Day: August 21, 2019

Competition is essential to create a secure and innovative supply chain for 5G

Open markets and free trade have increased consumers’ prosperity in Europe and across the world. The impact of the technological advances that contributed to a massive connectivity and freedom of consumers would not have been possible without the existence of a global set of standards that promote competition and choice in the global market for information and communication technologies (ICT). The flipside of this bespoke connectivity can be seen in growing fear about massive data leaks and authoritarian governments targeting cyber-attacks at liberal democracies. News of all mobile data being rerouted from Europe through some Chinese nodes isn’t happening in a Black Mirror episode but is the frightening reality these days.

For decades telecommunications and internet-enabled businesses have relied on openness to operate complex networks and preserve the integrity of the information transmitted. Their efficiency and the ease with which consumers access these services depends on seamless interoperability across key technology vendors and the technical standards that underpin the network components that they build.

However, modern political realities have revealed the caveats of this globalized and interconnected system. As former German Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor Joschka Fischer wrote, “technology andsoftware exports are no longer just a matter of business; they are about power.” This is particularly evident in the telecommunications sector. National governments’ desire to field next generation 5G networks is being tempered by their growing concern over the security pitfalls created by the overreliance and dominance of untrustworthy vendors in the supply chain for 5G technology. The importance of a secure 5G is evident as governments across the European Union are currently undertaking comprehensive assessments of their exposure and risk to security vulnerabilities in the supply chain.  

While potential threats to national security are serious, pursuing a strategy of brinkmanship risks elevating geopolitical concerns at the expense of an opportunity to enact comprehensive standards for 5G. National governments and industry must reinforce their commitments to the principles that gave  consumers a thriving global technology sector in the first place: open markets and choice for ICT products and services. Safeguarding consumer privacy and security requires a coordinated framework to facilitate vendor diversity. Additionally, liberal democracies need to ensure that no single vendor from an autocratic or illiberal country of origin can monopolize their respective ICT market for 5G or legacy 4G and LTE networks.  

Security must be a defining feature of the standards and norms that govern the global ICT supply chain as well as the individual pieces of software and hardware that businesses and consumers depend on. Inaction risks the ability of businesses and consumers to exercise meaningful choice in critical 5G and other ICT products and services. Some of the EU’s largest member states, such as Germany and Italy, have used the auctions of spectrum licenses as a cash cow for their national budgets instead of seeing newly utilized frequencies as a gamechanger for consumers’ connectivity. This has led to the undesired consequence that many operators are cash-strapped and tend to go for the cheapest rather than the most trustworthy infrastructure provider. This has led us to a path dependency of toxic reliance on very few suppliers with questionable motives.

With coordinated technical standards for interoperability, such as the more trustworthy open source solutions, comes greater trust and transparency. As advancements in technology transform all matter of global exchange these principles must be reinforced and expanded to better protect consumers, promote innovation and foster a safe and secure digital ecosystem.

Fred Roeder, Managing Director of the Consumer Choice Center, and Luca Bertoletti, European Affairs Manager of the Consumer Choice Center

Originally published here

Don’t ban meat – grow it in a lab

Innovation is key to fighting climate change.

The fight against climate change has become one of the most widely discussed topics in the UK and globally. And for good reason. However, it is alarming that this noble goal is often used to justify all sorts of bans. Recently, for instance, Goldsmiths, University of London banned the sale of meat on campus.

Bans like this restrict our choices. And they often don’t achieve their desired goal. For instance, a ban on plastic straws and stirrers will come into effect in 2020. Some companies, like McDonald’s, are getting ahead of the ban by replacing plastic straws with paper ones. But recently, McDonald’s admitted that its new paper straws, which were supposed to decrease damage to the environment, cannot be recycled.

What’s more, when bans are seen as an easy solution, innovative ideas are often pushed out of the debate. The best way to reduce the impact of food production on the climate is to embrace innovation. On a positive note, Boris Johnson has promised to liberate the UK’s biotech sector from the EU’s anti-gene-modification rules. This could turn the post-Brexit UK into a global, future-oriented biotech powerhouse – and it could help the planet. This opportunity cannot be missed.

Currently, laws that cover genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the UK are primarily based on EU law. It is illegal to grow gene-modified crops for commercial purposes, but they can be imported. This approach is regressive and has left British agriculture lagging behind other non-EU countries, including the US, Canada and Australia, which have booming agricultural sectors.

However unpopular it may be, gene modification has many benefits. It improves agricultural performance and reduces the need for chemicals. It also drives down the cost, energy usage and carbon emissions associated with tractor diesel fuel and pesticide spraying. Enabling gene modification would lead to lower prices in the shops and encourage farmers to innovate. PODCASTWeed, cigarettes and Irn-Bru, with Julia Hartley-BrewerSPIKED

Aside from allowing the growth of GM crops, it is also essential to create fair market conditions for GM foods. Currently, under EU legislation, products containing GMO are labelled as such. This gives an unfair advantage to GMO-free food. It is intended to direct us away from the most innovative products.

Worse, gene-modification bans limit our choice by preventing the sale of meat substitutes, like those developed by Impossible Foods, or GM salmon. After Brexit, the UK could be the first European country to sell these – but only if it chooses the path of innovation. Retaining the EU’s anti-GM rules would also be a significant obstacle to striking trade deals around the world.

Imposing bans – whether on meat, plastics or GMOs – always seems like the easiest and most obvious course of action. But in the long run, encouraging innovative substitutes will be far more rewarding. More innovation means less environmental damage, more choice for consumers, and more prosperity for the country.

Maria Chaplia is European affairs associate at the Consumer Choice Center.

Originally published here


When products could save lives, it’s important for people to be informed about those benefits, along with the risks.

When products could save lives, it’s important for people to be informed about those benefits, along with the risks. Conversely, it’s harmful and immoral to spread misinformation that negatively affects public perception of life-saving products and discourages their use. Consider, for example, the unscientific, ideology-driven campaign against e-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine through vapor rather than smoke.

There is overwhelming scientific evidence that it’s best to quit nicotine use entirely. And kids shouldn’t vape. But some 34 million adults still smoke in the U.S., so we must offer them more-appealing, lower-risk alternatives than currently available pharmaceutical products which are largely ineffective.

Switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes causes a significant reduction in risk, in the range of 95%, according to Public Health England. Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb properly emphasized that “the overwhelming amount of death and disease attributable to tobacco is caused by addiction to cigarettes — the only legal consumer product that, when used as intended, will kill half of all long-term users.”

And yet we are seeing a virtual war on vaping products, including San Francisco’s outright ban on e-cigarettes (but, incredibly, not on tobacco-containing cigarettes); Vermont’s new 92% tax on e-cigarettes; and the FDA’s barrage of taxpayer-funded TV ads that emphasize the addictive properties of nicotine in e-cigarettes — which are primarily nicotine-delivery devices — while failing to mention that they don’t contain the tars, smoke, or other lethal combustion products from burning tobacco.

Such analysis is the essence of comparative risk-assessment — taking into consideration not only a given intervention, but the alternatives. For example, many chemotherapeutic drugs for cancer are toxic and have serious side effects, but they are acceptable to patients and regulators if the alternative is an early death.

The most recent and alarming phenomenon is allegations that “vaping” is causing serious lung disease in teens. News reports detail the illness and quickly pivot to quotes from anti-e-cigarette activists about the dangers of nicotine e-cigarettes such as Juul.

However, many, if not all, of the people who have become ill with “serious lung disease” are using illicit drugs with a vaporizer. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, in their four-patient cluster, who are hospitalized at Children’s Minnesota Hospital, “use of both nicotine and marijuana-based products were reported.”

Thus, it appears that these illnesses have nothing to do with vaping nicotine, other than the fact that many users of illicit drugs (that are often contaminated with toxic psychoactive substances) also use vaporizers. Another example is that, reportedly, all of the dozen cases in Wisconsin of patients hospitalized with severe pulmonary injuries were reportedly “dabbing” — vaping THC (tetrohydrocanninoid) oil, which is derived from marijuana, and the purity of which is uncertain.

Blaming E-Cigarettes For Street Drugs’ Harm

Kids shouldn’t vape. But there is no evidence that the use of unadulterated commercial products that deliver nicotine is responsible for the spate of recently reported serious acute health effects.

If the illnesses had been related to the most widely used nicotine contained in e-cigarettes, we’d expect to see a relatively even geographical distribution of effects, especially since products like Juul are standardized and subjected to audited quality control lab testing. But we’re not seeing that.

Instead, we’re seeing clusters, which suggests that any genuine incidents are related to contaminated batches of street drugs — which are widely consumed via vaporizers. According to a just-released report from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, 7.5 million people 12 years old and older in the U.S. have been diagnosed with dependence or abuse of illicit drugs in the past year.

But that’s not stopping e-cigarette opponents from trying to score political points by mischaracterizing the problem by conflating e-cigarettes with street drugs. And health reporters have been all too eager to comply, rather than challenge their assertions. The same with regulators.

The FDA calls its irresponsible, unscientific anti-vaping media blitz “The Real Cost Campaign.” We think evaluating the real costs is a good thing. But what are the real costs of misleading people about the risks of e-cigarettes, especially in cases like the Wisconsin cluster?

First, adult smokers will be less likely to switch from smoking to vaping because of an unfounded fear of contracting “serious lung disease.” This alone stinks worse than Wisconsin’s most pungent cheese.

The not-so-hidden agenda behind the scare is to fool lawmakers into thinking e-cigarettes are as dangerous (or even more dangerous) than cigarettes, causing them to regulate these lower-risk alternatives inappropriately. This, too, will prevent smokers from quitting.

And finally, by attacking the e-cigarette bogeyman with malicious innuendo or outright lies, we’ll miss the opportunity to address the use of the dangerous street drugs that are actually causing acute illness. Going after standardized nicotine vapes for causing acute lung disease is like O.J. Simpson trying to find the real killer.

Anti-vaping activists regularly dredge up new scares about e-cigarettes, whether it is discredited allegations of popcorn lungheart attacks, or toxic amounts of formaldehyde,   But the people and organizations hyping the exaggerated or imaginary risks are never held accountable. Perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise, since while everything around us seems to change, there’s one constant in journalism: If it bleeds, it leads.

Read more here

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