3rd February 2012
Many people in the West have already given up on the notion of living in a democratic society. This is understandable, given that it’s nearly impossible for individuals living in many countries to make a significant difference to the world around them. It’s particularly the case in the formerly sovereign states of Europe.
The campaign we’ve launched this week aims to do something that’s been achieved only a couple of times before: to use the European Parliament’s power of veto to stop a misguided piece of European legislation. The legislation in question involves the passage into EU law of a short list of health claims on the health benefits of foods and food ingredients, and a simultaneous ban on over 2,500 rejected health claims. We are campaigning to block the list because it will, in our view, confuse consumers by removing enormous amounts of information about the health benefits of food and natural health products.
Some might well look at the hundreds of EU Directives and Regulations that get green-lighted every year and decide that this is a near-impossible task. We would sympathise but disagree: here, for example, are two shards of sunlight that should inspire us!
Firstly, it’s pretty amazing timing that the most recent example of the European Parliament blocking the passage of a proposal into law occurred just yesterday! Not only that, but it involved a ban on “X% less…” nutrition claims, an issue closely related to health claims – the subject of our veto campaign. This latest case followed the Parliament’s role in banning approval of the meat glue thrombin in 2010. Yesterday’s main objection came from MEPs who felt that consumers would be confused by “X% reduction” claims for fats and sugars, which are being pushed hard by Big Food interests. The case was clearly put by British MEP Glenis Willmott. We’re taking it as a good omen for our campaign!
While the issues behind the health claims proposal are much more complex, we believe passionately that the proposed legislation needs to be blocked, if only because rejecting it will at least result in improved legislation. It will also exercise the muscle of the European Parliament, the only theoretically democratic organ within the typically undemocratic European law-making process.
This is why we are asking you to take the time and write to all the MEPs in your constituency. See our quick access link on how to do this. If you are mailing hard-copy letters, make sure to put each one in an individual envelope, because they need to be distributed to each MEP’s office separately. Alternatively, you can email your letter, including the form letter as an attachment.
We appreciate it’s a bit long-winded to do this manually, but MEPs respond to their constituents and our years of lobbying in Europe have shown us that this kind of letter-writing campaign has much more influence than an electronic list made up of email addresses. Whilst we appreciate the power of a petition with many signatures, it's not the best method of obtaining a majority vote in the European Parliament, which is why we're asking you to please write letters.
Public views appear to be having more, rather than less, influence on the transnational corporations trying to sell us what many see as unethical wares. Recent examples are BASF and AstraZeneca moving out of Europe. Another example comes from none other than Monsanto. Despite gaining legal approval in the EU to cultivate its MON810 genetically modified (GM) maize, the biotech giant has decided not to cultivate its patented GM maize in France owing to widespread public opposition. That’s people power at work!
Obviously, these transnational corporations tend to take the path of least resistance, and will always look for other ways to keep their business intact and growing. High on their list are mergers and acquisitions, and selling into countries that don’t object to what they do. One way of dealing with this is to make sure that campaign organisations like ANH, along with the vast social networks of concerned citizens and netizens with which we all interact, continue to do what we can to raise public awareness – worldwide.
So let’s see what we can do, working together! Following is our story on this week’s EU-wide launch of our health claims veto campaign (once again, here’s the quick access instructions for letter writing to your MEP), as well as our other stories of the week:
ANH launches health claims campaign targeting Members of the European Parliament
The importance of continued pressure amid European corporate pullouts
ANH-Intl addresses consumer confusion over herbal medicines and food supplements
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