They have been running amok for years, unchallenged. The Codex Alimentarius Committee on Pesticide Residues (CCPR) is their playground and they know it.
“Our soils are sick from greed-based, irresponsible agricultural practices, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, erosion and mineral depletion, all of which stop or reduce adequate microbial activity in the soil, rendering them sick and/or dead and sterile. Sick soils make for sick plants and sick plants make for sick humans and animals.” Scott Tips, president of the National Health Federation, Crashing Monsanto’s Pesticide Party in Beijing
In the area of food and agriculture, you may be aware of various reports and discussions about GMOs, pesticides and organics. You might also know about the power, influence, crimes and shameful lobbying practices of transnational agribusiness companies like Monsanto. And you might have also discovered what (GMO) chemical-intensive agriculture is doing to soils, rivers, biodiversity, human health and crops.
It’s all been well documented. But what you might find little mention of is Codex Alimentarius - Latin for food code - a collection of international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice that are supposed to contribute to the safety, quality and fairness of international food trade.
Voluntary application by members
The Codex Alimentarius Commission is based in Rome and was created in 1963. An international organization jointly run by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), it has 27 different committees.
Codex’s published goals are to develop and adopt uniform food standards for its member countries and to promote the free and unhindered international flow of food goods, thereby eliminating trade barriers to food and providing food safety.
Biotechnology, pesticides, food additives and contaminants are some of the issues discussed in Codex meetings. The FAO says: “Codex standards are based on the best available science assisted by independent international risk assessment bodies or ad-hoc consultations organized by FAO and WHO.”
Although Codex offers recommendations for voluntary application by members, Codex standards serve in many cases as a basis for national legislation. The reference made to Codex food safety standards in the WTO’s Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures (SPS Agreement) means that Codex has far reaching implications for resolving trade disputes.
WTO members that wish to apply stricter food safety measures than those set by Codex may be required to justify these measures scientifically.
Codex began in 1963 and seemingly got off on the right foot in terms of having some good intentions. However, consider that, among other things, Codex decides on minimum food residue levels for pesticides, allowable amounts of aluminum, lead and arsenic in food and which substances or products are dangerous. These decisions affect the products and markets of huge corporations that have hundreds of millions of dollars at stake.
Do you think the agrochemical companies, for instance, are going to sit back and do nothing? Or do you think they would, as is usually the case, get together and attempt to lobby away or discredit any potential decision that may affect their bottom line?
We only have to look at the documents being released by lawyers in the current court cases against Monsanto to appreciate that this is indeed what happens.
The best interest of the people
The National Health Federation (NHF) is a health freedom organisation established in 1955 that works to protect individuals’ rights to choose to consume healthy food, take supplements and use alternative therapies without government restrictions.
With consumer members all over the world and a board of governors and advisory board containing representatives from different countries, it is the only such organization with a seat at Codex Alimentarius.
Moreover, it is one of only five consumer groups present at Codex meetings in a room of country and industry delegates whose motivations, according to NHF, “are often at odds with the best interest of the people of the world.”
The NHF has monitored meetings of the Codex Alimentarius Commission since the mid-1990s and has been present at these meetings since 2000. It obtained official Codex-recognised status as an international non-governmental organisation (INGO), which allows it the right to speak out in support of health freedom at these Codex meetings.
By having an official voice at Codex, the NHF can actively shape global policies for food, beverages and nutritional supplements.
And by having an accredited seat at Codex, the NHF can submit scientific research and arguments about food standards and guidelines, speak out during the many meetings of delegates and influence the wording of final reports on all meetings that the NHF attends.
Over the last decade, the NHF has worked to keep steroids and dangerous antibiotics out of the global meat and honey supply, to reduce the allowable amounts of aluminium, lead and arsenic in food, to get aspartame declared a dangerous and harmful artificial sweetener and for standardised full-disclosure food labelling.
Today, it continues to work against the harmful agendas of big agriculture/pharmaceuticals concerns.
Regional field agencies for corporate interests
The NHF reflects the widely held belief (based on a good deal of evidence; for example, see this, this, this and this) that a small elite has gained control of governmental agencies, not least the large agribusiness corporations.
Attendees at Codex meetings are therefore regulatory bureaucrats who very often are unduly influenced by commercial interests.
Scott Tips, president of the NHF, said: "What we see here all too often is that some government agencies are nothing more than regional field agencies for corporate interests.”
Tips contends that the Codex Alimentarius Commission is heavily influenced by the appointments it makes and its infiltration by powerful sectors: food, agricultural, biotech and pharmaceutical industries. As a result, unhealthy guidelines are being established.
Codex Alimentarius Commission answers to the WHO and FAO. The WTO is the enforcement arm of Codex on issues brought before it. In the absence of a trade dispute, each country that incorporates Codex standards and guidelines into its rules and regulations enforces them. In other words, Codex matters!
During April 2017, The Codex Alimentarius Committee on Pesticide Residues (CCPR) met in Beijing. Scott Tips attended the meeting and says of the giant agritech corporations.
He said: “They have been running amok for years, unchallenged. The Codex Alimentarius Committee on Pesticide Residues (CCPR) is their playground and they know it. Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, Dow, Bayer, and other agrochemical companies – cozily snuggled together at Codex as the disarmingly named, front group CropLife – sent no fewer than 39 representatives to the 49th session of the CCPR meeting held in Beijing, China from April 24-29, 2017, to coerce, charm and bedazzle government regulators.”
Tips argues that the agrochemical companies tell us these compounds are safe and are ensuring adequate food production to feed the world, but the facts tell us another story.
Poisoning our soil
He adds that glyphosate tops the list of poisons applied every day to plants and soil that in turn destroy humans, animals, and our environment. Some 9.4 million tons of glyphosate have been spread on our fields. It is in our water table, our soil, crops, the food industry and over 90% of people in the West have it in their bodies and even breast milk.
Readers are recommended to consult the work of environmental campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason, who has written extensively on glyphosate and its devastating impacts and how Monsanto has been able to keep glyphosate-based Roundup weedkiller on the market.
Tips adds: “Glyphosate is poisoning our soil, destroying our gut biome, and laying the foundation for destroying our ability to produce healthy foods for future generations.
Industry and regulators claim that glyphosate is safe for humans and animals because the means by which it kills weeds (the shikimate pathway) is not present in in humans and animals. However, the shikimate pathway is present in bacteria, which dominate human and animal gut biomes. The glyphosate preferentially destroys beneficial gut bacteria, thereby allowing disease and inflammation to take hold.”
In Beijing, a growing list of approved and soon-to-be-approved pesticides was before the Committee for its consideration, a list that included chlorpyrifos-methyl, buprofezin, teflubenzuron, saflufenacil, fluazifop-p-butyl, flupyrdifurone, and glyphosate.
Figures representing the interests of the agrochemical companies were all present, but Tips spoke out over the four-day meeting against the pesticides listed above. Depending on the pesticide, NHF argued that they were carcinogenic, killed bees and other vital insects as well as aquatic life and damaged the environment, including the oceans in the case of glyphosate.
In addition, there was much debate about the maximum residue limits (MRLs) for numerous pesticides.
When attending Codex meetings, given the presence of the agritech giants and co-opted officials, Tips is often a lone voice.
The profit-motivated world
He says of the objections he raised in Beijing: “These solitary objections in a roomful of hundreds of delegates reminded me of the same circumstances I had found myself in at the Food Additives Committee meeting in 2008 and the Contaminants Committee meeting in 2009 when I was the only one to speak against aluminum in food additives and melamine contamination levels in infant formula. A few years later and both committees had come around entirely to the NHF positions and adopted them.”
He adds: “Of course, CropLife and its captured regulators in Australia and New Zealand did all that they could during the meeting to advance pesticide MRLs that fail to protect consumers but do protect worldwide sales.”
Scott Tips and his colleagues at the NHF are tireless in their efforts to roll back corporate influence at Codex. In the profit-motivated world of big business where bought science and scientists, shady lobbying, smear campaigns and corrupt politics are the norm, integrity doesn’t count for much.
In the world of Tips, however, integrity is everything.
He concludes: “The fight rages on. There are victories, such as in the 55 lawsuits filed against Monsanto in Northern California, where the court recently ordered release of Monsanto e-mails and other documents showing probable collusion between the company and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”
Colin Todhunter is an extensively published independent writer and former social policy researcher, based in the UK and India.