So: that was 2012, then. Disappeared pretty quickly, didn’t it?  If there’s one phrase that captures the essence of 2012 for many people, it’s probably ‘the year of austerity’. This is the year when government schemes supposedly designed to reduce enormous debt burdens really began to bite. Even if we are to believe the official narrative, citizens of industrialised countries worldwide are having their standards of living ratcheted sharply downwards by their governments, in order to plug financial ‘black holes’ that were of the banks’ making – not the citizens’. 

Simultaneously, also beginning to bite – as we predicted at the end of 2011 – are the benighted collection of European Union Directives and Regulations that attempt to put a yoke not just on natural healthcare, but on the very information relied upon by citizens to choose healthy foods.  These are the threads that ANH has been following for over a decade, the effects of which will become ever more apparent in the decade to come. Amid this depressing news, however, are inspiring signs that people at large – and even governments – are at last waking up to the manipulations going on around them. So, without further ado, are the areas of natural healthcare that saw the most interesting developments over the last 12 months. See you next year!

Health claims – the EU’s war on food-related free speech

  • One of the biggest ongoing stories of 2012 involved the passing into law of the European Union’s (EU’s) highly repressive health claims legislation, the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (NHCR)
  • Amazingly, we were the only organisation that campaigned for Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to veto the legislation at the crucial stage
  • Despite our best efforts, a 222-strong list of ‘general function’ European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)-approved health claims on foods and food ingredients became law on 14th December
  • It is now up to EU Member States to interpret the NHCR in a sensible manner, following the Netherlands’ lead, to delay or prevent consumers from being denied huge swathes of vital health-related information
  • Rob Verkerk PhD, ANH founder and executive and scientific director, was interviewed about the NHCR on UK BBC Radio 4 in December.

Resisting the official push for GMOs

  • The other ‘biggie’ of 2012 was the genetically modified organisms (GMOs) saga. However many times we-the-people reject GMOs, they’re pushed right back at us, accompanied by newer and shinier propaganda
  • In the EU, the plan appears to be for people like European Commission (EC) Chief Scientific Officer, Professor Anne ‘GMO lover’ Glover, to provide a scientific-sounding rationale for GM and to isolate dissenting countries like Austria
  • 2013 will be a crucial year if Europeans are to keep GM off their plates and largely out of the food supply – and we’ll be there at the forefront, keeping you informed and fighting for the right to eat genetically untainted food!
  • Ironically, thanks largely to the efforts of the pro-GM camp, GM is now on the public agenda like never before, and chances of a change in the weather in the US to rival recent decisions elsewhere in the world are greater than ever

Cancer tug-of-war

  • 2012 saw escalating tension between mainstream and non-orthodox views of cancer – and of the public’s ability to choose how they and their families should be treated for the disease
  • The Totnes Cancer Care Conference, one of a very few public forums in the UK where international experts of every stripe, including Dr Verkerk, can publicly discuss non-orthodox approaches to cancer, was forced behind closed doors early in 2012 before triumphantly re-emerging at the end of the year
  • Neon’s case is indicative of an increasing trend for governments worldwide to force people into orthodox medical care against their will, a trend we expect to intensify in 2013.

Wider questioning of the mainstream

  • Public debate about healthcare matters wasn’t limited to cancer in 2012.  UK consumer magazine Which? kicked things off with a rigged hatchet job on nutritional therapists
  • We then contributed to redressing the balance. Our feature showed the radical differences between the functional medicine-based practice of nutritional therapy and dietetics, revealing some serious weaknesses in the dietetic worldview
  • We reviewed the new book by prominent natural health skeptic, Dr Ben Goldacre, which shows clearly the worthlessness of the orthodox medical evidence base – courtesy of the pharma industry and others. If only Dr Goldacre had the courage of his convictions!
  • It’s time for a fresh look at how evidence in healthcare is gathered, beyond the artificial realms of the randomised, controlled trial. Watch out for some big news on this front in 2013 from ANH!

The two sides of safety

  • When is safety not about safety? When regulators get involved.  Over and over again, ‘public safety’ is invoked by EFSA in order to justify restrictive legislation on food supplements, herbal medicines and even health-related information on foods and ingredients
  • As we showed with some original research commissioned from independent New Zealand-based risk management consultant Ron Law, natural health products such as these are among the safest substances with which humans come into contact

Keeping our (herbal) powder dry

  • Although less high profile than in 2011, issues relating to EU herbal products rumbled on in 2012. Regulators are using every trick in the book to prevent the sale of food-supplement forms of herbal products, as opposed to herbal medicines registered under the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD)
  • In Belgium, the tactic has been to classify all new herbal products as novel foods under the Novel Foods Regulation (NFR), while Dutch officials have set contamination limits for polyaromatic hydrocarbons so low that many importers are pulling out of the country, rather than pay for expensive testing of all their products
  • The UK’s medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), appears to be taking its cues from a shady alliance of phytopharmaceutical companies, misguided herbalists and others called the Herbal Quality Campaign
  • We are very hopeful that 2013 will be the year that we initiate our legal challenge on the availability of herbal products in the EU, starting in the High Court in London, from where we hope to get a reference to the European Court of Justice. It has been a long, slow process gathering all the evidence and obtaining legal standing for the challenge, but we’re almost there – and we can’t thank you enough for all your support. Please keep it coming in 2013!