At the behest of pharmaceutical companies, the European Union is poised to ban competing natural and herbal remedies from the marketplace. Daniel Hannan, a member of the European Parliament for England, sounds the alarm in the London Telegraph:
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?
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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.
Here’s the thing, though. Such a ban would never have got through the national legislatures. MPs would have been deluged, as MEPs were, by letters from thousands of constituents who felt that their health was being imperilled. In a national parliament, this would almost certainly have been enough to block the proposal; but the EU was designed more or less explicitly to withstand public opinion. Lobbyists understood from the outset that their best chance was to push through in Brussels what no democratic parliament would accept. See, once again, how the EU has become a mechanism for the advancement of corporate interests in defiance of the common weal.
In the United States, of course, we have unelected regulatory agencies that mimic the European Union. As I’ve long reported, the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration have colluded for years to impose backdoor bans on herbal remedies by harassing small retailers out of business and declaring — without constitutional authority — that no product may be sold without meeting the FDA’s standard of “scientific” proof of efficacy and safety. To “protect” the consumer, they must be deprived of information and choices — or so the FTC claims.
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