As with life, words have plain meanings. That is, we all generally expect the basic meaning of a word to be what we know it to be through our experience and education. A “cat” does not mean a “dog.” Instead, they are what we expect them to be just as water is water and blue means blue. Without such commonly accepted meanings, we would be lost at sea, unable to communicate with one another and transmit information. Hence, shared definitions exist that typically transcend time and even cultures.
My first trip to Europe was when I was a young boy and Kennedy was still president. Everything seemed so different there, from the public restrooms at the Brussels airport where the men’s and women’s entrances led into the exact same room to the frothy, thick, hot milk in an almost-too-big tasse that I happily slurped in a small Parisian café, leaving a warm, white smear on my face and in my throat. There were no McDonald’s, Starbucks or ubiquitous American sitcoms like Friends. Life, European life, was an alien bustle and blur that never quite lost its seductive grip on my soul.
After the bloodbath in the fields of France during the First World War in which almost 1.4 million French lives were lost, the Third French Republic was determined that this would never happen again. Vast sums were approved in the 1930s to construct a series of strong forts and powerful buried defensive positions strung in a line on the border between France and its old enemy Germany. This became known as the Maginot Line, named after André Maginot, the French Minister of War at the time; and it is best remembered as a huge failure.
In a glitzy roll-out last February that featured both First Lady Michelle Obama and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, M.D., the FDA proudly announced its first major changes to nutrition and supplement labeling in more than 20 years. In effect, the Agency proposed “to update the Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods to reflect the latest scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease. The proposed label also would replace out-of-date serving sizes to better align with how much people really eat, and it would feature a fresh design to highlight key parts of the label such as calories and serving sizes” (1).
“It’s not what you don’t know that kills you, it’s what you know for sure that ain’t true.” How many of us have heard this truism by Mark Twain many a time and nodded our heads in agreement? Well, it certainly applies to business.
Sunset pinked the German sky as the Codex delegates sat at their conference-room tables, a long first day already behind them, still debating health standards that will affect billions worldwide. Naturally a day filled with such debates—especially over technical language for draft guidelines for vitamin-and-mineral Nutrient Reference Values (NRVs) as well as draft Principles about adding essential nutrients to foods—would trick the delegates’ sense of time as they crawled through reams of documents, making a long day seem even longer. At such times, natural health is a frequent casualty because overall vision is sacrificed on the altar of hyper-technicality. But not this time. Instead, this first day of the 35th session of the Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses (CCNFSDU) saw health granted a reprieve, however provisional, as the executioners stayed their hands for reasons unknown.
It always happens this way. First, like an artillery barrage, comes the media attack. Then, after the enemy has been softened up, comes the main assault: the legislation. Those who would prefer that you and I suffer from ill-health and be forever chained to their miserable, drug-happy, disease-care system employ this strategy repeatedly to attack their competition: alternative medicine and supplements.
The pharmaceutical industry and the American Medical Association (AMA) are running scared—very scared. In fact, jackrabbits have more courage right now than they do. After having created a near-monopoly in medical care that has endured 100 years since the Flexner Report came out in 1910 with its hatchet job against competitive health treatments such as homeopathy, naturopathy, osteopathy, chiropractic and herbal medicine, this drug and medical mafia has kept a jealous and vigilant watch over its monopolistic commercial privileges.
The hazy, smoggy skies over Beijing over those March days were emblematic of the Codex meetings that the National Health Federation (NHF) was attending for many days in China. The sun only shimmered as a strange, pale orange globe, casting an ethereal, almost futuristic “Bladerunner” look to the cityscape while city residents glided silently past with white face masks as we Codex delegates and staff worked inside in overheated rooms on international food-additive standards. Given what transpired, the setting seemed apt.