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NEW MEXICO BIDS FAREWELL TO CONSUMER PROTECTION: LOBBYISTS KILL ASPARTAME BAN

by STEPHEN FOX Thursday, Feb. 15, 2007 at 7:04 PM

How corporations destroy consumer protection legislation to product their product from liability suits, questions, and legislative action

NEW MEXICO BIDS FAREWELL TO CONSUMER PROTECTION: ASPARTAME LEGISLATION IS EVISCERATED BY CORPORATE LOBBYISTS

NEW MEXICO SENATE BILL 498, to ban Aspartame, the artificial sweetener, was killed on Sunday February 11, about 9:30 PM, by the Senate Public Affairs Committee, voting the way the 11 corporate lobbyists hammered them to do so, by a vote of 6-2. The House Consumer committee killed the House equivalent two days later 4-2.

The motion to kill, or "table," was made by Senator Dr. Steve Komadina, OB-GYN, the only physician in the New Mexico Legislature, who, curiously enough, strongly recommends to his pregnant patients, that they never ever use Aspartame, for fear for the obvious harm the formaldehyde and methanol it metabolizes into, will do to the unborn fetus.

Why he could not extend his "compassionate concern" and medical expertise to protect the 1.8 million citizens of New Mexico, and the 70% of the population that use Aspartame, and the 40% of the children, is far beyond me.

I am so very much reminded of the lemmings all agreeing to jump off the cliff together. Perhaps any 8 of them, after consulting with the same corporate lobbyists, would be able to put together the same 6-2 majority.

Gradually, the legislators who drink aspartame beverages will drop out (or drop dead) by attrition, after their intellectual faculties wane, yet are still in charge and entrusted with serious decisions and allocating billions

of dollars.

Some have already dropped out. The largest consumer of Aspartame in the Senate, the former Finance Chairman, actually resigned just before this legislative session! His successor, David Ulibarri, said it was because he just got old, and I asked, "What could make you older faster than the formaldehyde and methanol in 12 cans of Diet soda every day?"

Dr. Komadina is likely destined for a brilliant future as physician-legislator to extend his sophistries in the name of Republican Libertarianism, since the corporations who make and distribute aspartame are now so happy with his "legislative efforts," maybe even enough to run his

name up the flag pole as a possible candidate for Governor in 2010.

On the surface, especially to those who still like the still brilliant Howard Dean, M.D., that might sound great to some: a physician as Governor, eh? Heal the sick, raise the dead, keep Big Pharma in business, a real "expert" who

has delivered so many babies, as the Chief Executive of New Mexico?

That prospect even made sense to me as recently as 2004 when I was dazzled after meeting Komadina, but having seen him in action, it makes no sense to me at all, now. A legislator's bills and actions give you an idea of what kind of Governor they might make, and one of Komadina's bills is very disturbing, his Freedom to Eat Enchiladas Act, which give blanket corporate immunity to all food businesses, not only for causing obesity, which is only logical, but for all related food caused illnesses resulting from overeating, which is both pathetic and frightening, to me.

The Freedom to Eat Enchiladas Act, would prevent any victim of aspartame poisoning from suing for damages resulting from the formaldehyde and methanol-borne afflictions they would face, or trans-fates, or bovine growth hormones, or food colorings, or even proven carcinogens, that the FDA had been forced in prior years to approve.

In other states, similar corporate immunity from liability was called the "Freedom to Eat Cheeseburgers Act," and has been enacted in many of them. Komadina and/or his corporate sponsors wanted something with a little more ethnic appeal to Hispanic legislators in New Mexico. Same was shot down in 2005 as an obvious "ethnic ploy."

In voting for that bill, the "Freedom to Eat Enchiladas," Senator Mary Jane Garcia of Las Cruces stated that she, too, as a diabetic, would get sick if she ate 3 pieces of pie. Prior to this hearing, Garcia had said she would vote for the bill to ban Aspartame, but the deluge of corporate lobbyists convinced her to change her position, despite the testimony of the expert witnesses, a pediatrician and a neurotoxicologist, who urged the committee to protect the children of New Mexico. Garcia stated to these experts, just before the vote, that she "hadn't understood a word they said."

Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces voted without comment to kill the bill, and Grants Senator David Ulibarri voted to kill the bill, although he had actually signed it at the beginning of the session as an ostensible supporter! Three of the Republicans all voted to kill the bill, in concert with their darling doctor Senator leader, Steve Komadina. Donald Rumsfeld, who forced the approval for Aspartame in 1981 as CEO of Searle, must also be very happy with New Mexico's compliant legislators.

There is so little truth in the media about Aspartame, none of their votes are likely ever to come back to haunt the legislators, unless they too come down with a brain tumor or multiple sclerosis and they can still remember their votes.

No doubt, there will be jubilant proclamations by friends of the Aspartame industry, probably even a few editorials touting the reaffirmation of those freedoms to eat artificial sweeteners, which they are calling "substitute sugars," since that sounds more palatable.

Eventually, both all of the manufacturing mega corporations and the American fast food corporations will have a perfectly docile and compliant citizenry, thanks to the likes of all of the Dr. Komadinas in so many legislatures, and despite the Uniformity of Food Regulations Bill failing in the United States Senate.

The Japanese corporation, Ajinomoto, which lobbied so hard to kill the Aspartame bill, is the world's largest manufacturer of both Aspartame and the other neurotoxic and carcinogenic food additive, Monosodium Glutamate.

Their lobbyist, Richard Minzner, spoke vehemently in favor of corporate theories of "federal pre-emption" by FDA pronouncements that Aspartame must still be "safe." But if that specious logic were true out in the rest of America in the real world, we'd still have asbestos, leaded gasoline, Thalidomide, and DDT; Eliot Spitzer would never have sued large pharmaceutical companies; we would might be using Agent Orange to defoliate America; New York City and Philadelphia would never have been able to ban transfats, and California would never have considered putting carcinogen labels on French fries, due to acrylamides. The fast food companies in California used the defense that the FDA never required such labels.

New Mexico seems to like to capitulate to corporate theories of FDA pronouncements having the preemptive powers of Federal Laws, two entirely different things.

Monsanto is out of the Aspartame business now, and so is G.D. Searle, the corporation that originally patented it in 1966. FDA turned down approval until 1981, based on the obvious and rudimentary chemistry and the metabolized compounds that result from its being digested: methanol,

formaldehyde, and diketopiperazine (the last is a particularly nasty cause of brain tumors). So is Holland Sweeteners, I think partially due to my letters in Dutch to the Queen of the Netherlands, Her Majesty, Beatrix.

Donald Rumsfeld is out of the Aspartame business and also out of the Defense Department business, as well, "gone but not forgotten," but the neurodegenerative harm done by his profitable regulatory coup in 1981 to force aspartame's approval will be around for many generations.

Things look pretty grim for Consumer Protection efforts in New Mexico and in the USA in general at this moment. I had much higher hopes for New Mexico's new Attorney General, Gary King, Ph.D. Chemistry. I still hope that King will see the similarities between Big Tobacco and Big Aspartame enough to sue those corporations, but that honor will more likely befall a proven champion of Consumer Protection, perhaps Governor Eliot Spitzer, California's Attorney General Bill Lockyer, after his french fries warning about cancer prove to save lives in California.

Perhaps efforts to ban Aspartame in Indonesia, South Africa, and other nations may ultimately vindicate ours in New Mexico. Perhaps not, even if other nations get to such obvious medical imperatives before the USA, since corporate America has constructed a very thick skin to externally or internally shield public consciousness in the USA from such embarrassing questions as product liability, neurodegenerative harm and illnesses resulting from their products, and other irksome inconveniences.

Where is Bill Richardson on all of this? Try writing a letter or sending him an email to ask him. If you are lucky, once in a great while, his sometimes attentive staff just might answer.

New York's Governor Eliot Spitzer told me once: "the FDA is a Joke." Yet no one seems to be laughing....

Stephen Fox

stephen@santafefineart.com

New Millennium Fine Art

Santa Fe, New Mexico

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