Impact of Bill C-51 on Availability of Herbs from Richters
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Carolyn Rampling
Posted on: October 15, 2008

Please tell me that Bill C-51 will not impact your services. I’m just retired and looking forward to my own herb garden -- and other medicinal plants. Also informative material, books etc. available through your organization.

Someone told me this bill would make it illegal to grow my own. Are they correct?

The Canadian government’s Bill C-51 died on the order paper when the 39th Parliament was dissolved in order to hold yesterday’s national election. The bill was introduced to amend Canada’s Food and Drugs Act to make it easier for the government to investigate and prosecute companies and individuals that flout existing law and regulations relating to the sale and distribution of food, drugs and natural health products. Both industry and consumer groups criticized the heavy-handed changes which would have given excessive powers to bureaucrats and would have made the penalties for natural product infractions as onerous and destructive as those that apply to the drug industry. Due to an enormous response from consumers and businesses, the government announced an intention to revise the bill; but a revised bill was not introduced before the dissolution of parliament.

If the bill had been passed in its original form it is unlikely that it would have affected the right to grow and make one’s own herbal medicines. In the fight against the bill there was some over-the-top language used that suggested that the right to make one’s own medicines would have been taken away. We do not believe that would have happened. Still we opposed the bill on the grounds that the penalties and new powers granted to regulators were excessive and completely inappropriate for herbs and natural products -- products which have consistently shown to present far fewer risks to health than drugs. We believed that the bill would have had serious consequences on small businesses making and selling herbal medicines and would have accelerated a concentration of the industry that is increasingly controlled by large companies.

We expect the government to reintroduce the bill in revised form in the next session of parliament. We and thousands of others will be watching to see what the government does.

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