CAFTA, Codex, and the War against Vitamins

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One purpose of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), according to the preamble to the pact, would be to define the "respective rights and obligations" of its member nations (including the United States) "under the ... agreement establishing the World Trade Organization." Put more simply, CAFTA--like the European Union--would be a regional administrative unit of a global economic system supervised by the WTO.

Many Americans don't regard that prospect to be particularly alarming, since they can't see how it affects their daily lives. A recent ruling by the Codex Alimentarius Commission in Rome offers a useful--and outrageous--illustration of the immediate effect that WTO-imposed regulations can have on everyday life.

Established by the UN in 1961, the commission "establishes guidelines to harmonize trade in food," in the words of a European news agency. In early July, the commission approved a regulatory framework that would eventually phaseout over-the-counter sales of vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other food-based nutritional aids. As Britain's DeHavilland News Service reported on July 7, the commission's ruling was buttressed by a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) intended to "restrict the sale of supplements and ... set upper limits of vitamin doses. Once fully implemented, the new measures laid out in the EU supplements directive will mean that supplements can only be taken from an approved list ... which will effectively license vitamins in the same way as normal medicines."

Prior to creation of the WTO, the Codex Commission was an utterly toothless institution. …