German court overturns kava ban
Kava producers and growers have won a victory in a European court over the ban on the traditional herb which has cost the region hundreds of millions of a dollars in the last decade.
One of Germany's highest courts has ruled that Germany's ban on products containing kava is unlawful and inappropriate.
The decision overturns a ban brought in in 2002 by the German health agency known as BfArM because of fears over kava's toxicity.
The court found the risk of using kava was not unusually high and mere doubts over a medicinal product did not justify it being banned.
A Vanuatu-based researcher who provided scientific evidence at the trial, Vincent Lebot, says the victory comes after a hard-fought battle lasting 12 years.
VINCENT LEBOT: Since 2002 we have organised several meetings to collect the scientific evidence. We have published several papers. Thanks to the non-stop contribution of Dr Mathias Schmidt in Germany, we have accumulated a very important batch of virus types of evidence to demonstrate BfArM over-reacted. In other words, when they decided to ban kava and kava-based products, they had no scientific evidence, no quality control measures. Nothing was there to assess the risk at that time. So it was really an over-reaction. And of course, this over-reaction cost hundreds of millions of dollars to the South Pacific kava growers because not only did they lose German market overnight, but also the whole EU market because all the countries like France or Switzerland decided to ban kava based on the German decision. And the American market, which at that time was growing very fast, was severely impacted. What happened in Germany is a clear victory for all of us who know that when kava is properly used, with the right varieties cultivated with the right agricultural practies and processed in a reasonable way, we know it's not a dangerous product. It has been drunk for millenia in the South pacific and we know that there are no sights of liver toxicity - nothing comparabale to alcohol of course.
HILAIRE BULE: Victory but it was a long and hard battle...
VL: It was a very long battle. It took us twelve years to accumulate the evidence and we have accumulated an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence that demonstrates that kava is not toxic so yes it was very slow process but now we are very happy that we are back to normal. However if the situation has recently improved in Germany, the situation has not improved whatsoever in the South Pacific, and this is where we are having very serious problems related to quality. Farmers, growers of all sorts, and traders and exporters, are not controlling the quality of the kava being exported. The wrong varieties are being exported, the wrong parts of the plants are being exported. This is potentially very dangerous because if some kava of poor quality is exported to the EU, it will be the end of kava for good.
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