From the March 2005 Idaho Observer:

NM lawmakers empower state advisory council to ban FDA-approved poisons

by Stephen Fox

One of the main reasons the laws of the several states favor bureaucracies and corporations is because they pay themselves to lobby full-time on their behalf. Though not a perfect science, private citizens, if they organize and proceed respectfully, intelligently and patiently to educate their legislators about issues that are harmful to the people, good laws can triumph over the special interests of corporations and bureaucrats. Such a law empowering an advisory council on nutrition was passed overwhelmingly in New Mexico’s House and Senate. And now the real work begins: Unceasing citizen support for the council when it recommends statewide bans on poisonous substances, committed efforts to create similar councils in other states and eternal vigilance to prevent bureaucratic miners and corporate sappers from infiltrating the councils and undermining their legislative intent.

Two identical bills were recently approved by both houses of the New Mexico Legislature, to create a powerful new New Mexico Advisory Council for Nutrition. Senate Bill 525, sponsored by Senate Pro Tempore President Ben Altamirano (D-Silver City) and House Bill 721, sponsored by Representative Irvin Harrison (D-Gallup) were overwhelmingly passed on Sunday afternoon, March 6, 2005, by a vote of 32-1 in the Senate and 41-19 in the House.

This landmark legislation establishes by statute an advisory council comprised of four physicians (pediatrician, cardiologist, internist, and toxicologist) working in coordination with the Assistant Attorney General for Consumer Protection, designees of the Secretaries of Education, Environment, Health, and Children, Youth, and Families, as well as a biochemist, a nutritionist, a member of a Native American health organization, one high school student, one Food Service Director, a rancher, a farmer, and others, totaling 19 members.

They will have the responsibility to advise branches of state government, particularly focusing on the medical effects of excitotoxins, carcinogens, neurotoxins, the causes and prevention of obesity, and several other areas of focus, which are described in detail in the bills.

The legislation revolves around a central legal point that the state legislature has the power to protect its citizens’ health because the federal powers have not reserved nor pre-empted all regulatory powers in these realms. In other words, if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s processes of approval have resulted in the list of "generally recognized as safe (GRAS)" food additives (which we all know very well are not at all safe), how can a state create a higher standard than is possible through these flawed corporate controlled and manipulated processes? The most egregious and harmful of these GRAS additives is ASPARTAME—for which the FDA has published a list of 92 adverse reactions that include blindness, memory loss and death.

All of the bills’ supporters agree that, because most of the federal processes regulating food products, manufactured foods, and additives can’t be repaired or remedied due to massive corporate manipulation, each state legislature has the power and obligation to create similar (or even stronger) Nutrition Advisory Councils of their own.

Both New Mexico bills were passed convincingly under the sponsorship of Pro Tempore Senate President Ben Altamirano, with his 35 years in the Senate and many years as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Sen. Altamirano has the requisite vision, compassion, courage, and intelligence to recognize the gravity of these biochemical and medical problems affecting all 1.8 million New Mexicans and offered, at the end of the 2004 legislative session, to sponsor the Senate version of the bill.

The bill’s sponsor in the House, Rep. Irvin Harrison, was educated at Stanford University, and is the former McKinley county manager. He is a member of the Navajo Tribe. His efforts have already inspired many other Native American leaders to move forward with legislation and other legal efforts with regard to public health and safety.

In the committee process, course requirements to study nutrition and health for all high school students were removed by amendment for budgetary reasons, but nutrition curriculum requirements for all health professionals, including physicians graduating from the University of New Mexico Medical school, nurses, chiropractors, osteopaths and others, were all kept intact. These will include continuing education for those health professionals already working in their professions. These sections were written in 2004 by Senator Steve Komadina, M.D. Obstetrics and Gynecology (R-Corrales), a fervent world-wide lecturer on nutrition and pregnant women, and the high school components will perhaps be achieved in the 2006 session, if the governor concurs that they should be part of his fiscally-oriented Short Session (30 days).

This vital legislation was supported by strong and precise letters of support from U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, U.S. Congressman Tom Udall, and Attorney General Patricia Madrid. Cardiologists, pediatricians and toxicologists wrote letters to the legislators, as did the deputy secretary of health. These were all significant because each addressed the urgent need to fix the causes of serious health problems like obesity resulting from an uninterrupted and growing tidal wave of junk food, fast food, carcinogens, and neurotoxins which have washed over New Mexico for the last 60 years. These culminate most seriously in the ruinous school lunches in many districts in our state, similar to those depicted in the recent film, "Supersize Me."

The New Mexico Nutrition Council will clearly hit the ground running as a long overdue mechanism created by the legislature when it is enacted by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. Gov. Richardson has made it clear that he supports the need to improve nutrition for all New Mexicans. Thus, an advisory council of experts serving for no remuneration, can discuss and implement remedies and corrections in an environment where corporate influences are minimized.

Thus, we may see soon a new era in which real teeth can be put back into the entire realm of consumer protection laws. At this writing (March 7, 2005) similar efforts have begun in Arizona, Hawaii, and Illinois.

The bills can be read and easily adapted for your state by completing the following step-by-step process:

1. Go to the website for the New Mexico Legislature, and locate through Bill Finder: SENATE BILL 525 and HOUSE BILL 721.

2. Print out at least five copies of the bills in their entirety, with the amendments, and with a pencil, lightly cross out New Mexico and insert the name of your state.

3. Send this document with your cover letter to your state senator and state representative (not to the US Senate or Congress), asking for these bills to be introduced in your legislature.

4. Send another copy with your cover letter to the President Pro Tempore of the Senate in your state with the wish that your senate pass it as convincingly as did New Mexico’s Senate: 32-1 (the debate in the Senate on the floor and in committees was congenial, gracious, and completely free from partisan clashes, as if it were accepted by all that protecting good health, especially for children, is something Democrats and Republicans alike can agree on).

5. Send a copy to your state’s Attorney General, with a cover letter asking him or her to not only support similar legislation in your state legislature in the next legislative session, but also to investigate whether your state might join in suits against food polluting corporations to recover the costs of medical damages they have inflicted, similar to the grounds for the tobacco suits in the 1990s (which resulted in judgments of $235 billion for the states—its really a very small leap to go from Big Tobacco to Big Aspartame).

This New Mexico Legislative effort benefited immensely from extensive distribution of 1000 copies of The Artificially Sweetened Times/The Idaho Observer, as well as eight copies of Cori Brackett’s film, Sweet Misery.

Almost all members of the NM Legislature, the governor’s office and the Attorney General’s office are looking forward to more bills next year developed by the new Nutrition Advisory Council, a concept which is urgently needed in each of the other 49 states and in every nation in the world, through a careful legislative process, to permanently and decisively reverse the tidal wave of processed foods containing carcinogens, neurotoxins and excitotoxins—the worst of which is aspartame.

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