James Gormley Takes On the FDA
Why the Natural Health Movement Must Protect Itself
James Gormley, a leader of the natural health movement in the U.S. and an award-winning health journalist, is a passionate advocate for natural health. For more than 20 years, he’s been at the forefront in the fight against government restriction of dietary supplements and for transparency in the food industry, and has twice participated in America’s trade delegation to the United Nations Codex Alimentarius Commission, advocating for health freedom.
Gormley’s editorial positions have included editor-in-chief of Better Nutrition and editorial director for the Vitamin Retailer Magazine Group. He now serves as both vice president and senior policy advisor for Citizens for Health and as a scientific advisory board member with the Natural Health Research Institute.
His latest book, Health at Gunpoint: The FDA’s Silent War Against Health Freedom, poses a strong stance against government interference in our rights to information about and access to healthy food and supplements.
Why do you believe that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are tainted by special interests, particularly big companies in the pharmaceutical and food industries?
The FDA was created to address issues of food and drug contamination and adulteration. Dr. Harvey Wiley, the courageous first leader of its predecessor, the Bureau of Chemistry, expressed his disgust with the unintended consequences in his 1929 book, The History of a Crime Against the Food Law: The Amazing Story of the National Food and Drugs Law Intended to Protect the Health of the People, Perverted to Protect Adulteration of Foods and Drugs.
The FDA has been beholden to drug companies for decades. Making the situation worse, a 2012 law loosened conflict of interest restrictions for FDA advisory panels. That has further weakened the agency’s review system and likely allowed more drugs with safety problems to gain marketing approval, according to an analysis published in the journal Science in 2013. In addition, 40 percent of the FDA’s last budget increase came from user fees on prescription drugs paid by the pharmaceutical giants.
The USDA has the potential to do much good, but is bogged down with politics and mandates to push questionable biotechnology.
With regard to the controversy over genetically modified organisms (GMO), are certain companies being given undue influence in national policy making?
Yes. A perfect example was the ability of Monsanto to block initiatives requiring labeling of food products that contain GMOs in California and Washington state. Monsanto and the food industry continue to leverage their considerable influence in the U.S. Congress to block such legislation on a national level, despite the massive outcry from consumers demanding to know the identity and origin of the food we eat.
Did the FDA declare war on the natural products industry in the 1990s?
The FDA conducted numerous and illegal raids on health food stores, supplement makers and practitioners. In an infamous barbaric raid on the clinic of integrative physician Dr. Jonathan Wright, in Tahoma, Washington, in 1992, agents and deputized officers converged with guns drawn, terrorizing patients and staff because Wright was giving his patients legal L-tryptophan supplements to help with sleep and mood. It was dubbed the “vitamin B-bust”. A federal grand jury declined to indict Wright on the charges stemming from the raid.
Current European Union and international codex policies maintain that most necessary nutrients can and should be obtained from foods, so they have dramatically limited the availability of many supplements. Do you expect such a policy to become part of U.S. law?
These European policies fly in the face of reality and every major food study conducted since World War II. The super-refined, overly processed Western diet does not and cannot fully supply optimal levels of daily nutrients. The U.S. has made minor efforts to tread this dangerous path and been met with tremendous consumer outrage. Potential related laws and policies would have to make it past an avalanche of public comments.
What is the current status of the fight for health freedom, and what is your prognosis for the future?
Substantial threats to our health freedom still exist, but I am optimistic. Three highly credible nonprofit organizations are leading the way: the Alliance for Natural Health, Citizens for Health and the National Health Federation. If consumers remain vigilant and stay informed on the issues identified by these advocates, we will be able to tackle and defeat threats to Americans’ health freedoms as they emerge.
Kathleen Barnes has authored many natural health books. Connect at KathleenBarnes.com.