Monday, May 28, 2012

Do Democrats Hate Supplements?

By James J. Gormley

I thought that would get your attention.

Of course the answer is not (categorically) yes.

There are staunch and stalwart dietary supplement champions on the “D” side of the aisle, such as Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and one of the greatest supplement industry gladiators of all time, Democratic Sen. William Proxmire (Wisconsin), whose name is attached to one of the most important pro-supplement bills ever passed in the last 100 years, what is often referred to as the Proxmire Vitamin Bill of 1975, or Senate Bill 548, which was signed into law in 1976.

As we approach the November 2012 elections, we may well wonder if one party or another is a better champion of dietary supplements. Some political observers have suggested that the Democratic party may boast a few more anti-supplement foes in Congress than does the Republican party. But do party labels matter when it comes to dietary supplements?

What the Experts in Washington Tell Us
Edward Long, Ph.D., vice president of  Washington, D.C. lobbying firm, Van Scoyoc Associates Inc., told "The Gormley Files" in 2008 that there is no one completely pro-supplement and pro-health freedom party, and that different ideologies run through both major parties.

“There are two strains of Democrats,” noted Long. “One is a populist strain, which goes back to the 1890s, the goo-goos, the good government people who believe that American citizens need to be protected by government in every possible way and to be told what to do. It’s from this camp that a few of dietary supplements’ greatest critics have emerged.”

“Then there’s the more liberal, anarchistic side of the Democratic Party that goes back to the 1960s and 1970s, which holds that mainstream medicine doesn’t really work. It’s out of this strain that we have found a few of dietary supplements’ greatest advocates.”

What about the Republicans? Long said that while there is a sizeable subset of the Republican Party that is opposed to regulation, and over-regulation, in general, “there’s another strain that believes that, in certain cases, we need more regulation.”

Red States, Blue States and Purple States?
Unfortunately, however, goo-goos from the Democratic Party have been consistently proposing, co-sponsoring and advocating for the worst anti-supplement pieces of legislation since the bi-partisan passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994.

In May 2012, the latest challenge to dietary supplements was Sen. Durbin’s Senate Amendment 2127 that was defeated by a vote of 77 to 20.

Assuming blue states lean Democratic, red states lean Republican, and purple states are up-for-grabs, 13 out of the 20 Senators (or 65%) who voted in favor of Durbin’s amendment (or more technically, voted for it to stay attached to Senate Bill 3187) were from blue states, four were from purple states (20%) and three were Democrats from red states (15%). Here was how the voting went.

Looking back to last year, Sen. Leahy’s Food Safety and Accountability Act, S. 216 (originally introduced as S. 3767), which could potentially criminalize nearly anything related to food and food supplements that the FDA wants, was a fully Democrat-sponsored bill that passed the Senate last April. Looking at this year, it has now moved on to the House.

Also, Democrats have received (and continue to receive) a great deal of criticism from constituents and stakeholders for their weak (or non-) response to the FDA's outrageous NDI Draft Guidance that was proposed last year.

Of course not all anti-supplement legislation originates on the “donkey” side of the aisle. In 2010, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced the widely vilified Dietary Supplement Safety Act of 2010, or S. 3002, which the Senator was forced to withdraw after massive grassroots opposition.

Of the two much-despised House bills from 2009 (Rosa DeLauro’s HR 875 and Jim Costa’s HR 1332), the former was a 100% Democrat-sponsored bill (with 41 co-sponsors) and the latter was largely (approximately 66%) backed by Democrats.

And for clarity’s sake, it is important to remember that although almost all (if not all) anti-supplement bills are couched in names that carry the word “safety” in their titles, they do not advance safety at all but, instead, reduce consumer access to high-quality, innovative supplements; they are, therefore, anti-safety bills or, at a minimum, anti-health!

Gormley Take-Away: The point of this commentary is not to point any fingers at any one party, as all American patriots are presumably both democratic and republican (lower-case intentional). It is merely to recommend that you do your homework before the November presidential and Congressional elections so that you know which candidates seem most likely to be supportive of health freedom and supplements . . . and which do not. You may also be able to educate your U.S. legislator on the issues if he or she is not familiar with the science, benefits and safety of nutritional supplements. Ask your legislator to join the Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus, which is currently co-chaired by 2 Democratic Congressmen (Frank Pallone and Jared Polis) and 2 Republican Congressmen (Dan Burton and Jason Chaffetz); Sens. Orrin Hatch (R) and Tom Harkin (D) have previously served as co-chairs. Your U.S. legislators can reach the Caucus at 202-225-2161 (Cannon House Office Bldg., Room 501).
The Gormley Files - Blogged