Do you believe you have lost any freedoms you, your parents or your grandparents once had in terms of our ability to manage our health through natural means? You may also want to ponder if you’ve gained additional access to products or services?
The reality is that, for many of us in the Western world, we have both gained and lost some of these precious freedoms. Thanks to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of businesses, usually smaller ones rather than transnational ones, many of us are now able to access superfoods earlier generations would have needed to cross continents to ingest. We can also go to our natural health practitioner or health food store, or look online, to find a diverse range of state-of-the-art food or dietary supplements.
As more and more of us make the choice to manage our health through natural means, motivated to a large degree by the failure of modern medicine to curb the rising tide of chronic diseases, our lifestyle choices have inspired an entire industry (the natural products industry). In response, big business and government cronies have responded, being hell bent on curtailing this fundamental right often using misguided or misrepresented facts to fuel their zeal.
Here, there and everywhere
These restrictions to our freedoms are happening around the world, and there are ever fewer territories that can now be described as liberal from a regulatory perspective. Our work at ANH-USA continues to show where the pinch is being felt by the millions of Americans who refuse to give up their right to natural health. In the EU, the Netherlands famously legalised cannabis but is imposing increasing restrictions on medicinal herbs and dosages of particular vitamins (e.g. D). Most people are either unaware of losses to these kinds of health freedom or they are unperturbed by them. They are apathetic, being unprepared to stand up. They are resigned to an unproven notion that most limitations on their freedom of choice are intended to protect public health and they usually buy the line that governments “must know what they are doing.” While they might, they often do not act in our interest!
Those efforts that are intended to counteract government restrictions tend to be fragmented and, at best, act more as a delaying tactic than a preventative one.
Our team at ANH here in Europe and the USA has well over a decade of experience monitoring and acting on these assaults on our freedoms. In the main, with very few exceptions, we assert that these restrictions, contrary to the justifications given, do not benefit public health. The reverse is normally true. Governments appear keen to keep their cronies on the ‘right’ side, to maintain sweet relationships with big corporations with which they share many revolving doors.
It can of course be argued that the profitability and growth of big business (read: Big Food, Big Pharma and Big Biotech) can help swell the economy which in turn may benefit the public indirectly. But that’s hardly the point. Especially when small businesses, as a whole, generally contribute more to the gross domestic product of a country as compared with big, transnational corporations. Politicians need to understand better that small businesses, for this reason, effectively act as the backbone of the global economy.
Many of us who choose to live in democracies, hold in high regard our fundamental rights and freedoms. We know that our forebears often fought hard to maintain these rights. That’s a good reason to not take the easy way out now and turn a blind eye to what is happening. What we choose to put into, or not put into, our bodies should logically be near or at the top of our list of key fundamental rights assuming there is no overt evidence that the substance is a narcotic, or is harmful or addictive. This notion is interesting when you think about addictive substances like tobacco or sugar, two industries from which governments in the past have profited hugely to the detriment of the public.
As governments assume more control over our lives via their interconnected bureaucracies, we face further impositions on our freedom of choice as it relates to natural health. Five current examples include:
Global adulteration of the food supply. Did you choose to eat more and more processed food, or consume foods laced with glyphosate or preservatives that are omni-present in our supermarkets? These contaminants or additives are recognised by the World Health Organization as probable human carcinogens.
UK meningitis vaccine programme for newborns. Yesterday marked the start of the world’s first nationally and publicly funded vaccination programme for newborn babies with the aim of protecting them from the meningococcal group-B bacteria strains that cause meningitis. We recognise how distressing it must be for those families affected by meningitis. But we passionately believe that parents should not be pressurised and they should be given information about other options, along with sufficient information that allows them the right to informed choice.
Limitations on vaccine choice. Millions of parents have been told that the HPV vaccine is safe and effective for their teenage children. It is being foisted on teenage girls, and increasingly boys as well, around the world — and, in fact, it is neither safe nor effective. Vaccine makers GSK, Sanofi Pasteur and Merck are set to benefit when the target population for HPV is doubled by putting adolescent boys next in line. Seventh graders in Rhode Island, following those in Washington DC and Virginia, will be barred from school unless they are vaccinated or have medical exemption. Surely every parent and child should have the right to make informed choices based on balanced information?
EU restrictions on products and claims
If you haven’t already, check out our parody from last week that looked at what barriers an entrepreneur in the natural health field might experience when trying to enter the natural product sector. Individually, some of the new EU laws facing natural health products are challenging enough; together they amount to nothing less than a mountain in the path of the sector.
Global harmonisation of restrictive regulatory practices.
South Africa is just one example of a country that is set to have the brakes slammed on in an effort to impede its burgeoning natural products and traditional medicines sector, using EU-style laws. We’re following this issue closely and will soon be able to provide a detailed account of what’s been happening from sources inside South Africa. Watch this space. But the UN’S Codex Alimentarius already provides an overriding framework for global harmonisation, and this is heavily influenced by restrictive European regulatory practices.
Safeguarding your future
There are many things each and every one of us can do. We believe that if enough of us take action in this way, we can protect one of our most fundamental birth-rights: the right to manage our health and our wellbeing by natural means. We can do this by acting at three discrete levels, and responding to each and every planned or actual restriction on our freedom to choose. Here’s how:
There is no substitute for ‘walking the talk’. The power of story continues to be one of the most influential agents of change. We can read about government policies to reduce sugar consumption, but many simply don’t react, continuing to feed their addiction. But if we hear a story of health transformation, especially from someone we know who has cut out sugar, adjusted his or her diet and lifestyle and has then had a great, life-changing experience, we are much more likely to follow suit.
Consider options other than drugs when you face health challenges: consult a qualified and experienced natural health practitioner, or seek guidance in a health store, many of which now give you access to practitioners.
Consume healthy foods, in the right balance, following the ANH Food4Health plate guidelines. Buy food wisely, prepare it with care, and choose carefully when you eat out.
Too few of us are active in our local communities. The parents who’ve campaigned to remove wifi systems or pushed to have healthier lunches in their children’s schools have made a difference in their communities. Engaging in such a way that our actions make a measurable difference, rather than feeling disempowered, is what our communities need.Information sharing is key – and this can be done verbally, by organising talks or seminars – and by sharing information, including the vast number of articles on ANH’s international, European and US websites. We’ve tried to make it as easy as we can for you to share the stories on our websites.
Local extends to national – and it’s essential in a so-called democracy to make the best possible use of what’s left of the democratic system in which we elect political representatives to act as executors of the popular will. Meet with your elected representatives if you can, and write to them, letting them know your concerns and interests. We will soon have tools available on our website to allow you to write personalised letters to your elected represents in the EU.
Think, even if you can’t act, globally
This is a tough one. Many will have heard the catch cry of activism that has been so successful in the environmental movement: Think globally, act locally. But you have to see the big picture to understand better how the world ticks, and where the levers of change may reside. How can tipping points be achieved or created? How can changes in consumer demand affect Big Food’s offerings? What impact might reduced demand for genetically modified animal feed in Europe make on Brazilian, Argentinian, US or Canadian farming systems that have widely adopted biotech crops? What happens to the global food supply if more and more of us prioritise the sourcing of local or regional foods? Many of these types of questions are difficult to answer objectively and unequivocally, but by and large, when we make choices and decisions from a more holistic and global perspective, we make decisions that, ultimately, are better for us and better for our planet, the fruits of which we are inexorably dependent on.