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</P> If you've been following the issue of natural health product regulation in Canada, then you'll know there are a lot of opinions out there as to whether we need it or not.

Regulations One Step Closer

If you've been following the issue of natural health product regulation in Canada, then you'll know there are a lot of opinions out there as to whether we need it or not. Whatever your take, the latest move by the Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD, formerly the Office of Natural Health Products) puts Canada one step closer to establishing a set of guidelines for the industry.

Last fall, the NHPD asked for public and industry feedback on their proposed "standards of evidence" document. The document deals with subjects such as whether to allow product health claims, what types of evidence different products should have and whether labels should indicate the type of evidence used to support the claim. The NHPD held workshops in Halifax, Montreal, Saskatoon, Toronto and Vancouver, and also requested written comments from October until December. For any updates on their findings, visit the NHPD Web site at hc-sc.gc.ca/hpb/onhp.

Pesticides on Our Plates

About 20 per cent of our food is contaminated by trace amounts of pesticides, many of which have been banned for decades, a new study says. Analyzing United States governmental data, the Pesticide Action Network, an environmental group in San Francisco, reported that the average diet provides 60 to 70 daily doses of pollutants including DDT, dieldrin and dioxin.

These toxic chemicals belong to a group called persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which are among the most dangerous because they linger in the environment and build up in the fatty tissues of animals and humans. DDT and dieldrin have also been banned in North America since the 1970s.

The study, published Oct. 15, 2002 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, listed the top 10 foods contaminated with POPs (in no particular order): peanuts, cucumbers, meat loaf, popcorn, spinach, radishes, cantaloupe, butter, summer and winter squash.

These findings provide another reason to buy certified organic produce, which is produced without pesticides and is less likely to contain contaminants.

New Organic Labels in Canada?

Now that the United States has adopted new national organic standards that require better labelling of organic products, will Canada do the same? Quite possibly, it appears. "The Canadian organic industry is looking forward to launching Canada's organic program, which is in the final stages of development," said Debra Boyle, president of the Organic Trade Association and CEO of Pro Organics, Canada's largest distributor of organic fresh foods. "With its implementation, Canadian consumers will enjoy increased confidence in the integrity of organic foods produced in Canada as well."

On Oct. 21, 2002, Boyle was invited to open the trading of the NASDAQ Stock Market in New York City's Time Square to commemorate the new American organic laws. Very appropriate, indeed, since the organic food market is growing annually at a rate of 20 to 25 per cent!

WHO Endorsement of GM Foods Misleading, Scientist Says

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released a list of 20 questions promoting genetically modified (GM) foods (available online at who.int/fsf/) that has at least one Canadian scientist concerned.

The document is "very misleading in that it claims GM foods have faced strict safety evaluations," says Dr. Joe Cummins, emeritus professor of genetics at the University of Western Ontario. "The WHO prefers to ignore the assumption behind 'substantial evidence'" the idea that GM foods are equivalent to unmodified foods.

"The assumed 'substantial evidence' has made it unnecessary to test the foods in animal and human volunteer (clinical) studies, and such tests have not been done. Furthermore, countries deploying GM foods on a large scale have not labeled the products in the market, so no meaningful evaluation of the safety of the foods can be made."

Get Involved!

Research provided by Health Action Network Society (HANS), a membership-based, consumer-driven, non-profit, charitable organization in Burnaby, BC. HANS is dedicated to collecting information and monitoring health issues and environmental concerns that impact human health. Annual membership: $35. Web site: hans.org. Phone: 604-435-0512.

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