Dietary Supplements -- Health Care Reform and The Congress
IAACN - 1st Annual State Symposium - 1994
Speech Given by Jim Turner
If you were here this afternoon and the point that I made at that time was the tremendous power of
the FDA and how pretty much all pervasive that it is in controlling 25% of the gross national product.
I wasn’t explicit about it but I would just argue that the FDA and most of the other regulators - all the other regulators are an intricate part of the American industrial system.
They are a crucial piece of keeping the corporate sector operating, and mostly they exist to iron out differences between large economic interests The example that I have that I always like is the battle between Florida Oranges and California Oranges. California – I can’t remember how this worked -- one of them is lighter in color, so they add color to it and the other is very heavy and firm so they add water to it because they can get more orange juice out of it. So, one was adding water and one was adding color, and they each sued each other - one said ‘oh you’re bad because you add color’, and the other said ‘oh you’re bad because you add water’ and they’re having this fight.
It was a seven year fight at FDA and it was not resolved until a bunch of Consumer groups came in
and said, We don’t like adding color or water. They, they were able to resolve that issue.
The Idea I’m getting at is that the FDA is a crucial piece of the whole industrial dynamic for that 25% that it regulates. Now, the point that I wanted to add for this evening is that the whole industrial process and the FDA’s role in that process is taking place inside a major cultural shift that is underway. Probably been underway for 30 years. When I arrived at FDA, in 1968, as I told you, they thought of people who thought about the connection of food and health as quacks. If you connected food and health you were a quack. And that was their operating premise that’s the way they built their rules and so on. That’s completely different now. Now, the public has taken on an enormous connection for the idea that food and health are connected in some way. And, every time the FDA has tried to go against that idea, there’s been a tremendous reaction or outpouring from the public.
Right now on the Hatch/Richardson Bill, with everything going on in the world, there are more letters
for Hatch/Richardson than any other piece of legislation and almost more letters than all other
legislation combined. Henry Waxman himself, in a two month period, got 30,000 letters. Its just an
enormous outpouring from the public. And I think its important for us to think about what that energy or what that drive is that is exemplified in part by the connection of Food and Health.
One of the other major issues that I dealt with when we studied the FDA and continues to be a major issue in the American Food System today is pesticides. And the antidote to pesticides in the larger argument has been organic farming. And organic farming is a concept that is another part of this flowing energy that’s moving along.
In 1990 I was involved with and helped organize a group of people - a group of companies and
individuals known as the Organic Food Alliance and were able to lobby the Organic Food Production Act into the Farm Bill of 1990.
What was interesting to me about that is that both the Senate and the House voted substantial
majorities for making organic farming a part of the American National Farming Policy. Again, it was a situation where you had an energy dynamic that was different than I found in Washington in 1968.
In addition to that, it so happened that very early on in my career in Washington I ran across a guy
named Harry Coulter. You may or may not know of him. He is sort of the modern theorist of
Homeopathy, or one of them along with Dana Allman and a few others and wrote the book called
divided legacy, which talks about the way that the American establishment suppressed homeopathy at the turn of the century.
But Harry came to me because of the unique relationship that homeopathy has to the Food and Drug
Administration. Its unique because the Food and Drug Administration operates under a law that
specifically defines a drug - anything that homeopathic is a drug - and that makes it a protective class
under the American Food and Drug laws. So that it has been allowed to function and thrive over the
last 50 years since the Food and Drug Act was passed - about 55 years now, and its been allowed to do taught because of the way that the law was drafted in 1938.
So Harry and I spent a lot of time working on homeopathy and trying to help get it positioned and
able to work effectively and in fact I am here today because I was sponsored by the group with the "pump", they told me to say. (laughter)
Peter Sepper worked with them has been involved with me and these battles since 1971 when we
started out fighting on all these issues I just described. Now I picked those three as examples for a
very specific reason. I believe that they all are invective of a larger way of looking at the world that is
expressing itself in various arenas in the country, and I see it in Washington continuously.
The American system is organized around a whole set of analysis that are very rational and very
sharp and very materialistic. The concept is that reality can be captured and identified and labeled and standardized. And that is a particular way of looking at things. Its the way we structure out laws, its the way we structured our system of science, and that particular way of seeing things is currently under pressure.
Another area that fits into the overall shift that’s underway in the country that I also worked on is
acupuncture. I am the Vice Chair of the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncturists.
And starting out in 1984, when that Commission was organized until now, acupuncture has moved
very, very powerfully into the American culture.
Its moved in such a way that now its expressly legal in 28 states by Acts of the Legislature, and it is
accepted in one way or another in most of the other states, and we would expect that maybe in the
next two or three years it would be voted in by Legislatures in another ten or fifteen states. And its
moving effectively into the society.
And again, its a kind of way of seeing that is like what I call organic farming, nutrition and health,
homeopathy - these are things that I would call energetic in their basis or as Harry Coulter would call imperical.
I’ll give you a little example.
When I first appeared on the acupuncture commission which is half Asian and half American - you
know, half people from Asia and half people from Western Europe essentially where we are all
American sitting there talking, and we had this language - we continue to have this language problem
that we have to deal with and I don’t mean words, but concepts, so that there tended to be a sense on the part of the Asians that the way you transmitted knowledge through a society was by having a
master train an apprentice and when the apprentice learned the information, then the master said, "Great, you’re on your way", And you went out into the world as "Seafood’s so and so’s apprentice
who is now a master too.
On the other hand, the American system, the way it was organized, adopted from Europe, was one in which believed very strongly in establishing standards, and then running an examination to see whether or not a large group of people could meet those standards. And if they could meet those standards, then they were allowed to go out and say, "I met those standards" and I can now do whatever it was I was tested on.
Those are two very different ways of seeing reality, and in our acupuncture activity, what we have
been working on very vigorously, is trying to bury them together. The way I see it is that there is this
tremendous energy bubbling up that’s saying there are many, many more things in reality than our
western way of seeing has been able to categorize, standardize, and functualize. There is much more
there than meets out Western eyes.
One of the places that I had to struggle most profoundly was with FDA’s definition of an essential
nutrient. The FDA’s idea of an essential nutrient is 12 or perhaps 19 substances that they have
recognized from the National Academy of Sciences book on recommended bacteria allowances. Now even from the Western point of view, you can see if you read the book, that those are the ones that they put numbers behind, but they have another 20 or thirty that they say are essential, but we don’t know in what numbers. Well the FDA does not recognize those as essential for its purposes. But in addition to that, the argument actually in the NEAS book is that these are markers and if you eat enough of these, you will get the total package of all the things that we know to be essential in certain amounts, all those that we know to be essential but we don’t know in what amounts, and all those that which are essential but we don’t know about yet. That’s the theory. But the FDA doesn’t see it that way.
The FDA’s categorization mentality says there are these 12 that you can talk about and that you can
utilize and that you can express information about and so forth and the rest are thrown out. Its not
important. But what I believe is going on and that information that I talked about at lunch is how this
upwelling of reaching for a broader reality, whether its the apparently mysterious (although it doesn’t
seem mysterious to me) energy that the Chinese use when they are working with acupuncture, or the
mysterious essential nutrients that we haven’t been able to identify or quantify yet, or the mysterious
way that homeopathy in amounts - if the FDA says homeopathy cannot work because there is so little active ingredient in the homeopathic remedy that it does not exist., Though people take these things and they have reactions. If you sit down with somebody and they say to you oh, you have this and this, well take this and this and this will happen. So, you take that and it happens. The FDA’s position is that it didn’t happen.
Now my view is, I sort of round myself in the notion that those things which I see happening, I tend
to believe. But its very difficult for policy makers to think that way, because they think of huge
categories, with very careful - they’re careful but they’re very blunt - standardized ways of moving
the categories around, and so, it doesn’t make any difference to them how many people come
forward and say they’ve had an effect with homeopathy, or that the nutrients have helped them or …
there’s a whole parade of things that don’t effect policy makers.
They say, "well that’s antidotal". Doesn’t mean anything. And on the basis of dismissing all that kind
of activity as antidotal, they end up creating polices that are almost self referencing. So for example,
some major amount of cancers start and then go away. Maybe 30%. And they call those spontaneous remissions and don’t count them in the statistics. So that our cancer information is skewered by that much, however much it is, because it can’t be categorized. Now, as I started to say before - what I think is going on is how we use institutions in our culture to create the space for this kind of energy that is expressing itself in the forms that I’ve talked about (and by the way, there are many others, its not just the ones I’ve names).
How do we do that?
By giving example in the nutrition field, I presume that you’re all familiar with Roger Williams, but if
you’re not, you should be, and he wrote a book in 1950 called Biochemical Individuality, and the
subtitle of the original publication was the Scientific Basis of the Bill of Rights.
The Core argument of his premise was that every individual had their own Biochemical profile,
completely different from every other individual. Very much the way that fingerprints identify people.
And that’s how he wanted nutrition to be seen. I think that’s true in all the realms of interaction with
nature. And our job, is my argument is to create institutions that allow that kind of expression to
emerge. The American system which now has an industrialized food supply that homogenizes food so that the same food goes to all individuals concessionally. That’s the way they do it. And that’s clash. Its a major clash. And shifting. There’s no question of shifting, I am arguing … I have to stop now and answer questions but I just wanted to say that this institution, this group that is certifying clinical nutrition is one of those kinds of institutions that creates the opportunity to take that kind of emerging energy and bring it into the American institutional structure.
That’s the dynamic. That’s the purpose. That’s what it does. And if you conceptionalize that, then
the bad things FDA does becomes secondary to trying to get the good things to be expressed in our
daily lives and in our system.