An Open Letter To:
Codex Alimentarius Commission Chairwoman Dr Karen L. Hulebak
Vice Chair Mr. Ben Manyindo
Mr. Sanjay Dave
Mr Knud Østergaard
Dear Chairwoman Hulebak and Members of the Codex Alimentarius Executive Committee:
I am writing to you as the President of the Natural Solutions Foundation, the largest health freedom organization in the world, and as an interested consumer and health advocate in shock and puzzlement.
Although Codex repeatedly claims to welcome input from “Stakeholders” and represents itself as an organization which functions transparently, our experience with Codex and Codex procedures belies both of those representations. Further, although Codex personnel and materials make frequent reference to the stated “main purposes” of its work beginning with “protecting health of the consumers” (http://www.codexalimentarius.net/web/index_en.jsp), as Dr. Rolf Grossklaus, former Chair of CCNFSDU, so famously opined, “It would be nice if Codex were about optimal health. It is not. Codex is about trade” (CCNFSDU, 2005, 2006).
Apparently, Codex is also about strong-arming opposing voices and those interested in priorities other than trade, into silence or submission as well.
The Natural Solutions Foundation has a primary email list of about 300,000 members who, upon our alert or request, quickly mobilize millions of people to action in order to protect their interests as consumers and natural health advocates. Several times a year, these supporters fund and send a delegation from our organization to Codex meetings to observe and report to them and their contacts, to national decision makers and to other policy makers what Codex is doing to protect their interests and health, in keeping with its stated main purpose.
We are frequently sharply critical of Codex because although we see its enormous potential as a positive force for health promotion and health protection, we observe that Codex currently acts solely to serve trade goals, not health ones. In keeping with our assessment, we share those observations in the spirit of loyal opposition.
Codex’ response to our organization and to us personally has been nothing short of abusive, becoming more so with each meeting we attend. Let me be specific:
Instead of welcoming reasoned, and reasonable, opposing views, the Codex organization has seen fit to take the astonishing action of assigning armed guards to our delegation, and to us alone, at the Rome meetings of the Codex Alimentarius Commission in 2007 and 2009!
Thus, whether we pre-register (2007) or not (2009), once we arrive at the FAO headquarters, our Medical Director and I are met with armed guards who insist that we “attend” the meeting not in the plenary session room – where there are a great many empty seats – but from an otherwise empty 4th floor balcony which, in the July heat, is usually not air conditioned. When either of us leaves the room, we are followed by one of the guards who stands outside the bathroom door while we use the facilities (!) and follows us through the building to prevent us from speaking with any of the delegates. In fact, when I greeted a personal friend who is also a national delegate to the CAC, the guard came running, hand on pistol, screaming at me, and I quote precisely, “Hey! You! OUT!”, humiliating me and the delegate while interrupting my civil conversation with my colleague and fellow Codex attendee.
In Geneva, the armed guards are missing, at least so far, but at this last meeting, we were rudely and irrationally accosted at 4 PM on July 7, 2010, Day 3 of the CAC meeting, by a hostile, disrespectful and agressive woman who did not bother to introduce herself to us. She was backed up by several guards (not, I might add, obviously armed) and we were removed from the back of the plenary room, where our computers could be used on desks with working electrical plugs, and escorted to the upper reaches of an empty gallery without any such amenities.
Since there were plenty of empty seats in the area in which we were seated, this hostile and totally non-transparent means of dealing with interested parties is both irrational and insulting (to say nothing of bizarre) not only to us personally, but to our hundreds of thousands/millions of interested constituents, all of them stakeholders in health and food and on whose behalf we are attending.
Click on photographs to enlarge for details
Note the empty seats from which we were removed (top row, middle) and the other empty seats indicating that no rational reason for removing us from a practical point of attendance exists.
Now note the area, without computer desks or other expected amenities such as easily available plugs, to which we were shepherded by the hostile guards and female Codex person (who, while keeping her identity a secret snarled at us the rather surprising, “We know who you are!”)
Several years ago, the Natural Solutions Foundation applied for NGO Observer Status. We carefully determined that we met all stated requirements for Observer status, only to be rejected by the Codex Executive Committee. We were astonished to listen as then-Chair Claude Moshe not only announced to the CAC that we had not been accepted as an Observer NGO, but returned to the topic at the end of the CAC meeting once again, in what we understand to be an absolutely unprecedented move, to tell the CAC once again that we were not an Observer NGO. No other announcement was deemed worthy of being repeated twice at that or any other CAC meeting which we have attended.
This level of parliamentary aggression was quite astonishing to us, but confirmed what Dr. Laibow, our Medical Director, was quoted as saying in a made-for-Codex film, screened at the Thailand session of the CCNFSDU. She said, quite accurately, that Codex stifles dissident voices. It would certainly seem to spend quite a lot of effort/resources stifling ours.
When we questioned the decision of the Codex Executive Committee in rejecting our application, we were told by Chairman Moshe in writing that we should share the “Health Freedom Table” with its current holder. That organization has refused to allow us to do so, in defiance of the Chair’s direction. We have sought to have them directed to do so, but neither the CEC nor the occupying organization has seen fit to comply with this directive, once again stifling dissent.
The Natural Solutions Foundation expends considerable resources to travel to, and attend, CCFL, CCNFSDU and CAC each year. We come because we are, and we represent, stakeholders whose voices need to be heard. We frequently find the actions of Codex to be in sharp contradistinction to the needs, safety and health of consumers. Input questioning trade-friendly decisions and bringing health-unfriendly ones into sharp focus ought, if Codex is, indeed, focused on its stated primary goal of protecting the health of consumers, to be welcome input. It is not and obstructions like the ones mentioned above are commonplace in dealing with our organization and, by extension, our members’ interest.
In attending the 2010 CCFL, for example, we wrote numerous times to the Canadian Secretariat asking for the location of the Saturday Workshop preceding the CCFL meeting. We were promised, but not actually given, that information despite repeated phone called and emails. We likewise wrote to and called the US Codex Contact Point offices and were also not given that information. We arrived on Friday at the Quebec City Congress Hall and asked the set-up staff where the meeting was to be held. It was only by that means that we were able to locate the session.
On Saturday morning when we arrived, we were told by a member of the Canadian Secretariat that we would not be admitted to the session because there was “no room”. We pointed out that we are a legitimate public observer and that, as a transparent organization, Codex has no reason to exclude us from the meeting.
After some deliberation we were finally admitted to the room, made to sit on chairs without tables on the side of the room although the tables in the center of the room, on which a computer can be easily used, had numerous empty chairs throughout the entire day, a fact which we documented with photographs.
Similarly, we have been relegated to uncomfortable and inappropriate settings at meeting after meeting although we are interested enough, and our constituency is interested enough, to commit significant resources of money, time and expertise, to these meetings.
This year, at the CAC meeting here in Geneva, for the first time, we were told that we were not entitled to conference documents because we were not a National Delegation! When we challenged that, we were told that we would have to sign a special form before we could have access to the documents and that we would have to wait some unspecified amount of time before we could have any of them. Transparent? Reasonable? I think not. Abusive? I think so.
Similarly, this year we were not given a registration packet, and, as in several other years, were excluded from the reception activities. We were told that we could not have access to them as public observers. Why not? Is the public not permitted to associate with delegates or are we, who are entitled to armed guards, not welcome to discuss and dialogue with Codex delegates? Is the interested public not worthy of admission to an opportunity to meet and mingle with people making decisions impacting their lives – and deaths – through their food-related decisions? Where is the transparency so much vaunted by Codex when observers are barred from access to documents, meetings, contact with delegates and reasonable work spaces provided to everyone else at the meetings and available in plentiful supply?
Interestingly, since we also travel to their home countries and meet with their Heads of State, their Members of Parliament and with the Codex Delegates in their official and personal capacities, we have friendly relationships with many of the Codex delegates. We are, as you can see, both interested stakeholders and deeply committed to the process of consumer health protection, or we would not commit these resources and persist in attending the increasingly unpleasant and unaccommodating Codex meetings.
We would ask the CEC that the Natural Solutions Foundation be welcomed on an equal footing with any other serious, widely respected and well-informed NGO representing stakeholders. We speak for our stakeholders who ask us to be at these meetings and we report to them. We impact national and international policy on food and food safety, health policy and other related matters through our sustained efficacy.
We would like to be able to tell our members that Codex is, indeed, the transparent organization it claims to be. We would like to be able to share with them actual progress made toward protecting consumers’ health and we would like to be able to tell them that Codex is fulfilling its potential as a force for that protection.
We will be able to do that only when the abusive and wrong-headed Codex response to the Natural Solutions Foundation, which is critical of many Codex actions, policies and practices, but which sees the Codex potential for health protection, changes and when Codex reorients its decisions toward its stated prime directive, the protection of consumer health.
Since the Natural Solutions Foundation comes to Codex in good faith, it is only appropriate that, whether we are critical of Codex or not, we are dealt with appropriately, transparently and fairly. Armed guards, withheld documents, punitive seating, and so forth do not rebound to Codex’ credit and do not help Codex to openly listen to dissent, rather than stifle it. We look forward to a positive change since will will continue to come to Codex and all involved, including Codex, would benefit by such a change.
Yours in health and freedom,
Maj. Gen. Albert N. Stubblebine III (US Army, Ret.)
Natural Solutions Foundation