Bill C-51: a real concern for anyone who appreciates the health benefits of plants

Discussion in 'Conversations Forum' started by shrimpgirl, May 12, 2008.

  1. shrimpgirl

    shrimpgirl Member

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    This came to my attention a few days ago:
    the Canadian government has proposed an amendment to the Food and Drug Act, called Bill C-51. This amendment is currently being discussed in Parliament, and has already gone through 2 of the 3 stages of debate. There is only one more debate in Parliament (the "Third Reading") before it is decided whether this bill can be passed as is or not..

    There are a couple VERY WORRYING things about this Bill:

    Basically, the amendment proposes to change a crucial definition in the Food and Drug Act, which would bring *natural therapeutic products* (so, including all natural medicines, as well as things like dandelion tea or aloe vera gel, or pretty much any plant product used for its therapeutic/ medicinal properties) under the same category as *pharmaceutical drugs*.

    So what, you may ask. Well, A LOT:

    Obviously, big pharmaceutical companies have more resources to dedicate to rigorous trial testing of all their ingredients and final products than do the majority of natural medicine companies. At this point I'd like to note that although "rigorous testing" may seem like a good idea even for natural products, we are talking about remedies that have been in use for hundreds of years...... *not* some new synthesis previously unknown to the human body. Bill C-51, meant to improve regulatory standards for food and drugs in Canada, would have all the procedures required of big pharma be applicable to small natural medicine practitioners and suppliers too.
    **NOT REALISTIC**. Perhaps even a little suspicious? keep reading........:

    Legal analyses of this bill has brought many to the conclusion that around 60% OF ALL NATURAL MEDICINES currently on the market in Canada would become in violation of the Food and Drug Act, and therefore be TAKEN OFF THE MARKET. This of course would have repercussions for all businesses depending on these products, from your naturopath or Chinese medicine specialist, to your local organic grocery store selling loose herbs.
    Besides no longer being able to obtain these products in shops, any of these would also be illegal to sell at markets for example, so if you were "caught" selling dandelion tea at your local market, you stand to cop a 500,000$ fine. If the bill is passed the government plans to start training university students so they can increase the number of regular inspections.

    Now, whether or not the pharmaceutical lobby has anything to do with this...... ah hem.
    IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT WE SPEAK UP AND LET OUR GOVERNMENT KNOW THAT THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.
    Better testing for pharmaceutical drugs is fine, but if this new legislation affects natural medicines, IT SHOULD REFLECT THE REALITY OF THE INDUSTRY.

    If any of this worries you at all, I strongly suggest writing a *handwritten* letter to your local MP.
    Its just that health is obviously a VERY important and also very personal aspect of our lives, and I don't want to be restricted to pharmaceutical drugs just because of unrealistic bureaucratic nonsense!

    I've added some links below if you want to do your own reading.
    Meanwhile I'm going to email as many ppl as possible who might be concerned about this. If your local organic food store/ co-op/ natural medicine practitioners don't already know about this, I'm sure they'd be very interested and keen to help stop this from going through.
    If you're not too bothered but you know someone who might be, PLEASE FORWARD THIS TO THEM, we need all the help we can get!

    thanks for reading!!!

    Sincerely,
    Robin

    links about Bill C-51:

    Article in the Georgia Straight
    http://www.straight.com/article-144802/natural-health-crackdown

    Website with some info
    http://www.stopc51.com/

    Online petition
    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/StopC51

    Second Reading of Bill C-51 in parliament, that took place on the 1st of May, 2008:
    (links brings you to entire day's proceedings in parliament, so you have to scroll down about 3/4 of the page to get to "Food and Drug Act" related text)
    http://www2.parl.gc.ca/housechamber...eanSearch=False&Language=E&Mode=1#Para1064306
     
  2. smivies

    smivies Active Member

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    Re: Bill C-51: a real concern for anyone who appreciates the health benefits of plant

    On the flip side, there are many 'natural theraputic products' that
    - make unsubstantiated health claims
    - contain contaminents (sometimes unheathly/toxic ones)
    - contain inconsistent, very little, or incorrect active ingredients
    - can result in serious side effects when used incorrectly (remember Kava?)

    Some regulation in this area is long overdue. I can't answer though, if C-51 is the right way to do this?

    Simon
     
  3. shrimpgirl

    shrimpgirl Member

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    Re: Bill C-51: a real concern for anyone who appreciates the health benefits of plant

    Hey Simon,
    Yes, of course there is a flip-side.
    It would be foolhardy and just plain wrong to look at this issue in such black and white terms as "natural = good" and "pharmaceutical = bad". I agree with you on that one.

    HOWEVER:
    Is dealing the natural health care industry a huge (and disproportionate!) blow due to a serious misapplication of regulations, meant to suit the situation of big pharmaceutical companies, really a solution?

    I dont think so, personally.
    the point of having debates in Parliament is the discuss the applicability of these bills to our current reality, and most importantly is an opportunity to make **positive changes**
    To me, some positive changes would be (and this I have written in my letter to my local MP) taking into account the nature of natural medicines, and the fact that many people use bulk, single-ingredient suppliments, produced and sold by local, small-time businesses.

    I suppose one underlying reason that this has upset me is that the laws in north america often take away our ability to practice PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. One of the examples you stated Simon is mis-use of a natural drug. Well, you may disagree, but personally I dont want my choice taken away because another individual has failed to educate themselves on the proper uses of a plant.

    the point of writing to our MPs would be to prevent this Bill from passing *as is*
    that means that some helpful, beneficial elements of the Bill could be kept, while others could be debated and re-worked until they too became helpful. This is our chance to express to our political representatives the importance of our choice to "natural therapeutic products".

    Great to get some debate going!
     
  4. bedixon

    bedixon Active Member

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    Re: Bill C-51: a real concern for anyone who appreciates the health benefits of plant

    Hear, hear shrimpgirl... I also got an email about this just the other day. There are yet more scary parts to this bill. As I understand it, not only will this put small companies out of business to make way for the big pharms (apparently this has already happened in Australia), there will be severe penalties for those deemed violating the new rules... not only can you not sell your dandelion tea at the local market, you can't even give your neighbour a bit... I'm pasting the email I received below, written by a Victoria doctor - it's long, but well written and frightening... I've forwarded it to everyone I know:

    A letter from Dr. Duncan Stewart about Bill C-51 -
    the Canadian government's criminalization of herbal remedies in favour of big pharma.

    Dear Colleagues & Friends,

    I am writing because I believe that you may as concerned as I over Bill C-51 which is currently being rushed through Parliament by the present Government. I must confess that I have never been a very politically active type. I have never written to my MP, or to the Prime Minister. I have never attended protest rallies. I have never before written to friends and colleagues urging them to take action. I always used to look south of the border with alarm at the progressive deprivation of personal freedoms of American citizens in favour of big business profits but took comfort in what appeared to be some remaining ethics and accountability of our Government in Canada.

    But all that changed after I very recently found out about Bill C51, one of the most frightening challenges to both our freedom of choice over our health and our basic democratic rights.

    Sounds strong? Well I urge you to turn your internet browsers to research Bill C-51 - you will be stunned by what you find. Here is just a selection of the more important issues you will encounter: - Bill C-51 was introduced into the House of Commons by the Minister of Health on April 8th, 2008 and is already in its second reading by then end of April. This is an unprecedented rapidity for passage of a Bill suggesting deliberate haste intended to avoid sufficient numbers of Canadians leaning about the Bill and mounting effective opposition before it is already law.

    The Act is a modification of the existing "Food and Drugs Act" to add licensing of what are called "Therapeutic Products" under its scope. This will apparently include anything used for therapeutic benefit by individuals following alternative health approaches, including vitamins, herbs and other typical supplements or foodstuffs, therapeutic devices and even cosmetics. Who is behind promoting this agenda - well the fact that the Act also fast tracks new pharmaceuticals to market with reduced pre-testing and safety measures seems to suggest some obvious candidates.

    The impact on our access to these products will be devastating. It is estimated that up to 70% of currently available products will become illegal. Interestingly, this is about the same percentage of Canadians who use such products regularly and who will now have this health choice taken away from them.

    Not only will the products be banned, even scientific research on such substances will be severely limited, requiring permission from health Canada. That's right, University scientific research into the possible benefits of blueberries will only be possible under a special permit from Health Canada.

    Who will these restrictions apply to? Well everyone! The scope of this Act is so broad that, literally, even a parent choosing to give their sick child a vitamin which is either prohibited or in an amount beyond the approved dosage could be subject to massive penalties. Sharing herbs from your garden with your neighbour will be a similarly dangerous activity. No, this is not a joke. You could be prosecuted as a "seller" even when there is no commercial relationship or money involved. Activities like "collecting, preserving, labelling, bottling," etc. are also all "controlled activities."

    Proponents of the Bill say it is ridiculous to assume that the Government would ever enforce the Act in such a way. It is true; their primary focus will likely be putting the product manufacturers out of business, that being the most effective way to ensure that we then have no alternatives to prescription drugs. However, one must still ask why are the extreme powers listed below needed?

    How will the Act be enforced? If we were in any doubt about the draconian nature of this legislation that will be dispelled by the answer. A special new cadre of "Inspectors" (who are apparently already being hired from amongst University students) will have the following astonishing powers to:

    * Enter and search your private premises, computers, cell phones and seize your bank account without any warrant.

    * Seize and dispose of your property at their discretion without reimbursement. This can be done without even a precondition that the property is related to a possible violation of the Act. Yes, they can seize all your stuff - "just because."

    * Impound any "therapeutic products" you may have, transport them and store them indefinitely and charge you for the costs involved.

    * Fine you up to $5 million and jail you for up to 2 years (5 years for indictable offences). These massive penalties represent an increase from the previous maximums of $500 and 3 months (increases of up to 1000x).

    This type of increase is unprecedented in Canadian history suggesting that this is an all out attack on our freedom of choice.

    - Imagine what supplier could withstand such penalties without going bankrupt. How could anyone charged defend themselves with all their assets already removed from them? This, in effect, removes the products from the market whatever the outcome of the legal proceedings. Many products will also simply disappear because manufacturers will no longer be able to obtain or afford liability insurance under the environment that will be created.

    - Inspectors will not be required to be knowledgeable scientific experts in the Natural Health Products field. Nonetheless, if they tell a manufacturer to stop selling an essential product, or tell a Naturopathic or Homeopathic Physician to stop prescribing to their patients, they must be obeyed or even stiffer penalties will be imposed without appeal. If you want to know just how indiscriminate Health Canada can be, follow up on the experience of the small Alberta Company, True Hope Nutritional Support. Although eventually fully validated by the Courts and Health Canada officials roundly berated by the judge for their illegal actions, many patients dependent on their products are now dead and no official was ever reprimanded.

    - Under Bill C-51, the Government will now be able to adopt laws from other countries (including the incredibly restrictive European Codex Alimentarius) without prior review and debate in the House of Commons by our elected representatives - in other words, without the approval of the people of Canada. This will be done by officials simply defining them as "regulations" rather than legislation. If this is not a travesty of our Parliamentary democracy I do not know what might qualify. This is worthy of a totalitarian society - but then perhaps that is the whole point after all.

    What Can You Do? Educate yourself:

    Go to http://www.stopc51.com where you will find a copy of the Bill and an excellent legal analysis of its implications. There are a number of other similar web sites also worth visiting to broaden understanding.

    Write 3 letters (hand-written is taken more seriously /postage is free)

    AND Make phone calls to:

    Prime Minister Steven Harper, House of Commons, Ottawa (Tel: 613-992-4211)

    Minister of Health, Tony Clement, House of Commons, Ottawa (Tel: 613-944-7740)

    Your local MP (searchable on Google)

    If practical, consider attending one of the upcoming protest rallies already organised in several Canadian cities.

    Help organize a rally in Victoria.

    Talk to your local Media - any journalist you know who may care interests backing this Bill. There has been a remarkable absence of clamour in the media so far.

    Ask leaders in your community to get involved.

    Tell all your friends and co-workers. Whatever you chose to do - please act fast - there is very little time before this Bill will become law and it will be too late.

    Thank you for reading this and for your concern over our right to self-determined health.

    Best regards, Dr. Duncan Stewart
    1557 Orelton Place
    Victoria, BC
    Canada V8N 5S7
    Phone & Fax: 250-477-1020
    E-mail: dr.duncanstewart@telus.net
     
  5. shrimpgirl

    shrimpgirl Member

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    Re: Bill C-51: a real concern for anyone who appreciates the health benefits of plant

    yes, that was a very well written letter!
    I would definetly suggest forwarding that one on to anyone you think would be concerned.
    Maybe another good thing to do would be to circulate petitions locally?
    i get a real sense of panic just reading about this...... :(
     
  6. markinwestmich

    markinwestmich Active Member

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    Re: Bill C-51: a real concern for anyone who appreciates the health benefits of plant

    There is a similar movement within the U.S. Personally, I have been in the medical field for over 20 years, and I am also a user of so-called "nutriceuticals" found in many bodybuilding nutritional supplements. Believe me, I have heard all the arguments. I also read up on any available scientific studies available on Medline and Pubmed that apply to the specific nutritional supplements that I am considering to consume.

    So here is my 2 cents worth on the subject:

    1. Plants are a known source of many therapeutic agents, both "good" and "bad". Many plants have yet to be studied. Dismissing herbal or plant extracts as "bad medicine" is foolish.
    2. If there is to be any regulation, it should be in the way of providing the consumer with known concentrations, known purity, and studies to prove therapeutic benefit. Some companies already attempt do this, some do not, and this is where the heart of the issue is.
    3. The FDA in the U.S. and this Bill C-51 in Canada, although seemingly well- intentioned, is likely being influenced by the pharmaceutical companies trying to push out competition. There needs to be regulation and standards within the "herbal/ alternative medicine/nutriceutical" community, however, pushing them out of business or dismissing them as inferior or dangerous is wrong.

    There must be a way of ensuring purity standards and allowing for studies to prove therapeutic benefit without the particular chemical to be labeled a "drug". There in lies the problem. If there is sufficient proof that anything actually works, it is a "drug". So, is why companies providing herbals/nutriceuticals have no intention of providing proof that it can be used to treat a particular disease, etc. They do not want the FDA involved, it is not that their product(s) do not work. The language they use in their advertisements is carefully worded. On the other hand, there may be many herbals/nutriceuticals that simply do not work or even cause harm. There must be a way to provide studies and proof of benefit without it being labeled a "drug" and subject to all the FDA bull$#!^. Call it a loop-hole, whatever. Millions of people have successfully used herbals/nutriceuticals and shown therapeutic benefit.
     
  7. Buddleia

    Buddleia Active Member 10 Years

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    Re: Bill C-51: a real concern for anyone who appreciates the health benefits of plant

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who is completely freaked out by this Bill C-51. Stop the insanity! It bothers me that I won't be able to grow herbs in my garden and dry them for culinary uses either. But what really panics me is the thought of having to rip up all the mint that is growing on my property, I use it as groundcover. If they end up banning Round Up and go ahead with this silly Bill I suppose I will have to quit my job and get the government to support me while I spend my days digging out mint!
    While I agree that there should be some regulation on the natural products industry I feel my garden should be off limits. Yours too.
     
  8. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Re: Bill C-51: a real concern for anyone who appreciates the health benefits of plant

    >The FDA in the U.S. and this Bill C-51 in Canada, although seemingly well- intentioned, is likely being influenced by the pharmaceutical companies trying to push out competition<

    This would be usual, even if somehow not the case in this instance. Sell it to a public agency as needed for public welfare, then rake in the millions after it passes and allows you to dominate the market or creates a new market for you to exploit.

    This is done by multiple industries, I'm not talking about pharmaceuticals specifically. Here we supposedly even have a state regulation requiring a $10,000 (or more) factory-style pasteurizer to make and sell cheese - doubtless due to some big dairy interests here getting together at some point and cooking up a scheme to exclude the independents.

    Somebody I used to work with pulled up stakes and moved to Wisconsin to get out from under this requirement. They had actually imported a special breed of cattle from Holland to make the cheese with and then found out about the pasteurization mandate afterward.
     
  9. bedixon

    bedixon Active Member

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    Re: Bill C-51: a real concern for anyone who appreciates the health benefits of plant

    I don't think we have to worry about giving up growing herbs in our gardens... but the law would be in place to prohibit you from giving any away, or using them medicinally. How they would enforce this, I don't know, but with their new team of inspectors entitled to search your premises, freeze your bank account etc etc, you wouldn't want to give anyone reason to think you're breaking the law to invite that kind of nightmare... which of course is the whole point. Get everyone scared and give all the business to the big guys.
    Maybe I overreact, I happen to be reading Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine right now (scary reading!)... this Bill being surreptitiously hustled through seems to me to be representative of more than our government's "concern for the safety of Canadians"... it means taking away our freedom of choice.
     
  10. shrimpgirl

    shrimpgirl Member

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    Re: Bill C-51: a real concern for anyone who appreciates the health benefits of plant

    I havent been in Canada all this while..... does anyone have any updates on this bill?
    thanks!
     
  11. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Esteemed Contributor UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Re: Bill C-51: a real concern for anyone who appreciates the health benefits of plant

    Whatever side (or shade of grey) you are on re: this bill, it has been dropped with the election call. Of course, it is entirely likely it will be reintroduced after the next election.
     
  12. togata57

    togata57 Contributor 10 Years

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    Re: Bill C-51: a real concern for anyone who appreciates the health benefits of plant

    "Eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty."---Andrew Jackson
     
  13. shrimpgirl

    shrimpgirl Member

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    Re: Bill C-51: a real concern for anyone who appreciates the health benefits of plant

    couldnt have picked a more relevant quote :)
     
  14. togata57

    togata57 Contributor 10 Years

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    Re: Bill C-51: a real concern for anyone who appreciates the health benefits of plant

    I like this one too:
    "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."---Edmund Burke
     

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