about the World Trade Organization (WTO):
Public Citizen Global Trade Watch at:

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