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Month: December 2019

Why Amazon’s investment in Deliveroo could be good news for consumers

In May 2019 the global e-commerce powerhouse Amazon invested roughly 500 million USD in the British food delivery service Deliveroo leading to a 16% equity stake in that company. The British competition watchdog Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) issued a statement asking both companies for concessions (usually agreeing to sell off some businesses or leave some markets to reduce market shares) in order to see the deal green-lighted. While the battle for leadership in the global ready-to-eat meal delivery market has been on for years, Amazon’s (re-)entry in this market might be excellent news for consumers.

Right now Deliveroo is mainly active in European markets (though it left one of its main markets, Germany, earlier this year due to labor disputes) and currently expands into Asian countries. It competes with similar companies such as UberEats or Delivery Hero. As an early adopter of such services I have tried most of them in various European cities. One common weakness of their offering can be seen in their predominating business attitude of focussing more on acquiring and keeping more restaurants on their platform instead of servicing their (ordering end-) customers.

Some of the poor customer experience can be seen in the lack of standardized (or non leaking) packaging and usually little to no help in case of missing items, cold food, or massive delays. Customer service usually tells you that they are merely the broker and are not liable for the restaurants faults. And while the platforms usually refund you for missing food, this is usually not what you want when you are very hungry on a Friday evening and need to rush to the movies (such a situation and a no-show of my pizza was when I deleted Deliveroo from my phone).

Amazon tried restaurants once before and failed in the UK market. They might have been too early or were not able to get sufficient market shares quickly enough. Their new and very pricey attempt to get back into the European ready-to-eat meal delivery should be applauded by consumers:

Amazon is one of the most customer-centric companies out there. The consumer is usually always right and Amazon is there to make it right. Amazon’s grocery service Fresh is a great example on how to constantly provide customer service on a high level.

That consumer focus is currently lacking in the food delivery sector. A strategic investment in food delivery companies with combined know how transfer and keeping the importance of the end user in mind could really bring food deliveries to the next level. Great for everyone who does not have time to cook a meal every evening!

Apparently the CMA sees this differently. The BBC reports:

But, on Friday, the regulator said Amazon had failed to deal with "initial concerns that their investment in Deliveroo could be bad for customers, restaurants and grocers".
The CMA is worried that Amazon's plans to invest in Deliveroo could stop it from launching a rival company, which would increase competition and potentially lower prices for consumers.

If competition watchdogs now stop any attempt of horizontal integration of companies because they are worried that this would stop the creation of new companies we would open the floodgates of antitrust litigation.

“There are relatively few players in these markets, so we’re concerned that Amazon having this kind of influence over Deliveroo could dampen the emerging competition between the two businesses.”

CMA executive director Andrea Gomes da Silva

Let’s also keep in mind that the meal delivery market is losing hundreds of millions a year in the UK alone. The CMA stopping consolidation of the market will also prevent this sector to turn profitable in the near future – and that could jeopardize the success of this entire industry in Europe.

Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/760546/deliveroo-income-loss/

I really hope that the CMA will listen to consumers that actually use food delivery services and don’t just stick to the old antitrust textbook of an analogue world or the pressure from brick and mortar retailers who might have missed the train of going digital and convenient. A dash of Amazon’s customer-centricity might make me reinstall Deliveroo and use it for good.

For the New Year: Some Fresh Thoughts on How to Tackle High Drug Prices

Some thoughts for 2020 what we need to do in order to tackle high drug prices.

Florida should crack down on frivolous lawsuits, costly verdicts

Lawsuits: A St. Louis jury awarded a record $4.7 billion verdict in a lawsuit in which plaintiffs said Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder caused cancer.

In a time of bitter division in our country, it’s refreshing to see partisan flags fall and elected leaders rally to improve our institutions and make our communities better off and more secure.

In Florida and dozens of other states, that mantra of late has been “criminal-justice reform.”

Florida’s 2019 reforms sought to rehabilitate rather than punish, giving new opportunities to nonviolent offenders who’ve done their time and are ready to transition back into society. That includes training programs and job opportunities, but also more-compassionate treatment of the accused while still providing swift justice to victims.

State lawmakers and activists should be applauded for these steps. But it doesn’t end there.

If we truly want to have a more just and balanced legal system, we’ll also need to address the broken tort system that elevates bad science, rewards unscrupulous lawyers and raises prices for all consumers.

Florida is famous for its billboard advertisements from injury lawyers: “Have you been injured?” Who can forget the injury firm Morgan & Morgan’s ads bearing the face of former governor and current U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist on major interstates?

For years, Florida has ranked highly as having one of the worst legal climates in the country. It even topped the list of “judicial hellholes” in 2017.

Key to these rankings has been Florida’s embrace of awarding exorbitant damages, anti-scientific jury verdicts and sometimes outright bogus lawsuits.

In November, a $5 million class-action lawsuit was filed in Miami by a vegan man upset with Burger King’s “Impossible Whopper,” claiming the company did not disclose that the meat-free patties were “contaminated” by being cooked in close proximity to beef patties.

Cases like these are more common than you may believe. And dozens of websites and newsletters give people opportunities to pick and choose the best class-action lawsuits to “get cash now” — regardless of whether or not they were a victim.

The latest headline-grabber is the billion-dollar nationwide attempt to pin various cancer diagnoses on the makers of baby powder Johnson & Johnson. Plaintiffs and their attorneys claim the company has knowingly sold asbestos-tainted talc in its baby powder for years, even though scientific studies have yet to prove a definite link between modern-day talc and any cancers. The same has been echoed by the American Cancer Society.

That didn’t stop a St. Louis jury from awarding a record $4.7 billion verdict last year, one of the largest in American history. That has only fueled the epidemic of trial lawyers extorting companies and doctors’ offices to get the results they want.

Naturally, the tort courts are an important part of our justice system. And they should be used for those victims who have suffered real harm. But many of these claims do not stand up to the science and end up keeping legitimate victims from ever getting their day in court.

Frivolous lawsuits clog up the system, mislead consumers, and ultimately raise the costs for basically everyone. Now society is plagued with threats of lawsuits and major class actions. That’s not a good status quo, and it must change.

Here are some simple fixes. Let’s define who can actually be a member of a class-action lawsuit. Online sign-ups and promises of quick cash in newsletters aren’t standing for plaintiffs. Capping the amount on exorbitant lawsuits would help avoid costly litigation that amounts to higher prices for consumers. Stricter courtroom rules on what is considered scientific expertise would also help.

Overall, we must use the positive spirit channeled by the criminal-justice reform movement to ask the same of our tort law system. Only then will we get real justice.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 
consumerchoicecenter.org

After another big lawsuit bites the dust, can we admit it’s time for legal reform?

It seems California isn’t so lawsuit crazy after all. Last Monday, Los Angeles jurors announced their ruling in just one of the dozens of lawsuits currently making their way through the courts on baby powder made by Johnson & Johnson. The jury found the company was not at fault for a woman’s mesothelioma diagnosis.

The trial brought forth experts from all stripes who presented their evidence and conclusions on whether the talc used in the baby powder produced by the Philadelphia-based company contained asbestos.

This is one instance in which a jury has sided with the scientific evidence, but that’s not often the case.

We shouldn’t forget that it was a California jury that initially awarded $2 billion to plaintiffs in a case considering whether the glyphosate found in Round-Up made by Monsanto, now a subsidiary of Bayer, caused cancer.

The judge, though, eventually reduced the verdict to $78 million to avoid the “arbitrary award” first conjured up by the tort lawyers. And that’s considering no major national body has deemed glyphosate to be carcinogenic.

In 2016, after the first $72 million verdict against J&J for its baby powder, scientists interviewed post-trial cast doubts on the claim made by the case, specifically because there has yet to be a definite link between modern-day talc and any cancers. The same has been echoed by the American Cancer Society.

But that won’t stop the trial lawyers who now recognize their golden goose. A record $4.7 billion verdict was delivered in Missouri in July 2018 against the pharmaceutical and consumer goods giant, and that’s proved fodder for the legal firms now lining up to cash in. And that’s because a jury has determined these products to be unsafe, rather than regulators and scientific experts. In the eyes of our legal system, juries provide more proof than actual evidence.

And considering the legal fees billed by national law firms, it’s not hard to see why these cases are so lucrative for them.

If you’ve been glued into television at all the last few years, you’ll know that between political ads, dozens of law firms around the country are aggressively soliciting plaintiffs for class-action lawsuits. “Call today, you could be compensated!” “You deserve justice now!”

Websites such as TopClassActions.com purport to “connect consumers to settlements, lawsuits, and attorneys”, and maintain an active log of thousands of open class-action lawsuits that any consumer can click and join. Their daily newsletter highlights potential awards and deadlines and gives top billing to the biggest cases with a low threshold to become a plaintiff.

While such services may be necessary for legitimate harms and victims, we must admit it’s all gotten a bit out of hand.

The tort system was devised as a way to offer justice to those who have been harmed.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 
consumerchoicecenter.org

Urine testing for pesticides: new dodgy science straight out of France

Policy analyst Bill Wirtz says, a new technique of bogus science is making its rounds in Europe — and is setting a problematic precedent for upcoming scientific innovations.

If you’ve never heard of “glyphosate pissers,” then picking up French newspapers will take you on a wild ride. As the glyphosate debate captivatestalking heads in Europe – a saturated amount of activists in lieu of scientists – French environmentalists have taken their assassination of the weedkiller one step further.

Since April 2018, 5,500 farmers have found glyphosate in their urine at levels above the average allowed in drinking water, which is 0.1 na/ml. “Only three participants scored below this average,” a 66-year-old environmentalist activist told the French newspaper Libération. These activists have convinced French farmers that there could potentially be big money in the effort to sue pesticide producers. Nothing could be more appealing than trying to replicate million-dollar lawsuits as those scraped together in the United States.

Over 1,500 complaints of “glyphosate pissers” have been filed for “endangering the lives of others,” “aggravated deception” and “environmental damage”.

A few hundred Euros, the environmentalists who organise these lawsuits say, would cover both the costs of the lab testing “and the presence of a bailiff to certify the results,” since nothing screams unbiased scientific research more than bringing your lawyer to the lab. On its website, the French campaign group “Campagne glyphosate” says that 100% of the tests have tested positive for glyphosate. No risks at all, dear farmers, just sign here.

If the 100% figure rings a bell, then you’d be right in feeling reminded, as Gil Rivière-Wekstein, editor of the French agriculture media outlet “agriculture & environment” points out in an editorial.

In June 2015, the German Green Party had 16 samples of breast milk analysed in Germany, with 100% positive results for glyphosate. The story was in the news across the Rhine, triggering a wave of panic among breastfeeding mothers. Curious.

Shortly after that, 2000 urine samples from German citizens were analysed as part of the “Urinale,” a campaign led by the anti-pesticide association Bürgerinitiative Landwende. This time, 99.6% of the results were positive. So close, yet so far.

In May 2016, the Green Group in the European Parliament had the urine of 48 MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) tested, again with 100% positive results. Shocking.

In March 2017, 27 urine samples were analysed from Danish mothers and children, again with 100% positive results. You get the gist.

Heavily involved in the current tests is a research lab called BioCheck, based in Germany and founded in 1997 by Monika Krüger. Madame Krüger is herself an anti-pesticide activist. Not necessarily the right pre-condition for a sound and objective researcher.

In fact, their results have already been debunked. Remember the 16 samples of breast milk that were 100% contaminated? The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) affirmed that there was no evidence whatsoever that proved that glyphosate levels in breast milk were above the legal limits. The two independent studies that the BhR commissioned were put together in an article for the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. They used liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) or gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (GC-MS/MS) – processes that are, according to the risk assessment institute, 10 times more trustworthy than regular tests for detecting pesticides, and 75 times more trustworthy than those used by BioCheck. 

BioCheck had been employing the ELISA test to reach its conclusions. This enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay is a test that detects and measures antibodies in your blood. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment said that detecting glyphosate in itself is a fundamentally complicated endeavour, and that the ELISA is not an adequate way of going about finding it. Marcel Kuntz, Research Director at the CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique) in Grenoble, also confirms that ELISA not an accurate test to detect pesticides.

That’s probably why BioCheck charged a mere €75 for their urine tests. You always get what you pay for.

Headlines like “Results of Glyphosate Pee Test Are in ‘And It’s Not Good News” have already been written and published, without retraction, so what’s the big deal? The problem is that we are looking at a thorough perversion of the scientific method. 

In easy swipes, years of technological innovation in agriculture are thrown overboard for the convenience of political ideologues. We know that glyphosate is safe: when looking through the scientific literature, we see that it is a herbicide that is safe to use, and necessary for modern agriculture. Scare stories about “toxic residues” in our body are supposed to make us anxious and suspicious, with unfortunate success. Many governments are succumbing to the pressure, and have introduced bans products at the expense of both farmers and consumers.

To these activists, re-considering more exhaustive testing isn’t of interest. They would rather pursue fanatic unproven convictions for special interests to use in the world of lawsuits. That’s a shame.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 
consumerchoicecenter.org

Le BREXIT une chance pour la science britannique ?

Science: Avec la victoire triomphale de Boris Johnson, le Royaume-Uni se dirige irrémédiablement vers une sortie de l’Union européenne. Alors que certains scientifiques britanniques semblent catastrophés, d’autres y voient une opportunité pour plus de liberté.

Scientists for EU est une association militante de scientifiques britanniques fondée en 2015 par Mike Galsworthy (1) et Rob Davidson dans l’optique de faire campagne pour maintenir le Royaume-Uni dans l’UE. Sur leur site internet (2), ils n’hésitent pas à annoncer la couleur : « La science est vitale pour l’économie et la qualité de vie du Royaume-Uni. La science est également au cœur des défis sociaux mondiaux auxquels nous sommes tous confrontés. Nous pensons que nous pouvons faire beaucoup plus de bien pour le Royaume-Uni et le monde au sein de l’UE. »

Malgré la victoire du camp des brexiters, ils continuent de faire campagne et n’ont d’ailleurs pas perdu espoir dans leur cause. Ainsi, sur leur page Facebook, on trouve un mème moquant le Premier ministre Boris Johnson essayant de faire rentrer une « cheville carrée dans un trou de forme ronde » symbolisant ainsi sa tentative de réaliser le Brexit.

Dans la lettre (3) qu’ils avaient publiée dans le Times de 2015, on pouvait lire « Il n’est pas suffisamment connu du public, que l’UE est un trésor pour la science et l’innovation du Royaume-Uni. La liberté de mouvement pour le talent et les ambitieux programmes de financement pour la recherche qui soutiennent la collaboration internationale, mettent le Royaume-Uni dans une position de leader mondial. Ceci a des conséquences sur l’éducation, la formation, les petites entreprises innovantes et le futur de notre économie ». La lettre insiste également sur l’expérience positive qui découle de la collaboration étroite avec la communauté scientifique de l’UE. En conséquence , les signataires renouvellent leur soutien à l’Union, sa direction scientifique et son adhésion à l’UE… On trouve des signataires prestigieux comme l’astronome Lord Rees of Ludlow, Tom Blundell, président du Science Council et co-fondateur d’Astex Therapeutics, Sir Paul Nurse, prix Nobel de physiologie et médecine et Andrea Taroni, éditeur en chef de Nature Physics… pour n’en citer que quelques-uns. Hélas, il ne semble pas que cette initiative ait été entendue des Britanniques ; une question se pose alors sur les conséquences pour la science britannique du Brexit à venir et également pour la science UE.

UN FINANCEMENT PERDANT ?

Au début de l’année 2019, Paul Nurse, un prix Nobel de génétique, a soutenu que le Brexit serait un désastre pour la science britannique (4). Qu’en est-il ? Sur Brexit Myths, un site qui passe en revue les arguments pour et contre le Brexit, on trouve une analyse d’une tribune du Guardian de Matthew Freeman, membre de Scientists for EU, qui affirme que le Royaume-Uni ne peut pas se permettre de perdre la réserve d’argent que représente le financement scientifique de l’UE. La thèse de Freeman étant que l’UE « paie directement une grande partie de la recherche et de l’innovation au Royaume-Uni ; et parce que la science en Grande-Bretagne est performante, il y a un gain financier et scientifique net. » (5) D’après lui, le Royaume-Uni percevrait davantage qu’il contribuerait. Les auteurs du blog remarquent alors que ces sommes évoquées sont insignifiantes par rapport au fait que les Britanniques font partie des plus gros contributeurs au budget de l’UE avec 11,3 milliards de livres et que pour de tels montants le pays pourrait mieux lui-même servir ses propres scientifiques (6).

On conçoit que la question du financement de la recherche représente aujourd’hui un enjeu stratégique. Surtout pour ce qui concerne les projets qui nécessitent des efforts colossaux et où les pays pris individuellement n’ont pas les budgets disponibles. On pense notamment à la recherche spatiale, à l’IA ou encore à la recherche militaire dont les budgets récemment ont battu des records. La question se pose également du devenir de la participation britannique à Horizon Europe, le plan censé prendre la suite d’Horizon 2020, et pour lequel l’UE prévoit d’engager 100 milliards d’euros pour la R&D. Une solution évoquée prévoit que les britanniques deviennent partenaires d’Horizon Europe, mais cela n’est pas garanti. Et il est également envisagé que le gouvernement britannique finance lui-même une transition. Notamment pour les chercheurs dont les travaux à ce jour dépendent de fonds européens. Aussi, si le partenariat avec Horizon Europe n’était pas concrétisé, un rapport (7) prévoit la mise en place d’un programme phare (flagship) de bourses de recherche semblable à celui du Conseil Européen de Recherche, reconnu comme efficace. Reid, un des auteurs du rapport, affirme que la version britannique proposerait « des subventions plus importantes, une durée plus longue et une supervision par les pairs plus rigoureuse ». Une autre idée suggérée consisterait à attirer des chercheurs du monde entier.

On le voit, la question du financement trouble la communauté scientifique britannique, jusque sur la page d’accueil du site de l’incontournable Royal Society : « La Royal Society s’efforce d’obtenir les meilleurs résultats pour la recherche et l’innovation au travers des négociations sur le Brexit et de soutenir les relations continues et d’en créer de nouvelles en Europe et au-delà. » (8)

DES SCIENTIFIQUES LIBÉRÉS DE LEUR CARCAN ?

Et pourtant, les scientifiques britanniques ne sont pas tous des « remainers ». Certains d’entre eux vont même jusqu’à se réjouir de la situation. C’est le cas de Matt Ridley, auteur scientifique à succès, par exemple, qui vient d’intituler une de ses chroniques pour le Times, « L’aversion absurde de l’UE pour le risque étouffe de nouvelles idées » (9). Après avoir affirmé qu’une régulation excessive avait pour conséquence de supprimer les avantages qu’apportaient les nouvelles technologies pour la santé et l’environnement et les politiques protectionnistes, il compare la réglementation de l’UE et celle de l’Organisation Mondiale du Commerce.
Selon lui, le problème de l’Union est qu’elle se base sur le « danger », alors que celle de l’OMC considère le risque global présenté par un produit (10) . En raison de ce distinguo, certaines autorisations sont plus difficiles à obtenir. Tout ceci étant la conséquence de l’adoption d’une version forte du principe de précaution à la suite du traité de Lisbonne. Selon lui, ceci a pour conséquence de créer d’énormes différences avec les standards scientifiques mondialement acceptés et créer des obstacles à l’innovation : « de manière assez ironique, l’application du principe de précaution rendra impossible le développement de certaines technologies qui peuvent améliorer la santé humaine, l’environnement et promouvoir la biodiversité. » Le chroniqueur évoque le cas de l’agriculture européenne, par exemple, où on veut interdire le glyphosate et faire la promotion d’agriculture bio qui emploie des pesticides plus nocifs pour l’environnement. De même l’UE a une réglementation des plus strictes sur les OGM elle l’a transposée récemment aux organismes obtenus par CRISPR.

On comprendra alors que la réglementation UE pénalise la recherche et le développement de solutions technologiques au sein des états membres. Nous nous étions interrogés, il y a peu de temps, sur le fait que l’UE exporte les peurs et doive importer les bénéfices du progrès . Du coup on peut imaginer qu’en quittant ce « corset » les scientifiques britanniques vont pouvoir retrouver une liberté perdue et rejoindre la compétition de la scène scientifique mondiale. Ainsi, comme le remarque Maria Chaplia du Consumer Choice Center, « si le Royaume-Uni choisit de s’éloigner de ces réglementations typiques de l’UE à la suite du Brexit, il pourrait devenir une puissance biotechnologique mondiale tournée vers l’avenir (…). L’approbation de cultures GM résistantes aux ravageurs, par exemple, pourrait économiser environ 60 millions de livres sterling (79 $ millions) par an d’utilisation de pesticides au Royaume-Uni. » (11) Ce qui permettrait un gain considérable pour le consommateur britannique. On peut imaginer que cela peut s’appliquer à bon nombre d’innovations.

La science britannique sortira-t-elle grandie du Brexit ? L’avenir le dira. En attendant, les scientifiques britanniques qui voudraient continuer d’échanger sur la politique scientifique et témoigner de leur expérience restent toujours les bienvenus sur European Scientist.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 
consumerchoicecenter.org


(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Galsworthy
(2) http://www.scientistsforeu.uk/about
(3) https://twitter.com/Scientists4EU/status/601811591802269696/photo/1
(4)  https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00694-w
(5)  The EU “directly pays for much UK research and innovation; and because Britain is scientifically outstanding, there is a net financial as well as scientific gain.”, in https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2015/may/13/eu-science-funding-the-uk-cannot-afford-to-lose-out-on-this-pot-of-money
(6) The sums involved in Professor Freeman’s science grants pale into insignificance against this figure, from which a substantial quantity of money could be taken to fund British science after Brexit. https://brexitmyths.wordpress.com/2015/05/29/brexit-myth-britain-cannot-afford-to-lose-eu-science-funding/
(7) https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03444-0
(8) https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/brexit-uk-science/
(9) https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-eus-absurd-risk-aversion-stifles-new-ideas-z7wffs0bc
(10) « The problem is that the EU, unlike the rest of the world, bases its regulations on “hazard”, the possibility that a chemical could conceivably cause, say, cancer, even if only at impossibly high doses. WTO rules by contrast require a full “risk” analysis that takes into account likely exposure. Coffee, apples, pears, lettuce, bread and many other common foods that are part of a healthy diet contain entirely natural molecules that at high enough doses would be carcinogenic. Alcohol, for instance, is a known carcinogen at very high doses, though perfectly safe in moderation. The absurdity of the EU approach can be seen in the fact that if wine were sprayed on vineyards as a pesticide, it would have to be banned under a hazard-based approach. », ibid.
(11) https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2019/12/11/viewpoint-conservatives-say-uk-could-break-from-outdated-eu-gmo-crispr-regulations-if-they-sweep-brexit-election/

The Deep State Will Challenge the New FDA Head

FDA

If we are to realize the kind of aggressive, innovation-promoting deregulation called for by President Trump, Stephen Hahn (FDA) will need to disrupt the agency’s built-in bias for overregulation.

Now that the Trump Administration’s new FDA commissioner, Dr. Stephen Hahn, has been confirmed, he’ll find he has one of the most difficult and important jobs in government. The FDA’s purview is wide, regulating pharmaceutical and other medical, food, and vaping products that account for more than 25 cents of every consumer dollar, over a trillion dollars annually.

Government regulation offers some reassurance to the public, to be sure, but when it is wrong-headed or merely fails to be cost-effective, it actually costs lives—directly by withholding life-saving and life-enhancing products, and also indirectly by diverting societal resources to gratuitous regulatory compliance.

Dr. Hahn is inheriting an organization that is huge, critical, and dysfunctional. The stakes are high. For example, FDA has pushed the average cost (including out-of-pocket expenses and opportunity costs) to bring a new drug to market to over $2.5 billion. That ensures that many new drugs will have a hefty price tag, and that others will never be developed at all.

Putting FDA on the right track will require toughness and discipline at an agency where more than 99.9 percent of the employees are civil servants who cannot be fired even for incompetence or insubordination. (Did we hear someone mutter, “deep state?”)

Government regulators have vast power and wide discretion; unfortunately, the incentives that guide them are perverse.

The late, great economist Milton Friedman observed that to gain insight into the motivation of an individual or organization, look for the self-interest. So, where does the self-interest of regulators lie? Not necessarily in serving the public interest, alas, but in expanded responsibilities, bigger budgets and grander bureaucratic empires for themselves.

Former FDA Commissioner Frank E. Young once quipped that “dogs bark, cows moo, and regulators regulate.” Consistent with that propensity, FDA has sometimes exceeded its congressional mandate. Regulators have concocted additional criteria for marketing approval of a new drug—above and beyond the statutory requirements for demonstrating safety and efficacy—that could inflict significant damage on both patients and pharmaceutical companies.

For example, they have arbitrarily demanded that a new drug be superior to existing therapies, although the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act requires only a demonstration of safety and efficacy. And Phase 4 (postmarketing) studies are now routine, whereas the FDA used to reserve them for rare situations, as when there were subpopulations of patients for whom data were insufficient at the time of approval.

The effects of FDA regulators’ self-serving actions range from the creation of disincentives to research and development (which inflates their costs) to significant threats to public health, such as the years-long delay in approval of a much-needed meningitis B vaccine.

Another egregious example of the impact of excessive risk-aversion is the sorry saga of a drug called pirfenidone, used to treat a pulmonary disorder called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), which used to kill tens of thousands of Americans annually. The FDA unnecessarily delayed approval of the drug for years, although it had already been marketed in Europe, Japan, Canada, and China. During the delay, more than 150,000 patients died of IPF in the United States, many of whom could have benefited from the drug.

Many years of fat budgets have enabled the FDA to waste resources. In 2017, for example, the agency sought public comments about its use of focus groups, claiming they “provide an important role in gathering information because they allow for a more in-depth understanding of patients’ and consumers’ attitudes, beliefs, motivations, and feelings.” FDA officials seem to have forgotten that their mission is to make science-based decisions—primarily about product safety, efficacy, and quality—as expeditiously as possible, whatever the public’s beliefs, motivations, and feelings may be.

A particularly dubious policy is the FDA self-declared jurisdiction over all “genetically engineered” animals. Subsequently, the agency then took more than 20 years to approve the first one—an obviously benign, fast-growing salmon—and then made a colossal mess of the five-year review of a single field trial of a mosquito to control the mosquitoes that transmit the Zika, yellow fever, dengue fever, and chikungunya viruses. Eventually, the FDA relinquished jurisdiction over that mosquito and other animals with pesticidal properties to the EPA, where they belong.

We need structural, policy, management, and cultural changes that create incentives for FDA to regulate in a way that is evidence-based and imposes the minimum burden possible. A number of possible approaches and remedies to accomplish that have been described, ranging from radical to more conservative.

Significant legislative changes, or even meaningful congressional oversight, would go a long way toward reining in an agency so culturally invested in more regulation. But political realities make this unlikely anytime soon.

If we are to realize the kind of aggressive, innovation-promoting deregulation called for by President Trump, Hahn will need to disrupt the agency’s built-in bias for overregulation.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 
consumerchoicecenter.org

Germany’s Uber ban is bad for consumers and the environment

Today a court in Frankfurt effectively banned Uber in all of Germany. The company Taxi Deutschland, a licensed taxi app, went to court arguing that Uber requires a license. The court agreed with Taxi Deutschland’s interpretation of the legal situation.

For the last couple of years, Uber was able to operate in Germany by working with subcontractors that complied with the German rental car and chauffeur services regulations. That law also mandates the driver to drive back to a dispatching station after every single ride. This is of course not just expensive but also terrible for the environment and just adds additional cars to already congested roads. The plaintiff was able to prove that many Uber drivers do not drive back empty to their dispatching station but keep picking up passengers. While this is good news for the environment, roads, and passengers, it is bad legal news for Uber. Policy makers should realize that this is an outdated regulation and update it according to the realities of many consumers preferring Ubers to licensed taxis.

Uber entered the German market in 2013 and for the last six years politicians kept complaining about Uber not being fully compliant with German laws. Updating these outdated, anti-competitive, and unecological laws did somehow not happen. Instead of legislative changes we see the old-school taxi lobby pushing their special interest successfully through German courts.

The court in Frankfurt also questions whether Uber is merely a platform connecting drivers with passengers or actually the provider of the ride. A spokesperson of the court said that consumers are not aware of Uber being merely a platform. One can only assume that the judges have never used an Uber as to everyone who was in an Uber and had a conversation with their driver it is pretty obvious that the drivers and independent contractors and not employees of Uber.

No one is forced to use an Uber!

In the heated debate about whether ride hailing services such as Uber or Lyft should be banned many people suggest that they aren’t safe as the drivers are not licensed taxi drivers. And while there are definitely black sheep among Uber drivers one can at least be assured to be GPS-tracked during the entire ride and one can give feedback to Uber about bad behavior. More important is that the dimension of choice does not appear in the debate at all: No one is forced to use an Uber. So those who dislike Uber should just not use their services and keep walking, cycling, or taking a cash-only overpriced and smelling Taxi. But those who prefer to use the Ubers of the world should be allowed to choose as well.

Fighting for consumer choice since Summer 2014

I was probably one of the first Uber customers when they started in Berlin. I just loved that I didn’t need to have cash on me and usually spent 30% less than in a yellow cab. When in Summer 2014 taxi drivers all over Europe went on a symbolic strike against the new competition from Uber, two friends of mine and I took an Uber (and paid it out of our own pockets) to the taxi manifestation in front of the olympic stadium in Berlin. We countered the 1,000 taxi drivers protesting by endorsing competition and made some headlines that day.

On the other side you can clearly see that some taxi drivers weren’t happy at all about consumers fighting for their right to choose. Just look at this very angry driver:

The fact that there were literally no consumer groups that stood up for customers like us who wanted to be able to choose between Uber and taxis was one of the reasons why we went on and several years later started the Consumer Choice Center.

There are many outdated regulations that don’t reflect consumer preferences and just serve special interests. In cases like Uber bans this is not just bad for consumer choice but also for the environment and traffic. 

My big appeal to German politicians is to update legislation and create a solid framework in which innovative companies such as Uber and Lyft can compete with legacy industries such as licensed taxis. Or as we say in German: Macht die Bahn frei für Wahlfreiheit im Taximarkt!


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 
consumerchoicecenter.org

What NZ can learn from Canada’s cannabis experiment

New Zealand and Canada, despite being 13,000 kilometres apart, have a lot in common. Both countries are small in terms of population, punch above their weight economically, and are politically compassionate.

If New Zealand is to succeed where Canada has failed in legalising cannabis, it needs to create a more consumer-friendly regulatory regime, says Clement.

If New Zealand votes to legalise cannabis in 2020, that will be one more similarity that these two Commonwealth countries will share.

The draft policy positions for New Zealand’s cannabis referendum have been released, and for the most part, they mirror what Canada has done for recreational cannabis legalisation.

As a Canadian, I can tell you that legalising cannabis is the right thing to do. I can also say that New Zealand should avoid the regulatory approach that Canada took.

There are several mistakes that Canada made which New Zealand should steer clear of replicating.

The first major one is the failure to differentiate between THC products and non-intoxicating CBD products.

The draft policy positions state that any product produced from the cannabis plant is to be considered a cannabis product. This puts CBD products that are not intoxicating on par with THC products that are.

If New Zealand is to succeed where Canada has failed in legalising cannabis, it needs to create a more consumer-friendly regulatory regime, says Clement.

Following what Canada has done fails to regulate based on a continuum of risk, and runs against the New Zealand Government’s goal of harm reduction.

If the Government cares about minimising harm, it shouldn’t regulate non-intoxicating low-risk products the same way as intoxicating psychoactive ones. Harm reduction should mean making the least harmful products more available, not less available.

The second major mistake in the draft policy positions is the ban on all cannabis advertising. This proposal takes Canada’s very paternalistic advertising laws and exceeds them.

Complete marketing and advertising bans for legal cannabis products are misguided for two reasons. The first is that they are wildly inconsistent with how New Zealand treats other age-restricted goods, such as alcohol. Alcohol has a much higher risk profile when compared to cannabis, but does not have such strict advertising rules.

The second reason is that a complete ban fails to properly understand the role marketing has in moving consumers over from the black market. Modest forms of marketing allow for the legal market to attract existing consumers, who are buying cannabis illegally, into the legal framework.

Legal cannabis accounts for only about 20 per cent of all cannabis consumed in Canada, and that is in large part because the legal industry is handcuffed by regulations that stop them attracting consumers from the black market.

For purchases, and a personal carry limit, the proposed policy is that no New Zealander be allowed to purchase more than 14g of cannabis a day, and that no-one should exceed carrying more than 14g on their person in public. This is extreme when compared to Canada’s 30g limit, and inconsistent when compared to alcohol, which has no purchase or personal limit. It is reasonable to assume that the people criminalised by this arbitrary limit will be the same who were most harmed by prohibition: the marginalised.

Lastly are the policies on potency and taxation. The Government wants to establish a THC potency limit for cannabis products, which is understandable.

That said, whatever the limit is, the Government should avoid setting it too low. If the limit is excessively low, consumers are likely to smoke more to get their desired THC amount. That runs directly against the Government’s harm reduction approach. Secondly, if the limit is too low, it creates a clear signal for black-market actors that there is a niche to fill.

It is important to keep taxation modest, so that pricing can be competitive between the legal and illegal markets. Canada’s onerous excise, sales, and regional taxes can increase the price of legal cannabis by upwards of 29 per cent.

Poor tax policy in Canada is in large part why legal cannabis can be more than 50 per cent more expensive than black-market alternatives. Incentivising consumers to stay in the black market hurts consumer safety, and cuts the Government out of tax revenue entirely.

New Zealand is on the right path regarding cannabis legalisation, but it is important that regulators learn lessons from Canada’s process. For the sake of harm reduction, and stamping out the black market, it is vital that New Zealand has a consumer-friendly regulatory regime, one that specifically avoids, and not replicates, the mistakes made in Canada.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 
consumerchoicecenter.org

After Brexit, let’s embrace gene editing

EU rules are killing vital innovation in biotech.

After Brexit, let’s embrace gene editing

Virus-resistant tomato, disease-resistant ricestem-cell treatment for paralysis, for heart disease, for spinal-chord injury and even for cornea repair — these are just some of the many innovations made possible through gene editing.

Canada has created permissive rules for these technologies, as has Japan, where scientists are working night and day to find therapeutic treatments that root out cancer and the Zika virus.

In Europe, however, the prospects are bleak. Bureaucrats and politicians are stifling the speed with which scientists can make breakthroughs available to consumers and patients. Granted, wealthy elites will always be able to fly to Tokyo or the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to get treatments. But for Brits who cannot afford this, we need laws and regulations that will allow for the research and development of innovative treatments.

Gene editing is effectively banned throughout the EU. The slightest word in favour of innovative technologies such as CRISPR (a prominent genome-editing technology) gets you yelled at by politicians and EU-funded NGOs alike. With Brexit on the horizon, the UK has a unique opportunity to embrace innovation.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel on the continent. At the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) in Berlin next month, approximately 70 ministers of agriculture from around the world intend to adopt a communiqué about the global direction of agriculture. The hope is that these delegates will recognise the value in technologies like gene editing. In Germany, some green activists like the Youth Greens seem to be waking up to the problem. Several activists have warned that strict regulation makes the application of gene technologies more expensive, meaning only big corporates can afford it.

However, we cannot rely on what happens internationally. Britain has an obligation to its citizens to allow scientists to develop new cures and new foods for the 21st century. Brexit offers a unique opportunity to rethink biotech regulations as we break away from the EU’s anti-science dogma. We cannot let Britain lag behind in global innovation.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 
consumerchoicecenter.org

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