MORE ACTION TO BAN ASPARTAME IN NEW MEXICO
Carolyn Dean, MD, ND and
In our December 29th column called, “Will N.M. Be First State to Ban Aspartame?” we provided a vivid account of the battle royale going on to exercise state power to remove aspartame from the marketplace in New Mexico. An FDA-approved non-caloric food additive to sweeten foods and beverages whose metabolites include methanol and formaldehyde, aspartame has been the center of a heated controversy for over 25 years regarding not only its safety but in the manner it was approved over the objections of many medical experts. Briefly, the chemical is a neurotoxin associated in medical research with several forms of cancer, migraines, headaches, weight gain and generalized toxicity. You can read more about the 92 nasty effects of aspartame on www.dorway.com.
Our story centered on the determination of Stephen Fox, owner of New Millennium Fine Art in Santa Fe, to find a way to champion states’ rights and power to protect its citizens when the USFDA has failed to do so, because of corporate manipulation of the approval processes. At the time our first story appeared, the New Mexican Environmental Improvement Board was scheduled to have public hearings in July 2006 regarding the safety of aspartame. In addition, there had already been one legislative attempt to create a nutrition board that would have the authority to police the quality of foods and beverages but instead was hijacked and eviscerated by corporate lobbyists.
In catching up with the story, we found a post at the on-line edition of the Santa Fe New Mexican, the oldest newspaper in the West, by Stephen Fox bringing his fellow citizens up to date on the progress of his mission. His story was dated January 27. 2006, and when Elissa called him the following Monday (January 30, 2006), she got an earful of news that seemed to be unfolding by the minute. Since our deadline for wrapping up stories is every Monday, and we know this tale is going to continue to unfold long after this column is posted, we thought the best way to bring, you, our readers, up to date is to report, in chronological order what has happened so far.
First, Stephen Fox’s story in the New Mexican, which will bring you up to Monday January 30, 2006, is found below. Elissa will then pick up the story as it unfolded on her watch and at some later date, we’ll continue to chronicle one of the most important fights over health freedom we have in this country today.
PERSONAL PERSPECTIVES II: The Grim Reality of Neurotoxic Corporate Lobbyists vs. Inspired Hopes for Consumer Protection Legislation in New Mexico [Read] by Stephen Fox-January 27, 2006
Dear Santa Fe New Mexican Readers:
Thank you for the wonderful response to my recent mega article on the chance that bicameral bills to ban the neurotoxic artificial sweetener, aspartame, introduced in both Chambers of the New Mexico Legislature might precipitate a long overdue powerful and wonderful new era of Consumer Protection in New Mexico. The optimistic tone in that article derived from my 28 year friendship with Governor Bill Richardson and the perception that since he proclaimed 2006 to be the Year of the Child, great strides might be made legislatively in the pediatric realm.
Now, my perceptions have changed to reflect the Industrial manipulation of all Legislative processes through the effects of corporate lobbyists. These have been thoroughly documented by Professor of Public Health Policy and Law at Hastings College of Law in California, Michele Simon. She is Founder of an organization called Center for Informed Food Choices. Her many articles chronicle the state-by-state destruction of almost every single bit of pro-child protect-nutrition legislation by mega corporate interests, and the list of names thereof is too predictable to go through. Just turn on a television or walk down one aisle of any regular grocery store and you will see the same list of names. www.informedeating.org
I had higher hopes for New Mexico in this legislative session, given my conversations and prior experience with many legislators on these matters, particularly those I could describe as highly principled, deeply concerned, sometimes even brilliant folks who are almost all dedicated to public service in the deepest sense.
Above all, I recalled the comments made by Governor Bill Richardson in a 10 minute conversation with Dr. Ken Stoller, Pediatrics, Leland Lehrman, Founder of Mother Media, an online newsletter, and me on December 22, 2005, in which he ordered his Legislative Affairs Director, Brian Condit, to put the Nutrition Council bill by Senate President Pro Tem Ben Altamirano on the call for this session. That is 2005 Senate Bill 525, and you can read it on the web, as well.
We were very exalted when Governor Richardson stated in that meeting: States need to take back the power that had been given to the FDA, because the FDA is not doing anything, He was referring to regulatory efforts to ban aspartame through the EIB.
Regrettably, the EIB hearings were postponed on Jan. 3, due to pressure from private New Mexico attorneys employed by Ajinomoto of Japan, the world’s largest aspartame and monosodium glutamate manufacturer.
Undaunted, and with my knowledge of the Legislative process, and secure in doing so because of Governor Richardson’s observations of states powers vs. the corporate manipulations of the FDA, I wrote a bill to ban aspartame legislatively, rather than through the manipulated and vanquished regulatory board process.
Thus, banning aspartame by statute was introduced as two separate perfectly crafted bills in both houses in the first few days of the session.
However, since their introduction, the effects of lobbying efforts by the world’s largest Aspartame manufacturer, Ajinomoto, have almost wrecked the legislation, which seemed so hopeful and beneficent only ten days ago. They used the lobbying firm of Butch Maki and Associates, which includes former NM Governor Jerry Apodaca and former NM Governor David Cargo. Another former Governor, Toney Anaya’s son works for Coca Cola, the largest US purveyor of the sweetener which is metabolized as methanol and formaldehyde and continues to cause neurodegenerative diseases.
It was my intent to write in this second Personal Perspective article about other legislation which may be introduced before the February 1 deadline for new bills, on a variety of matters, particularly the need for a system and series of statutes to protect the children in schools in New Mexico from overuse and over prescription of Ritalin, the amphetamine based drug schools administer for the so-called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. We will get back to you in a few days with Personal Perspectives III, when that bill gets put together by some of the best pediatricians and legislative drafters in New Mexico. Look forward to that one, since there is not one present statute to regulate or even allow the schools to administer drugs to children, let alone arrange for the prescriptions thereof, for the 7% of New Mexico school children taking drugs on campus. There is still time for such a bill, and we are working on it...." (Discussion draft text)
Now Elissa’s report:
At the very end of Stephen’s posting in the New Mexican website, there was a notation that this year's Nutrition Council Bill, Senate Bill 217, sponsored by President Pro Tempore of the New Mexico Senate, Ben Altamirano, had finally received an Executive Message from Governor Richardson. This means the governor has allowed it to be heard in this session, whose agenda he controls, and go through the committees process and eventually be put to a floor vote, this, however, is not going to stop corporate lobbyists from Ajinomoto and Kraft/Philip Morris from doing everything they can to destroy that legislation in the remaining two weeks of the Session.
In brief, the purpose of this bill is to establish a permanent advisory council comprised largely of physicians and educators, whose duty is to make sure the food quality is strong and free from neurotoxins, carcinogens, and other additives. They will also help promulgate rules and advise state government, from the Attorney General of New Mexico to the Office of Consumer Protection, on nutrition and health concerns, to insure that public employees responsible for nutrition programs actually have up-to-date training in safe food and good nutrition as delineated within state policy. And, (lo and behold!) they are charged to promulgate curricular advice for the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, and develop a nutrition curricula for medical students that will actually train them in not only basic nutrition but how to prevent and treat nutritional diseases.
Fox, who has a thorough understanding of nutrition, wrote both the Nutrition Council Bill and the Aspartame Bill. The bill includes the authority to recommend banning particular toxic food additives.
I then called Stephen Fox and got an earful that kept me on and off the phone all day trying to nail down the story. After getting the background on the political machinations that many New Mexico newspapers had been reporting on for some time, I decided to call the governor’s office to request some answers directly from him or from various PR-Communications and/or Legislative Affairs staff. I telephoned, told them who I was, that I had a press deadline and that I had some questions about the aspartame issue and I wanted to talk to somebody before the day was out so I could meet my deadline. I got passed around to several people who, upon hearing the nature of my inquiries passed me to somebody else.
I then landed in the voice-mail of a fellow named John Goldstein in the Governor’s Communications Center. Mr. Goldstein had just stepped out so I left my now detailed message. Several hours later I called again. Mr. Goldstein was still out. I then dropped some other names of people who might have the information I needed and still got nowhere. The Governor's Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Billy Sparks was leaving his post on February 1st and was not in his office as he was taking a vacation day. Fox informed me later that he is a Cherokee who appreciates the merits of the ban aspartame issue.
Others were out or in meetings. I was assured Mr. Goldstein was my best resource. The questions I wanted to ask and still have no answers to are these:
1. Twenty two state senators including the President Pro Tem of the Senate, and several Senate committee chairs including Finance, Judiciary, Public Affairs, Indian Affairs, Conservation and Rules, plus the Majority Leader of the New Mexico House and the House Finance chairman, signed a letter asking for an Executive Message from the governor regarding the aspartame banning bill, Senate Bill 250, whose text is at: [Read]
This letter to Governor Richardson was signed by five Republicans and 17 Democrats (out of 42 state senators) and was taken to the governor's staff by Senator Ortiz y Pino, the sponsor. I want to know why this letter has been thus far ignored?
2. Governor Richardson received a campaign contribution of $10,000 from Kraft Foods and Phillip Morris, which are operating as Altria Corporate Services. Is the Governor considering returning the contribution, due to the fact that this same firm's high-powered lobbyists are so intent on destroying all of the pro-nutrition legislation in the New Mexico legislature this session?
3. As background for readers for my next question: Stephen Fox, the principal citizen activist behind this push to rid the New Mexico food supply of toxins the FDA thinks are perfectly safe, has begun contacting heads of state and luminaries in the realm of international politics, with the hope that they might convince Richardson to endorse a ban on aspartame rather than ignore the overwhelming evidence against this chemical. They include UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Bill Clinton, two friends of Richardson when he was a United Nations Ambassador. Others are heads of state with whom Fox has corresponded for several years about aspartame, M.S.G. about creating a new Undersecretary General of the United Nations for Nutrition and aspartame. These include the Prince of Wales, the Queen of Denmark, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, and the Royal Family of Norway. He asked the Emperor of Japan by e-mail yesterday to please just close down Ajinomoto because of the vast toxicological and neurodegenerative damage its products were doing in every nation, a terrible blot on Japan's image internationally.
Fox has also provided Heads of State and Health Ministers in many less affluent nations with information about the dangers of aspartame, the politics behind its approval by the FDA, and is asking them now to encourage Gov. Richardson to strongly endorse a ban of aspartame, rather than rely on already vanquished regulatory boards like the Environmental Improvement Board, which postponed the aspartame hearings for yet another six months.
My question for Governor Richardson in regard to Fox’s international activities is, “Would you listen to these international leaders if any were to contact you regarding banning aspartame in their nation?”
4. How many hundreds of people have thus far contacted the governor by phone, fax, e-mail, and letter in support of banning aspartame?
5. How much money is the governor’s longtime legislative aide from his congressional days, pilot and friend, Walter "Butch" Maki, earning as a lobbyist representing the interests of Ajinomoto, Kraft/Philip Morris, and the Glutamate Association of America? It is my understanding that Maki’s lobbying team includes several former governors. So clearly, if anybody can put the whammy on a bill or two, this team headed by Butch knows every trick in the book.
By the end of the day, I called Fox again and learned that two important things had happened at the legislature. First, the aspartame-banning bill, SB 250, at the request of the Committee chair, Shannon Robinson, was moved to the Corporations and Transportation Committee (yet another way to kill a good bill: through delays). The other big news is that a second aspartame-banning bill is now on the horizon, thanks to Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino. This new bill is the same aspartame bill SB 250 but includes a $100,000 appropriation for the next Attorney General to enforce the ban. However, due to the arcane political system of the NM legislature, during this short session, which ends on February 16th, and is controlled by Gov. Richardson, this appropriations bill will not have viability unless he gives it his Executive Message.
For anyone who has ever done grassroots lobbying, you can see this is going to be a furious battle in the last two weeks of the legislature! Because there are so many big players with such deep pockets involved; public evidence of such a clear neurodegenerative toxin; and because the New Mexico public is so well informed, this political tangle is certainly of the magnitude and reminiscent of Big Tobacco eventually being brought to its heels. Ironically, one of the key Attorneys General who triumphed in the Tobacco suits was Tom Udall, now Congressman for Northern New Mexico. Udall supports the New Mexico Senate Bill to ban aspartame, and also asked Gov. Richardson to give it an Executive Message.
you want to help support this new aspartame banning bill with the
$100,000 appropriation to enforce the ban, you can fax letters to
Governor Bill Richardson at (505) 476-2226.
FOR HEALTH FREEDOM NOW:
© 2006 Carolyn Dean -
All Rights Reserved
E-Mails are used strictly for NWVs alerts, not for sale
Dr. Carolyn Dean is a medical doctor, naturopathic doctor, herbalist, acupuncturist, nutritionist, as well as a powerful health activist fighting for health freedom as president of Friends of Freedom International. Dr. Dean is the author of over a dozen health books, the latest of which is "Death By Modern Medicine".
Elissa Meininger is vice president of Friends of Freedom International and co-founder of the Health Freedom Action Network, a grassroots citizens' political action group. She is also a health freedom political analyst and can be heard on the natural health radio show SuperHealth, broadcast weekly on station KEBC (Information Radio 1340) in Oklahoma City.
Our story centered on the determination of Stephen Fox, owner of New Millennium Fine Art in Santa Fe, to find a way to champion states’ rights and power to protect its citizens when the USFDA has failed to do so, because of corporate manipulation of the approval processes.