Thursday, 30 December 2010

EU bans herbal remedies: another victory for corporate interests

An excellent article today from Daniel Hannan:

When the EU does something truly unpopular, it usually builds in a delay. Eurocrats know that national ministers are likelier to agree to measures which will blow up on the laps of their successors. Thus the restrictions on natural and alternative medicines, which were passed in 2004, will hit herbalists’ shelves in April.

The Independent reports that hundreds of traditional plant remedies are under threat, including Meadowsweet, Cascara Bark and Pau D’Arco. Some products will be proscribed outright; others subjected to a prohibitively expensive licensing regime.

Why is the EU criminalising a harmless activity pursued by 20 million Europeans?

Three factors are in play. First, Eurocrats love regulating things. The argument that you should leave well alone – that herbalists have no interest in poisoning their customers, that the presumption of innocence should apply in this as in any other case, that the trade has flourished for centuries without state oversight – is anathema to them. To the EU official, “unlicensed” is synonymous with “illegal”.

Second, the EU has fallen for that modern idiocy known as “the precautionary principle”. As I wrote when this ban was first mooted, you can’t prove a negative. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, it was widely believed that the noise of a passing train would cause a pregnant woman to miscarry. Had we applied “the precautionary principle”, we would never have laid a single inch of track. After all, the rail operators of the day couldn’t prove that they wouldn’t cause miscarriages, any more than today’s health stores can prove that their wares are not toxic.

Third, and most important, the ban suits the big pharmaceutical corporations, who lobbied openly and enthusiastically for its adoption. The large chains will be able to afford the compliance costs. Smaller herbalists will not, and many will go out of business, leaving the mega-firms with something close to a monopoly.

No comments:

Post a Comment