European Commission reneges on assistance to European herbal practitioners

Posted on 25 grudnia 2010. Filed under: ANH, ANH fight for true, Izrael, kodeks żywnościowy | Tagi: , , |

Pressure from European Union (EU) citizens forced a recent meeting between Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and the European Commission (EC) to discuss the impact of the EC’s directive on herbal medicines which will be fully implemented EU-wide as of 1 May 2011. Unfortunately, the meeting, held at the European Parliament on the 29th November 2010, showed how unwilling the EC is to follow through on a pledge it made back in 2008. The pledge was made in the Commission’s report (COM(2008) 584 final) on its first four years of experience with the herbal directive, known as the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive. In the report, the Commission specifically recognised that the directive was not suitable for holistic traditions, such as Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Crucially, it also indicated it would consider the feasibility of an entirely new regulatory framework for such traditions.

Members of the European Parliament got the opportunity to seek answers on the THMPD from Andrzej Jan Rys, Director of Public Health and Risk Assessment at the Directorate General for Health & Consumer Policy. The meeting was called as a result of concerns voiced through many hundreds of communications sent to MEPs, whose constituents are worried that thousands of herbal products will become illegal from 1 May 2011.

You could well have been one of those people who contacted their MEP about this flawed Directive – and if you were, congratulations on your efforts that are now forcing the European Commission to answer some difficult questions! If we keep up the pressure, we are hoping to force the Commission to reconsider its view. If the Commission refuses to budge, it will have to be answerable to its actions in court.

While it’s great to see there’s life left in the European democratic process, we can’t pretend that we’re not somewhat disheartened to hear the Commission’s response. Green Party MEP, Bas Eickhout, when questioning the Commission over the possibility of an extension of the transition phase and hence a delay to the full implementtion of the Directive, was told simply, and unequivocally, by Mr Rys of the European Commission: “We do not plan any postponement of the deadline”.

In a bid to help the Commission maintain a previously made commitment, Mr Eickhout also asked the European Commission if it was going to consider the feasibility of a new regulatory framework, as alluded to in its experience report of 2008. In response, Mr Rys simply declared that no separate regulatory framework was planned for TCM or Ayurveda, and he did not mention any other traditions.

Mr Eickhout went on to question the Commission over the controversial 30-year rule, which requires that 15 years’ safe usage within the EU is demonstrated out of a total of 30 years, as a means of establishing the safety of traditional medicines under the THMPD. Mr Rys indicated that he understood that the EC was not assessing the 15-year requirement in any way; in fact, the Commission’s priorities were to revise the clinical trials directive and veterinary medicinal product legislation!

It’s worth remembering that the THMPD was never intended as a regulatory framework for practitioners of herbal medicine. The directive clearly states its intent to be a framework for manufactured products sold directly to the end consumer, for minor ailments, without the supervision of a medical practitioner. So what about practitioners? Since August 2008, when the Commission’s experience report was published, practitioners of herbal medicine all over Europe have seen the concluding statement in that report as a ray of light among the regulatory bleakness being foisted upon them. However, without this framework, which has been one of the three main prongs of the joint ANH/Benefyt strategy, that hope has been dashed for the time being.

This recent meeting of MEPs and the European Commission could be likened to a curate’s egg. While it is undoubtedly great news that EU citizens’ voices are being heard on the THMPD, and that serious questions are being asked by MEPs on their behalf, the outcome of the encounter with Mr Rys can be summed up in two words: no change. But change never comes overnight, so keep up the pressure – you are being heard! Persistence is the name of the game.

The Commission’s response also vindicates our decision to go to the courts to achieve a more proportionate, transparent and non-discriminatory legal framework for herbal products within the EU.

If you haven’t already considered donating, please do so now! Thank you, and season’s greetings.


ANH-Europe homepage
ANH Nurture Traditional Medicinal Cultures campaign page
ANH THMPD legal challenge page

Updated: 21 Dec 2010

Submitted by Sepp Hasslberger (not verified) on Wed, 22/12/2010 – 11:46.

„It’s worth remembering that the THMPD was never intended as a regulatory framework for practitioners of herbal medicine. The directive clearly states its intent to be a framework for manufactured products sold directly to the end consumer, for minor ailments, without the supervision of a medical practitioner.”

You have the solution to the problem right here. Since the THMPD was not intended as a regulatory framework for herbal practitioners, it will not touch herbal practitioners. It establishes a registration process for over-the-counter herbal medicines. Full stop.

What happens in the world of practitioners is outside the scope of the directive and any national implementation of it.

The Italians have understood this. We have, in Italy, a thriving economy of herbal practitioners and herb shops, called „erboristerie” (that’s plural of erboristeria). Herbalists have a three-year university training, and many of the shopkeepers are trained herbalists. No one expects them to pack up and go home just because the EU made a law to register herbal medicines.

I believe that we are confusing two things here. Herbal traditions including practitioners are very much alive. Herbal medicines as registered products are in trouble. The bar has been set too high, and very few have been registered. But that does not mean we should think that herbal traditions can or will be wiped out by an initiative of the EU bureaucracy to permit registration of herbal medicines under certain conditions.

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FAO and ANH go head to head on Codex

Posted on 28 marca 2010. Filed under: 1 | Tagi: , , , , , , , , |

By the ANH Team

Two scientists on opposing sides of the debate over how the global food supply is being regulated were brought together yesterday to argue and debate their respective positions in front of an audience of leading academics at Lancaster University. The unique debate was convened by the ESRC Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics (Cesagen) as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science. The debate was entitled “The Future of Codex Alimentarius”. Leading academics from Lancaster, Edinburgh, Sussex and Sheffield Universities actively participated in a highly engaging debate following presentations by the two scientists.

Dr Ezzeddine Boutrif

Dr Ezzeddine Boutrif, Director of the Nutrition and Consumer Protection Division, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), opened the debate by making a presentation on the claimed benefits, risks and opportunities brought by implementation of the international food code administered through the intergovernmental organization responsible for developing international standards for the global food trade, the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC). Dr Boutrif explained the complex procedures developed to facilitate the workings of the intergovernmental organization and argued that the process was now considerably more transparent than in earlier years.

Dr Robert Verkerk, executive director of the Alliance for Natural Health, an international non-governmental organization, followed Dr Boutrif, questioning the independence of much of the science relied upon by Codex technical committees, providing evidence for the distortion of the process by large vested interests. Dr Verkerk also claimed that Codex’s work on genetically modified foods was inadequate to ensure consumer or environmental protection and that the basis for claiming that GM crops could alleviate hunger and poverty in developing countries was lacking. He advocated that agro-ecological models of agriculture that focused on the self-sufficiency of such agricultural communities—and not biotechnology—would be central to any resolution of the problems.

The global food system has transitioned massively over the last few decades, even since the CAC was formally established by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1963. Central to these changes are the industrialization of agriculture, the establishment of a truly global food trade, the increased consumption and availability of processed foods and accompanying use of food additives, as well as a dramatic adoption of GM crops destined for both the animal and human food chains.

The recommendations, guidelines and standards as established by Codex Alimentarius have become central to the way in which the global food trade is regulated. The over 10-year long dispute between the USA and the EU over growth hormones in beef in which the EU has been forced by the World Trade Organization, on the basis of evidence from Codex, to pay fines amounting to over $120 million annually for refusing import of hormone-treated US and Canadian beef provides an example of the significance of Codex. The EU, in contrast, has argued that some hormones may present a health risk to humans consuming produce from treated animals.

Dr Robert Verkerk

Commenting on the meeting, Dr Verkerk said, “The Cesagen meeting presented a rare opportunity for our views to be aired, not only directly to the FAO, but also to a clutch of leading academics in the genomics and social science fields. There is no doubt in my mind that the interests of consumers, as well as those of smallholder farmers and small businesses in the food trade, are not being adequately addressed by the present Codex structure. Big business and a number of governments have run away on their own track. We hold some hope that well argued positions from the NGO and academic sectors may help to positively shape the system to better deal with the demands of future generations. Developing foods and food production systems that are more compatible both with the environment and our bodies will involve a paradigm shift—and this is about going forwards not backwards. ”

ANH Homepage

Codex campaign page

Say No to GM campaign page

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