Underground drug dealers may soon be peddling illicit Vitamin C and other dietary supplements, including herbs. Police may soon have the authority to break down your door and search your fridge for health food. Health enthusiasts could one day be rounded up like prisoners of war and have their homes confiscated and their livelihood destroyed, like marijuana users and growers.



War on Health


    In some countries, the War on Health has already begun. In Norway, Germany, and Australia, Vitamin C and other health supplements are already illegal in moderate doses, and weak tablets can only be bought over the counter for, on average, 18 times the price we presently pay here in Canada. Norwegian vitamin distributor John Hansen reported being chased by undercover agents for his part in selling Vitamin C above the 200mg limit.1

    In South Africa, vitamin distributor Clive Buirski recently had his shipment of vitamins seized by customs authorities intent on preventing them from passing into the hands of alternative health practitioners.  

    In Canada too, the process is well underway. In the past decade, the Health Protection Branch (HPB) has made over 100 health food supplements illegal, 23 of which are still available in US stores. One of these "dangerous" herbal remedies still available in the United States is DHEA, a derivative of wild yam extract which has been shown to promote longevity and strengthen immune functioning. With less side-effects than a cup of coffee, DHEA has been a controlled substance since December 19, 1996, under changes to legislation suggested by the HPB.2 

If you say it's good for you, it's a drug  

    The Food and Drug Act defines a "drug" as including any substance "for use in the diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or prevention of a disease, disorder, abnormal physical state, or the symptoms thereof, in man or animal." This incredibly broad definition can be interpreted to include vitamins like Vitamin C, used to treat and prevent the disorder of scurvy, plants and herbs with therapeutic uses like garlic, ginger and peppermint, and even ordinary food and water, since these act to prevent the abnormal physical states of dehydration of starvation.  

    The HPB has decided that once someone claims that a vitamin or herb can have a therapeutic benefit, it becomes a drug. This means that peppermint and ginger tea would be considered a drug if the brand name or label suggests that it could be used as digestive aid.  

    It's not even necessary for the person selling the herb to make a health claim for the product. As long as someone, somewhere has claimed that the herb or vitamin can have a health benefit, it is considered a drug. In fact, some herbs have been banned from sale by the HPB simply because their names indicate a possible therapeutic use. Eyebright, cramp bark and feverfew have all been prohibited for sale in Canada, simply because their names denote their traditional medicinal use.  

    Jean-Marc Charron, Chief of the Drug and Environmental Health Inspection Division of the HPB, warns of the penalties of being caught trying to sell any of these herbs or vitamins that have been deemed "drugs" by the HPB:  

  "The penalties for trafficking and possession for the purpose of trafficking are severe, the length of imprisonment ranging from a term not exceeding eighteen months on summary conviction, to a term not exceeding ten years on conviction by indictment."  

National Fees and International Treaties  

  Ominously, the banning of herbal supplements is following the same path that the banning of cannabis did in the thirties.

    The contemporary worldwide sanctions against cannabis had their genesis in the United States' Marijuana Tax Act, passed in 1937, which made the sale of cannabis prohibitively expensive. This eventually developed into full-scale prohibition, with international treaties enacted through the United Nations forcing other member countries to comply. International pressure is one of the main reasons cannabis is illegal in Canada today.

HPB introduces exorbitant fees

    In Canada, the process of using exorbitant taxes and fees to eliminate natural medicines from the market is already in place, under the guise of "cost recovery".

    Once Health Canada decides that a herb or vitamin is actually a drug, they require that it receive a "Drug Identification Number" (DIN). Although this is little more than a bureaucratic procedure which does nothing to guarantee the safety or efficacy of the substance in question, receiving a DIN is a very expensive proposition.

    A supplier must pay the HPB up to $1600 for testing and approval of each substance which requires a DIN, plus a one-time fee of $750 and an additional annual fee of $500 simply for maintaining DIN status. Each supplier of a DIN product must also pay $4500 for a three day routine inspection for product compliance.

    Each company that manufactures or imports any DIN product must also pay to have all of its building sites inspected and approved anually. If the substance is being manufactured in a foreign country, the supplier must pay all transportation and accomodation costs as well as the inspection fees. Thus it can easily cost over $4000 to licence an importer's location, and $6000 to licence a manufacturing lection.

    Most companies in the natural health industry carry hundreds of products from all over the world, meaning that they will soon be approached by a Health Canada inspector, asking for tens of thousands of dollars in return for permission to continue selling the herbs and vitamins which they already sell. These massive taxes will push many natural health stores out of business, and force the remainder to drastically raise the cost of their vitamins and herbal medicines.

International Plan to Ban  

  While the introduction of new and prohibitive taxes on herbs and vitamins continues in Canada and other nations around the world, ominous events are also occuring on the international level.

   International treaties like the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are going to be used to coerce countries to conform to worldwide bans on herbal supplements. GATT and NAFTA are to be used as tools to enforce a set of international standards on products called "Codex Alimentarius" (Latin for "food code").

   The Codex was originally created by the World Health Organization as a set of standards which would be applied internationally, so that consumables could be shipped from country to country without the problems posed by having different standards in every nation. It is claimed that Codex is meant only to be a recommended standard, but GATT and NAFTA both include sections which refer back to the Codex, making it enforceable by trade sanctions.3

   If a country like Canada fails to comply with Codex, it will be isolated from trade with other "family" countries of GATT and NAFTA, which accounts for virtually every country on the planet, until it agrees to ban and restrict the availability of all dietary supplements, including herbs and vitamins. The threat of trade barriers has traditionally been reserved for countries with Ñ among other things Ñ lenient drug policies. Consider the recent trade barriers imposed by the French president Jacques Chirac against Holland.

The incestuous dependence of countries on international trade is being used to effectively negate a country's internal powers of democracy.


Herbs heal, drugs kill

    If vitamins, herbs, and other dietary supplements are being banned or restricted to protect public health, then it would make sense that such health foods must pose an equal or greater health risk than the patented pharmaceutical drugs which are fated to replace them.

    Yet vitamins and herbs are the most risk-free treatments in the world. When released to the general population, herbal treatments for particular diseases have been shown to be both safer and more effective than their synthetically produced pharmaceutical counterparts. Examples of the safety and effectiveness of herbs over dietary supplements include marijuana as a treatment for glaucoma, horsetail as a treatment for osteoporosis, and saw palmetto as a treatment for benign prostate enlargement.

    Pharmaceutical drug treatments for glaucoma can cause headaches, drug allergy, metabolic acidosis, rashes, cataracts, hypotension, blood dyscrasia, kidney stones, and ulcers. Similarly, pharmaceutical solutions to benign prostate enlargement are approximately 60% less effective than saw palmetto, and conventional treatments for osteoporosis increases the patient's risk of developing cancer.

As acclaimed natural health practitioner Zoltan Rona notes, "thousands of people die each year in North America as a direct result of prescription and over the counter drugs, [while] the Atlanta Poison Control Centre does not even track herbal adverse reactions because they are so rare. There have been no deaths directly attributable to a herb in North America for the past 10 years."

    Even US government studies agree. In 1990, the US Accounting Office released a Food and Drug Administration "Review of Postapproval Risks (1976-1985)", which found that of 198 approved pharmaceutical drugs released for sale to the public, 102 had serious side effects and had to be either taken off the market or labeled as dangerous.

Marijuana has been denied to Canadian glaucoma victims since it was banned by the Narcotics Control Act. Horsetail was banned from health food stores by the Canadian Health Protection Branch within the last decade. Through the Codex Alimentarius, the World Health Organization seeks to make other effective herbs, like saw palmetto, equally unavailable.


Pharmacy of Greed  

    Today, the world-wide health market is undergoing a product repolarization opposed to the interests of big pharmaceutical business. People are buying fewer pharmaceutical drugs and more health food, vitamins, and herbs. More money is staying in the local economies of independently owned stores, and less money is available to fuel the hunger of multinational corporations.    

  Health food stores are appearing on every corner. World Health Organization studies show that even in 1985, 80% of the world and 60% of North Americans used herbs as cures for common ailments on a regular basis.

  Worse yet for multinational pharmaceutical interests, health food also has a tendency to make people sick less often, so the market is shrinking at the same time as it is repolarizing. If people relied more often on pharmaceutical cures, the market would be growing rather than shrinking. This is because 8 million people are hospitalized each year for ailments caused by the ingestion of prescription drugs.4

  Originally, Codex threatened to facilitate the movement of the market away from pharmaceuticals by lowering international standards for natural products. The lowering of international standards would mean that traditional healing substances with a proven track record would be subject to even less scrutiny than they already are. They could be sold without the expensive testing procedures or licensing imposed on pharmaceuticals. Consequently, they would be easily available and also cost less than pharmaceuticals. By the law of supply and demand, they would continue to take more of the market than the drugs produced by big business.

  Is it a coincidence that large pharmaceutical companies have backed a proposal to make Codex Alimentarius a vehicle for the destruction of the world-wide health food industry?  

Old Nazi Chemists & the HPB

   IG Farben was a German chemical company which, among other things, produced Zyclon B, the poison gas used in WWII German death camps. They even operated their own concentration camp during this period, where scientific experimentation on human subjects were commonplace.5 IG Farben were also the originators of heroin, methadone and nylon. Their nylon patents were snatched up by Dupont after the war. Now the progeny of IG Farben threaten the health of all people, world-wide.

  When WWII ended, IG Farben was broken into three subsidiary companies as a result of the Nuremburg War Trials. These companies are Bayer, BASF, and Hoescht. At the October, 1996 meeting of Codex, in Bonn, Germany, IG Farben's subsidiary companies sponsored an amendment to restrict traditionally proven remedies by subjecting them to the same ineffective and expensive testing procedures as new pharmaceutical drugs.

   The German proposal also included an amendment to ban health food, vitamins, and herbs from being sold for therapeutic uses, striking a blow at the very heart of the health-food philosophy. The proposal was accepted, with an overwhelming majority of the delegates voting in favour of the amendment.


The German Amendment to Codex

1. No dietary supplement can be sold for preventative or therapeutic use. Any product making a health claim becomes a registered drug, controlled by the pharmaceutical industry.

2. No dietary supplement sold as a food can exceed dosage or potency levels set by the commission. This means that consumer access to dietary supplements will be limited to the Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) as a maximum limit for vitamins. Supplements without an RDA would be illegal to sell because they would all be considered drugs.

3. Codex standards for dietary supplements would become the reference international standard under GATT, and NAFTA. This means is that Canada and the US would have no choice but to comply.

4. All new supplements would automatically be banned unless they go through the Codex approval process.

 Canada loves Codex

  The Canadian Health Protection Branch, which has been facing extinction as the result of recent government cutbacks, fully supports the Codex proposals, which fall directly in line with their own efforts at self-preservation. With Codex proposals firmly in place, the HPB could gain new life as an enforcement agency for a whole new class of illegal substances, even while raking in millions in licensing fees for the few substances they deem "market-worthy".

 The Canadian delegate to Codex, Dr Mary Cheney of the HPB, didn't just vote for the German amendments to Codex, but went so far as to propose further restrictive amendments. She proposed a "negative list" which would give Codex delegates the power to fully prohibit any herb, vitamin, or health food which they decide is "dangerous".

 It's surprising that there were any votes at all against these amendments, considering that about 90% of Codex delegates are representatives from large international pharmaceutical companies. Because of the Bonn conference, Codex has been transformed into a weapon for the destruction of health food industries everywhere. International agreements are delivering democracy firmly into the hands of the corporate elite.  

Manufacturing Ignorance  

 Since beginning their campaign to inform the public about Codex, John Hammell, an American health activist, and Zoltan Rona, a Canadian health activist, have been effectively ignored by an unresponsive media. Speaking engagements and the internet have been their only available contact points with the public.

The HPB has been desperately trying to keep Rona's testimony from public awareness. So far he has been blocked from speaking at medical conferences in Toronto and Calgary. Similarly, John Hammell, while attempting to cross into Canada, was red-flagged at customs, and delayed so as to be blocked from speaking at a public health conference.  

Government Silence  

    Government officials seem wary of the topic as well. When Codex is mentioned in the press by government officials it is only mentioned indirectly, as the "health food issue", or as the "regulation issue", buried deep under other unimportant articles. In an attempt to diffuse the issue before the Ô97 Canadian federal election, the federal government announced that it would form an "expert panel" to consider the "regulation issue". The international implications of Codex were not mentioned in the press release, leaving the average voter unaware of the real issue.

   The likely goal of such tactics is to placate those sections of the public who know something about Codex, without further spreading the message to everyone else. As Robert McMaster of the Canadian Coalition for Health Freedom (CCHF) notes, "there have twice been Ôexpert advisory committees' on herbs, and every time they met, they made a nice report, and then they did nothing." Half-hearted "government commissions" have long been the tool of politicians seeking to postpone and defuse issues which they plan to do nothing about. Witness the "comprehensive review" of our drug policy, promised as a consolation for those opposed to the passage of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Killing the Source  

  When the Europeans set out to conquer North America, their arsenal included disease and dependence. Because amerindian tribes were less resistant to European disease, they died by the millions. Because amerindians became dependent on goods brought from the New World, they forgot their traditional ways of life, and were forced into trade. Skins for guns, metal kettles and knives. The fur trade opened up North America once and for all to European settlers.

  Disease and dependence continue to be the tools by which multinational corporations enslave the world's populace. By placing themselves between Canadians and the traditional healing arts, the multinational pharmaceutical companies ensure that their hold over us remains strong. The gardener and naturopath, the grower and the shaman, all are outlawed in a society that seeks to exchange our bond with the earth for a bond of slavery.

 With a monopoly on health, the pharmaceutical companies will have the power to extort the last penny from ailing seniors and sick children, while those who can't pay will be left to die. Who won't be willing to sell everything they have to save a loved one from disease? Synthetic cures won't come cheap when there's no competition or alternative.

 A health food store owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, has visions of a Canada without medicare. "Right now they have plans to pad the system. Because soon whenever someone wants to get Vitamin C, they will have to go to a doctor for a prescription. All of those visits will be charged to medicare, and sooner or later the medicare system will be bankrupt."

When the medicinally beneficial hemp plant was outlawed, North America lost a versatile medicine, as well as an efficient means to produce paper, fabric, and many other items. This resulted in the unchecked cutting of our forests, and the massive use of pesticides to grow less hardy cotton. When all herbs are outlawed, and our attachment to the earth is more fundamentally shaken, what destruction will be unleashed upon the earth then?

 Canadians need to learn a lesson from the prohibition of cannabis and act out against the banning of other healing herbs, before the entire world is sacrificed to greed.












The following herbs are among many considered by the Health Protection Branch to be harmful substances which may be seized by Customs or wherever they are sold.

Over the past decade, the HPB has removed at least the following natural supplements from Canadian health food stores. They are generally available in the USA without prescription.

For More Info  


Health Action Network Society, 202 - 5262 Rumble St, Burnaby, BC, V5J 2B6; tel (604) 435-0512; fax (604) 435-1561.


Endangered Products Campaign, tel (604) 435-0512 (Vancouver, BC)


Dr Mary Cheney, Health Canada's delegate to the Codex Commission, tel (613) 957-0352



 1.  Codex:International Threat to Health Freedom, John Hammell. Essay. 1996.

 2. HPB-Codex Connection Kills DHEA, Zoltan P. Rona. Essay. 1997.

 3. Will International Harmonization End Health Freedom?, Suzanne Harris. Essay.

 4. Archives of Internal Medicine, Journal. October 9, 1995.

 5. The Crime and Punishment of IG Farben, Joseph Borkin. New York: The Free Press, 1978.

 6. Canadian Health Protection Branch under fire, Laura Eggertson. Article in The Globe and Mail, May 30, 1997.



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