Month: July 2019

Boris Sparks Hope for Science

In his first speech as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has delivered a promising outlook for the UK’s tech and agricultural sector, by committing to a more innovation-prospering future after Brexit. Johnson mentions “a bioscience sector liberated from anti genetic modification rules… we will be the seedbed for the most exciting and most dynamic business investments on the planet.” He also adds: “Let’s develop the blight-resistant crops that will feed the world”, in a move cheered by the National Farmers Union.

If you’re reading op-eds in the Guardian and blog entries from certain environmentalist groups, you’d think that this is some sort of gift from the PM for the sake of inflating British business. They’re mistaken, as unleashing scientific innovation in the United Kingdom means much more than that.

We know for instance that that growing a GM pest-resistant crop like this in the UK could save about £60 million a year in pesticide use. This is certainly good news for farmers, yet lest we forget – £60 million in savings means more leeway for competitive food pricing within the United Kingdom. With food prices in the EU rising by 2 per cent, the new government can send a powerful message that yes, food can become cheaper through more than just dropping tariffs, but through more efficient and technologically advanced farming. As of now, GM crops aren’t grown in the UK, but imported genetically modified soy is used for animal feed.

We also know that upcoming generations have much more favourable views towards scientific innovation in the agricultural sector than their parents. A 2018 poll of 1,600 18 to 30-year-olds, carried out for the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC), found that two-thirds support agro-tech innovations – only 22 percent being concerned about the use of gene-editing or genetically-modified crops.

So why agro-tech, and why now?

As the UK looks towards a free trade future after the withdrawal from the European Union, Boris Johnson knows that the UK economy needs to be competitive and up to the challenge of changing environments and markets. Genetically-modified crops and gene-editing present amazing opportunities in the years to come, not only in the area of food, but also in patient choice. Gene-editing technologies could have a huge impact in reducing the death toll from diseases such as dengue fever, yellow fever, and the Zika virus.

This why the scientific community in the European Union will be more inclined with Boris Johnson than its own political leadership. 117 European research institutions have recently signed an open letter calling on ECJ to enable gene editing, bemoaning the strict legislation currently in place.

They write: “The strict legislation will make precision breeding hyper-expensive and, by consequence, a privilege of just a few large multinational companies. As such, European farmers will miss out on a new generation of hardier and more nutritious crop varieties that are urgently needed to respond to the results of climate change.”

One year ago, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) decided in Case C-528/16 that gene-editing should be treated the same way that genetically-modified organisms are handled at the moment, keeping them in essence practically illegal.

In the future, the European Union will have its own challenge of dealing with scientific innovation. For Boris Johnson, the hope needs to be that he can follow-up his promises with actions, delivering a prosperous era of innovation for Britain. By setting an example of breeding technologies and their benefits for human health and consumer choice, the UK could even become a new beacon of scientific research, to which the EU could eventually aspire to.

Originally published here

Synthetic farm chemicals boost harvest

“Agroecology as a political doctrine has no place in science-based policy discourse, and its promotion – given the scientific knowledge we have to today – is immoral. It needs to be stopped,” said Bill Wirtz, a policy analyst.

Read more here

Consumers will take Boris at his word: bring science to food production and trade freely with the world

London, UK – Yesterday, in his first speech as UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson outlined his policy agenda. The package is wide-ranging and covers many areas, but Johnson’s ambition to push for free trade and ‘liberate the UK’s bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules’ have a strong pro-consumer choice flavour.

Commenting on the speech, Maria Chaplia, European Affairs Associate at the Consumer Choice Center, said “it was good to see Johnson speaking up for consumer choice, especially with regard to science. Consumers and their needs do matter, and the fact that Johnson shares this sentiment should make us feel optimistic.

“GM foods have been consistently demonised by anti-science activists, making it extremely hard for scientists advocating for the benefits of gene-editing to be heard. One-sidedness is always dangerous as it undermines the value of debate and hence hinders innovation. Equally, giving an unfair advantage to conventional foods rids consumers of the chance to decide for themselves and shop as they wish. 

“The UK’s existing ban on GM crops would threaten a trade deal with the US, yet another reason to support Johnson’s ideas as he seeks to drive out the anti-gene modification rules. As he rightly noted, ‘free trade has done more than anything else to lift billions out of poverty’. It would then be insensible to walk away from the UK-US free trade agreement that has the propensity to become one of the greatest trade deals in history. Free trade and the achievements of modern agriculture benefit consumers,” said Chaplia.

“Time will tell whether Johnson manages to stick to this pro-consumer choice agenda, but the intention should be championed. As a consumer group representing consumers in the UK and globally, we look forward to furthering developments and support policy proposals that liberate the UK food and biotech sector from anti-innovation sentiment,” concluded Chaplia.

Florida Legislature Passes Bill Requiring Lottery Warning Labels

Cites Consumer Awareness

Placing warnings on lottery tickets is a bad gamble, says Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the Consumer Choice Center and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News. Like all forms of gambling, purchases of lottery tickets tend to be recreational, and people realize that, says Stier.

“It’s unfortunate how highly regulated they are, but of course the irony is lottery tickets have a monopoly by the state, and they go to fund the state,” Stier said.

“When you have private sector gambling, they do usually require warnings on them, which is absurd,” Stier said. “People are aware they might lose their money, and they might go back to bet more, and they might lose again.”

There is an irony in the government putting warning labels on a product it sells, says Seton Motley, president of Less Government and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.

“The government makes tobacco companies print warnings on tobacco products, so why shouldn’t it meet its own requirements for their own product?” Motley asked. “Preferably, the government would just leave tobacco companies alone. Then they’d have a much stronger argument when protesting this bill.”

Read more here

O futuro do Brasil é digital, mas proibido pelo Governo, analisam Roeder, Giurcin e Freo

Regulamentações impedem avanço

É preciso revogar a ‘lei anacrônica’

Enquanto as novas tecnologias e o comportamento do consumidor criaram um ambiente no qual os serviços digitais convergem e borram as fronteiras entre conteúdo, televisão, streaming e mídia social, a regulamentação ultrapassada da TV por assinatura no Brasil é uma grande barreira ao desenvolvimento do lucrativo mercado de serviços digitais no país. Longe de ser um grande tabu, essa opinião é consensual até mesmo entre representantes de órgãos reguladores.

Regulamentações desatualizadas impedem o Brasil de se tornar competitivo nos mercados digitais globais e privam os brasileiros da liberdade de escolher serviços e conteúdo. Um exemplo dessa regulação tóxica para o telespectador está na Lei de Serviços de Comunicação Audiovisual por Acesso Condicionado (Lei do Seac), que está bloqueando a criação de um mercado digital único, no qual as operadoras poderiam integrar conteúdo (como filmes e séries) e canais para fornecer serviços mais abrangentes para os seus assinantes. Recentemente, por exemplo, a Anatel (Agência Nacional de Telecomunicações) proibiu a Fox de vender a assinatura de seus canais diretamente aos consumidores.

Uma lei bem-intencionada pode agora significar que os brasileiros não terão acesso a séries como The Big Bang Theory ou a transmissões de jogos do Campeonato Brasileiro e da UEFA Champions League na TV a cabo. A explicação: ao vedar que uma mesma empresa seja transmissora e produtora de conteúdos ao mesmo tempo, a Lei do Seac barra a fusão entre a AT&T e a Time Warner no Brasil.

A Anatel entende que existe um limite na fusão entre empresas de telecomunicações e empresas de distribuição e licenciamento de conteúdo audiovisual no mercado de TV por assinatura (e apenas nele). E pior: até mesmo o presidente da Anatel, Leonardo de Morais, acredita que a regulação é –abre aspas– “anacrônica, porque está indo contra a convergência que está se desenvolvendo no novo ecossistema digital”.

Revogada ou alterada, a Lei do Seac é urgente para dar segurança jurídica e clareza ao mercado atual. Mais importante ainda: uma mudança na lei funcionaria como um indicador de que o Brasil está se movendo na direção certa em relação a um futuro digital, atraindo as atenções de investidores e empreendedores.

O comissário de informática do Cade (Conselho Administrativo de Defesa Econômica), Gilvandro Araújo, também sugeriu que a proibição legal de integração vertical entre os segmentos de TV paga deveria ser revogada, dada a evolução das tecnologias nessas indústrias. É necessária uma estrutura regulatória que permita a reformulação dos modelos de negócios na era digital e aceite que o governo não pode prever como os consumidores usarão os serviços digitais. Portanto, a regulamentação precisa ser inteligente e flexível.

O papel do regulador tem que mudar para enfrentar a mudança nas estruturas do mercado da economia digital, que incluirá não apenas serviços de TV por assinatura e streaming, mas também setores muito diferentes, como veículos autônomos e eletrodomésticos. É necessário um novo marco regulatório que reconheça que não é possível prever como os serviços digitais e de mídia serão processados no futuro.

O investimento necessário para estes novos serviços é enorme e não apenas impulsionado pelas operadoras de telecomunicações, mas também pelos desenvolvedores de conteúdo e terceiros. Um mercado único e gigante poderia ser criado no Brasil se o governo, o Congresso e as autoridades decidissem ir na mesma direção de um ecossistema digital integrado. Esse mercado é cada vez mais global e é importante que o Brasil não seja um seguidor, mas um importante player desse setor do futuro.

Para que o país emerja como protagonista desse cenário, é importante que o Congresso e o governo revoguem imediatamente a “lei anacrônica”, que arrisca sufocar o desenvolvimento de serviços e produtos para os consumidores brasileiros. Vamos mudar o futuro digital do Brasil acabando com um entulho regulatório ultrapassado que não cabe na tela do século 21.

Originally published here

Ads are changing, and we should be happy about it

Shifting consumer behavior is changing the world of advertising as we know it, says Bill Wirtz. 

We have come along way in the evolution of the advertising business. The Egyptians used papyrus to make sales messages and wall posters, while the Middle Ages made us transition to town criers and billboards. But even trademarks are much older than many would think – the first trademark dates back to 1300 BC in what is India today. Advertising is simultaneously a reflection of reality and a gross over-exaggeration of consumer expectation – they are flashy, they are gross, they feature musicians and actors. Some ads are so entertaining that viewers tune in to watch them, and they generate massive clicks on video platforms such as YouTube.

Terrestrial TV is a good example of how some service have only been ad-funded for a long time already. With the popping up of online advertising we’ve seen entire newspapers switch gear on their business models. The Guardian – which isn’t exactly the defender of modern capitalism – raises more money online than it does through print. No wonder – online advertising is better for advertisers and consumers. Targeted advertising tells the company that posts the ad if it is actually viewed and clicked on – something that you cannot guarantee in any way on TV or radio. On the video platform YouTube, the company says that you only pay for your ad if people choose to watch it:

“For example, when someone chooses to view your TrueView ad for at least 30 seconds or engages with your ad – like clicking on a call-to-action overlay, a card or a companion banner.”

This certainly applies to myself: as a craft beer enthusiast, Google and Facebook ads constantly tell me about the latest beer releases. Why should I be upset? I get to use a free online service, and in return I get informed about products I like? It would be strange to claim that this is somehow worse than the old days, when I’d be shown things I don’t actually buy, such as women’s hygiene products, or new car tyres.

There is also a common assumption that advertising is a form of brainwashing, constantly bombarding is with things we don’t want until we end up buying it. It poses the ancient old question: can you make someone buy something that they do not want? The American legal scholar Cass Sunstein, who was Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs under the Obama administration published an essay entitled “Fifty Shades of Manipulation“, in which he labels conventional marketing as manipulation. He writes for instance: “It is important to acknowledge that in the commercial realm, manipulation is widespread; it is part of the basic enterprise.”

Yes, when companies advertise health benefits of their products that cannot be proven, then they are intentionally misleading their customers. However, this is miles away from advertising a product as being cool, refreshing, comfortable, or trendy. Are we to define the mere fact that a product is being described by the producer as “good”, as manipulation? Because by this same standard, I could feel equally manipulated by the fact that Sunstein calls a book he edited himself, “relevant” (which he did).

You couldn’t sell anyone a candle as a means of replacing electric bulbs, but you can advertise products in a positive fashion. Of course advertising works, otherwise there would be no point it. However, the assumption that it is bad having ad-based services, and online and offline users being exposed to them, that is retrograde thinking. Many careers, including those of free-lance journalists, have been made possible through modern advertising. Many consumers happier about having specific targeted ads online, as opposed to being bored by their TV.

Advertising is changing because we are changing as consumers.

Originally published here

Was legal ist soll beworben werden dürfen

Die Bundesministerin für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft Julia Klöckner (CDU) will ein Werbeverbot für Tabak- und E-Zigaretten das noch weiter geht als bisherige Vorschläge der Union.

Was wird auf Straßenplakaten heutzutage beworben? Limonade, Schokolade, Lebensversicherungen, Bankkonten, Medikamente, Bier, Autos. Wer falsch mit diesen Produkten umgeht kann sich selbst oder sein Vermögen in Gefahr bringen. Aus diesem Grund werden Alternativen, die mehr Sicherheit bieten ebenfalls beworben: Limonade ohne Zucker, fettarme Schokolade, Versicherungsvergleichportale, Anwälte, die bei Klagen gegen Banken helfen, alkoholfreies Bier, oder Autos mit neuen und besseren Airbags.

Bei Zigaretten ist es gleich. Tabak, der sicherlich ungesund sein kann, darf in Deutschland beworben werden. Verbraucher wissen, dass Tabak ungesund ist, und seit mehreren Jahren wird darauf mit Warnhinweisen und Schockbildern aufmerksam gemacht. Sicherere Alternativen gibt es auch. Wir wissen dass E-Zigaretten (deren Konsum als “vaping” beschrieben wird) 95% weniger gesundheitsschädlich sind als gewöhnliche Zigaretten.

Gerade Großbritannien zeigt, dass eine liberale Dampfpolitik die klassische Zigarette besser abgewöhnt als zum Beispiel Nikotinpflaster. Zwischen 2011 und 2017 ist die Raucherzahl in Großbritannien von 19,8% auf 14,9% gesunken. Gleichzeitig stieg die Zahl der E-Zigarettennutzer. Fast die Hälfte dieser Verbraucher nutzen E-Zigaretten als Mittel zur Rauchentwöhnung. Viele Raucher in Deutschland kennen diese Alternative allerdings nicht. Ihnen kann man mit Werbung einen weniger schädlichen Weg zeigen Nikotin zu konsumieren.

Bundesministerin Klöckner scheint das anders zu sehen. Sie argumentiert für ein Tabak-Werbeverbot das nikotinhaltige E-Zigaretten einschließt. Verboten solle auch Tabakwerbung im Kino vor Filmen ab 18. Dies würde eine radikale Änderung bedeuten, die die Wahlfreiheit einschränkt, und die als Rückschlag der bislang eher liberalen Vaping-Politik in Deutschland gelten würde.

Wenn man in Deutschland mehr “Vaper” sieht als in einigen anderen Ländern, kann es daran liegen, dass Deutschland eines der Länder ist, die bisher einen lockeren Regulierungsansatz für E-Zigaretten verfolgen. Andere liberale Länder sind Schweden, Großbritannien und Tschechien, so der Nanny State Index des Institute of Economic Affairs in London. In Deutschland gibt es keine Regelung für den Konsum von E-Zigaretten in der Öffentlichkeit. Dies macht den Switch von der normalen Zigarette zur elektrischen Alternative einfacher und bequemer, was Leben rettet. Dazu gibt es keine besonderen Steuern auf diese Produkte und keine Regeln für den grenzüberschreitenden Verkauf. Jetzt bei der Werbung einzuknicken wäre eine schlechte Nachricht für Verbraucher.

Die restriktivsten Länder in puncto  E-Zigaretten sind dagegen Finnland und Ungarn, die den Konsum stark besteuern und regulieren. Die Europäische Union selbst hat auch damit begonnen, überstrengere Regeln für das Vaping zu sinnieren. So hat die EU ein begrenztes Behältervolumen, die Größe der Nachfüllpackungen und deren Potenz stärker reguliert. Außerdem wurden “kindersichere Verpackungen” vorgeschrieben und Hersteller regelmäßig überprüft. Regulierungen gibt es also bereits, auch für Kindersicherheit.

Das Argument von Bundesministerin Klöckner dass die Nutzung von E-Zigaretten rückwirkend als “Gateway” zur konventionellen Zigaretten führen kann genießt derweil sehr wenig wissenschaftliche Rückendeckung.

Wissenschaftler sehen das Vaping insgesamt deutlich positiver. Ja, E-Zigaretten enthalten noch immer Nikotin, das süchtig machen kann. Das ist derweil auch der Fall für Koffein. Nikotin selbst verursacht jedoch keinen Krebs. Durch den Wechsel von Zigaretten auf E-Zigaretten reduzieren Vaper ihre Belastung durch viele andere schädliche Giftstoffe im Rauch, einschließlich bekannter Karzinogene, auf eine drastische und schnelle Art und Weise.

Werbeverbote lösen keine Probleme der Volksgesundheit, sie versuchen diese Probleme verschwinden zu lassen. Anstatt Verbraucher über existierende Produkte und deren sichereren Alternativen zu informieren, will die aktuelle Regierungsmehrheit ein bevormundendes System schaffen und  mit Verboten regieren. Wenn sie sich dazu entscheiden, dann werden Tabak und E-Zigaretten nicht ihr letztes Opfer sein.

Originally published here

On alcohol reform, state lawmakers have finally started to listen

Yaël Ossowski is deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center, which advocates for consumer choice and freedom. He’s speaking in general, but, clearly, North Carolina may well be the unavoidable target for his comments.

“In many southern states and beyond, alcohol-control laws are some of the most byzantine and backward on the books. Indeed, many have not changed in the 86 years since the end of Prohibition.

“These laws treat adults like children, stunt economic growth, deprive consumers of better choices, and drastically increase costs for everyday people who just want a drink at the end of a hard day’s work.”

Read more here

An EU departure tax would fly in the face of reason

While the Conservative leadership race dominates the news in the UK, the European Union is continuing to regulate as usual. At a recent European Council, the Netherlands proposed an EU departure tax, which would add a levy of €7 (£6.25) to every flight departing from an airport inside of a member state. The tax has the support of France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden and Finland, but could be opposed by Malta and Cyprus. Both islands would be hurt by higher taxes on air travel, since travelling from, say, Stockholm to Malta by boat is probably not the most convenient of options.

French Finance Commissioner Pierre Moscovici has argued that before such a tax can even be countenanced, the EU needs to remove the right for countries to veto any EU-wide tax initiatives. Instead, he proposes a system of qualified-majority voting, which would fundamentally strengthen the EU’s ability to push through significant legislative change in the face of opposition. Such changes are afoot, and make the likelihood of the Netherlands proposed tax becoming law in the future.

Having a passenger tax isn’t a new idea. In fact, Air Passenger Duty already exists in the UK, Italy, Germany, France, Sweden and Austria. In the UK, the reduced rate for air travel in the lowest class available is £13 (standard rate at £26). Flights over 2,000 miles have a reduced rate of £78 and a standard rate of £172. This is up from 2007, when the tax was doubled from £5 to £10 for European destinations. There have subsequent increases, even though research from Oxford University suggests that high-income groups would rather absorb the tax than change their travel habits, showing that the Air Passenger Duty is clearly regressive, hitting the poorest hardest.

Such regression is exacerbated by the fact that the EU departure tax would be applied uniformly to all citizens of all countries across the Union. The disparity in wealth (or GDP per capita) of Germany or Luxembourg compared to the likes of Bulgaria or Moldova is dramatic. And yet under this tax a venture capitalist in Frankfurt and a construction worker in Sofia would pay the same levy whenever they boarded a plane.

Over recent decades affordable flying has democratised the act of travelling. Locations that were previously unattainable for lower middle class and low-income households are now viable tourist destinations. This has benefited both the tourists themselves and the places they travel to, helping to regenerate calcified towns and cities.

But what about the environment? As ever, technology is leading the way to a brighter, greener future, with the aviation industry developing new and better technologies to clean up air travel. Airbus’ new A321XLR. for example, has 30% less kerosene consumption per passenger, while adding 30% more range than the currently used A321neo. That should be to nobody’s surprise: both the aviation sector and airlines do not have any incentive to use more kerosene than they have to.

The European Union is going down the road of abstinence instead of innovation. The United Kingdom should go in the opposite direction, and trust engineers and scientists to solve the transportation and environmental challenges of the future, while maintaining affordable travel for all. The first step towards doing that post-Brexit would be to abolish the regressive Air Passenger Duty.

Read more here

Brexit Can Be A Success, But Only If We Do It In The Right, Liberal Way

The Consumer Choice Center’s Maria Chaplia outlined the senseless thinking behind protectionism recently, writing:

“Imagine you’ve been on a team with the same people for decades. You are well aware of the capabilities of your colleagues, and you are on good terms with your boss. More importantly, you have developed a working schedule for yourself, and have been sticking to it deliberately – repeating the same tasks day by day without attempting to improve the quality of their performance. You have been doing fine, just like everyone else on your team.

One morning, your boss announces that there is a new employee or group of employees from abroad joining the team. Naturally, every well-established tribe is suspicious or even hostile towards newcomers, especially if it’s not accustomed to dealing with changes. You and your colleagues will, therefore, try to find a way to persuade your boss to change their mind. After all, why hire someone new, or why alter anything at all, if you and your consumers are doing fine?

On their first day, the newcomers carefully examine your workplace and conclude that your team’s productivity and attitudes are completely outdated and have been far behind world progress for years. Added to that, they find out that the prices you charge are much higher than those in countries where they come from, and that your consumers are of course unaware of that. Their impression is that your boss has been consistently covering for you in order to “protect” you from competition. They are determined to change it: they suggest more innovation, lower prices to the benefit of consumers, and the elimination of the fine mentality.”

Read more here

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