Whether By Proxy on Your Own, You Have to Play the Political Game


When I was given the opportunity to write on “Politics in the Lab,” I immediately went to “Internal conflict” or “HR related issues” or the semi-political games many of us have to occasionally play in effort to advance in our lives and careers. I took it in a personal direction and thought not about Congress and which party has control of the House or President Obama’s views on dietary supplements. I didn’t go there because it’s in the background; I have many more immediate fires to put out.

This so-called background, however, has a great effect on many things. An industry and its supportive businesses can quickly flourish or deteriorate depending on how well each plays the political game, orif not in the game, supports the tailgating afterward. Whether it’s the unique intricacies of a lab’s internal political environment or considering campaign contributions to a particular party whose views align with your organization’s goals, playing the political game is something we all do—knowingly or not.

Originally known as the Wiley Act, the Food, Drug and Insecticide Organization was formed in 1906 and was renamed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) a few years later. President Theodore Roosevelt signed it into law after convincing demonstrations on public hygiene by its chief advocate Dr. Wiley. This was a political process spurred in part by legitimate concerns over public safety. Because of this political process Alkemists Labs exists. So from a lab perspective, the political game was critical to our origin.

In 1938, the Food, Drugs and Cosmetic Act put Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) on the map and gave the FDA authority to oversee the safety of food, drugs, and cosmetics. This is further proof of how politics have shaped this industry and why they matter. Many years later, in 1997, Alkemists began offering the dietary supplement industry botanical identity testing as per the most current version of GMPs. At that time we were like the helmet manufacturers in California before motorcyclists were required to don protective gear for their noodles. We all knew it was a good idea, but were not forced to abide by the law since so few did.

That said, there is no question that the political game is critical to our future as well. We waited many years for the next installment of cGMPs to be enforced starting in 2008 and watched our business grow like an awkward teenager afterward. Today, our company is 17 years old and features 22 employees.

I am frequently told I should participate more in the political climate. On a personal level I have rarely concerned myself with political candidates with the exception of major issues threatening my personal beliefs. However, I am realizing that I must play this political game to advance Alkemists Labs in this industry. If there is a political party that is good for the dietary supplement industry I (and my company) should do something to support it. This concept is pretty simple. The hard part is figuring out what goal or belief to stand behind when your business interests conflict with your personal beliefs.

It is not only to advance the dietary supplement industry or Alkemists’ market share of testing but to provide protection from instances where politics might prevail over science and common sense. It’s critical for any stakeholder or anyone with skin in the game to communicate key issues to our Congressional appointees.

Enter the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), United Natural Products Association (UNPA), and the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN)—our industry advocates. Since they represent our views, helping them be successful helps our industry thrive.

And when the industry thrives so do its ancillary industries, like testing labs.

Categories: Regulations