Month: November 2020

Pennsylvania State Health Department Held A Virtual Summit Addressing The Risks Of Vaping

Vaping was the subject of a virtual public health summit put on by tobacco control NGOs and the state government.

The Departments of Health and Drug and Alcohol Programs collaborated under the leadership of state Secretary of Health Rachel Levine. Levine serves under Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

“Thousands across Pennsylvania fall victim to the strategically marketed tobacco and vaping products and are unaware of the significant health impacts such as nicotine addiction and lung associated injuries,” Levine, who is a board-certified medical doctor, said. “I am proud to see experts, advocacy groups, and local authorities come together to discuss challenges and find opportunities to address the vaping epidemic.”

According to a review of the event published by the state government, the vaping summit featured several experts in many fields to offer information and updates on the advocacy, health, and policy work done to curtail the vaping epidemic in the state.

Speakers from the American Lung Association, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh, and the City of Philadelphia’s public health department.

As far as we can tell, no harm reduction presentations were presented. While the event was certainly worthwhile, there’s concern among smoke-free product and tobacco harm reduction advocates that the presentations were single-minded and failed to discuss the potential for alternatives and other consumer-facing harm minimization strategies.

We at Vaping Post also wish to highlight that this event was supported with funds provided by the state, and the American Lung Association, the Pennsylvania Alliance to Control Tobacco, and the state-level NGO, TRU (a.k.a, Tobacco Resistance Unit).

The Consumer Choice Center, a center-right policy think tank, published a whitepaper that indexed the status of vaping in all 50 states in the United States. To rank each state, the center created a weighted scoring system that considers regulations like flavor restrictions, nicotine and tobacco taxes, and the ability to sell vapor products online.

Regulations are additionally assessed based on how stringent they are, including rules and policies that are already promulgated by the Food and Drug Administration and other federal and state public health agencies. According to the state’s point system, 0 to 10 points received gives a state an “F” grade. 11 to 20 points is a “C” grade. States with scores between 21 and 30 have received an “A” grade.

Pennsylvania, based on the Consumer Choice Center’s vaping index, is rated with a “C” grade.

Originally published here.

POUR PLUS D’ACCÈS AUX SOINS, RÉDUISONS LA TVA À ZÉRO SUR LES MÉDICAMENTS !

Alors que les Européens sont confrontés à une crise de santé publique, il serait nécessaire d’accroître l’accessibilité des médicaments en supprimant la TVA sur les biens les plus essentiels.

La pandémie de Covid-19 a remis à l’ordre du jour la politique de santé des décideurs européens. Avant l’épidémie, l’Europe était engagée dans un débat sur le prix des médicaments, mais cela n’intéressait que les échelons supérieurs des institutions politiques.

Les entreprises pharmaceutiques sont souvent blâmées, de même que le manque de transparence des prix. Un examen plus approfondi des coûts des médicaments montre cependant que l’une des principales causes de ces coûts élevés est la taxe sur les ventes de médicaments.

Les patients informés savent que tous les pays européens, sauf un, appliquent la TVA sur les médicaments en vente libre et les médicaments délivrés sur ordonnance. L’Allemagne impose jusqu’à 19% de TVA sur les médicaments, tandis que le Danemark se classe en tête, avec des taux de 25%, soit un cinquième du prix total d’un médicament !

La France applique un taux relativement faible de 2,1% de TVA sur les médicaments remboursables et 10% sur ceux qui ne sont pas remboursables.

Et chez les autres ?

Il n’y a qu’un seul pays qui ne perçoit pas de TVA sur les médicaments délivrés sur ordonnance ou en vente libre : il s’agit de l’île de Malte. Le Luxembourg (3%) et l’Espagne (4%) montrent également que les taux modestes de TVA sur les médicaments ne sont pas une idée folle, mais quelque chose dont des millions d’Européens bénéficient déjà.

La Suède et le Royaume-Uni appliquent tous deux un taux de TVA de 0% sur les médicaments délivrés sur ordonnance, mais de 25% et 20% respectivement sur les médicaments en vente libre.

Il est évident que l’un des principaux obstacles à un meilleur accès aux médicaments est la politique fiscale inadéquate de certains Etats membres de l’Union européenne (UE).

La TVA à 0% partout ?

Lorsque les autorités discutent de l’accès aux soins, il serait intéressant qu’elles se penchent sur ce problème dont elles sont les seules responsables avant de parler de l’érosion des droits de propriété intellectuelle ou de l’influence des grandes sociétés pharmaceutiques sur la fixation des prix.

C’est particulièrement le cas des médicaments délivrés sur ordonnance ou les médicaments contre le cancer qui peuvent atteindre des niveaux de prix substantiels avec des taux de TVA allant jusqu’à 25%. De telles taxes pèsent lourdement sur les patients et leur assurance-maladie.

En ce qui concerne les médicaments délivrés sur ordonnance, il n’est guère judicieux de commencer par appliquer une taxe sur la valeur ajoutée, puis de laisser les compagnies d’assurance-maladie nationales payer la note.

Pour les médicaments en vente libre, les décideurs politiques sont aveuglés par l’idée que le simple fait qu’ils ne soient pas prescrits par les médecins en fait des biens secondaires et non-essentiels.

De nombreux médicaments en vente libre, qu’il s’agisse de médicaments contre les maux de tête, les brûlures d’estomac, les remèdes respiratoires ou les crèmes dermatologiques, ne sont pas seulement des médicaments indispensables pour des millions d’Européens ; ils font souvent office de soins préventifs. Plus nous taxons ces produits, plus nous accablons les médecins de visites non essentielles.

A l’instar de Malte, les pays européens devraient abaisser leur taux de TVA à 0% sur tous les médicaments. Le but de la TVA est de réduire l’activité commerciale, en s’assurant que toutes les transactions commerciales paient ce qui est considéré comme leur juste part. Cela permet de toucher également les entreprises qui ne paient traditionnellement pas d’impôts sur les sociétés.

Cependant, considérer la vente de médicaments comme une transaction purement commerciale, du point de vue des patients, est une erreur. Des millions de citoyens ont besoin chaque jour de médicaments spécifiques délivrés sur ordonnance, et d’autres comptent sur l’aide de médicaments en vente libre pour soulager la douleur ou traiter des problèmes qui ne nécessitent pas de soins médicaux professionnels.

Il est temps que les nations européennes se mettent d’accord sur un accord contraignant de TVA zéro sur les médicaments ou au moins sur un plafond de 5%, ce qui permettrait de réduire drastiquement les prix des médicaments, d’accroître l’accessibilité aux soins et de créer une Europe plus juste.

Originally published here.

Vapor Advocacy Groups Want California Flavor Ban Repealed

California queen palms

Three e-cigarette advocacy groups are asking California State General Assembly to repeal the state’s ban on flavored vaping products. The group’s leaders say an estimated 900,000 former smokers in California could be forced to switch back to smoking if the bill (CA SB793) is not overturned by referendum or repealed.

“Unless California lawmakers want to force hundreds of thousands of vapers back to smoking, they need to reconsider this flavor ban,” said Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association (AVA). “While voting for bans may make legislators feel righteous, the reality is that prohibition is failed public policy and never works for adult consumer products.”

The World Vapers’ Alliance (WVA), Consumer Choice Center (CCC) and the AVA, which combined represent hundreds of thousands of consumers, sent a letter today to members of the California State Assembly members urging them to repeal the flavored tobacco ban bill in California to avoid pushing vapers back to combustible cigarettes.

“Instead of improving public health by reducing the number of smokers, this law will have the opposite effect: more people smoking again,” said Yaël Ossowski, deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center. “Moreover, these measures will push people into the illegal market and will also have a disproportionate impact on people of color, who overwhelmingly prefer flavored products and would suffer the most from criminalization and over-policing in our local communities.”

California joins Massachusetts as the two states having flavored vaping bans, though each have unique exemptions to the laws. In Massachusetts, businesses defined as “smoking bars” are still able to sell flavored vaping and tobacco products.The ban goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

“Gavin Newsom’s plan will have disastrous consequences and he is celebrating a victory for public health,” said Michael Landl, director of the World Vapers’ Alliance. “More than 900,000 vapers in California could switch back to smoking due to the ban. Either Governor Newsom is poorly informed about the unintended consequences prohibition always generates or he is just an anti-vaping crusader.”

The bill prohibits a vape shop owner or tobacco retailer, or any of those entities retailer’s agents or employees, from selling, offering for sale, or possessing with the intent to sell or offer for sale, a flavored tobacco product or a tobacco product flavor enhancer, subjecting them to a fine of $250 for each violation. It also allows local governments to impose greater restrictions on the access to tobacco products than the bill imposes.

Originally published here.

A plastics ban will only make the pandemic consumer pinch worse

Plastic bags, stir sticks, straws, cutlery, six-pack rings and certain takeout containers — the six single-use plastic items that the Trudeau government is going to ban is a short list but the consequences of this policy will be long-lasting.

On the surface, banning these items may seem like a small step, but the government’s proposal uses Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), which means plastics would be improperly classified as “toxic” substances.

Let that sink in. The plastics we’ve used for months to wrap our takeout food, have items safely shipped to our doorsteps, and provide a barrier between health-care workers and the COVID-19 virus through N95 masks are now, according to the Canadian government, going to appear on a list of toxic substances.But we all know plastics aren’t toxic—they’re the opposite of a harmful or dangerous substance, something Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson admitted himself when the announcement was made in October. Nevertheless, regardless of what Minister Wilkinson’s intentions are, with this new classification “consumers would assume that every day and essential products that contain plastic are now toxic,” as noted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

So why is the government using Schedule 1 of CEPA? Because it provides the quickest and easiest pathway to product bans. There are effectively no hurdles ahead, and the Canadian government is running, and running fast.

The comment period on the federal government’s discussion paper, which outlines its plans broadly, closes on Dec. 9, providing industry, trade partners, and, most importantly, everyday Canadians a mere 60 days to provide comments – the bare minimum for a federal proposal of this nature.

This unilateral approach the government is taking could have broad ramifications that could actually undermine its policy goals and hurt consumers – not just in Canada, but also in the United States.

First and foremost, the federal government will not have to consult anyone if and when they decide to add new plastics products to this list down the line. That can mean anything from bottle caps to IV bags to car bumpers.

While it’s not necessarily clear what will be banned next, it’s certainly clear who will be bearing the financial burden of using plastic alternatives: consumers. Product bans require businesses to incur new costs for alternative products, and those costs are always passed on to consumers through higher prices.And the timing is particularly challenging given that consumers are already facing price increases in their daily lives. For example, as a result of an estimated 300 to 400 grocery stores closing in the coming year due to economic challenges, consumers will need to spend 5% to 7% more on groceries. During this critical moment the government should not enact measures that only magnify these burdens.

It’s also important to note that many alternatives to plastics have worse environmental impacts than those plastic products themselves. That can be for a number of reasons, including the weight of a product, which is an important factor when considering shipments of goods and the subsequent emissions, or the production and manufacturing of products themselves. Nonetheless, the government needs to slow down and conduct a more critical scientific assessment of the alternatives.

Ultimately, plastic waste is a problem that needs to be managed – both in Canada and abroad. Unfortunately, the Government’s approach to plastic completely forgoes the management side of waste management, and instead opts for banning entire product classes. Those impacted the most by this poorly timed and heavy handed ban will be you and I, who are simply consumers trying to safely navigate our way through this pandemic.

Originally published here.

Die E-Zigarette als “Einstiegsdroge ins Rauchen”? Ein entlarvter Mythos

Das Schreckensbild, welches die Nikotingegner von der E-Zigarette beschwören: Jugendliche probieren das Dampfen aus und landen automatisch bei den krebserregenden klassischen Zigaretten. Auch wenn es nicht stimmt: Behaupten kann man es ja mal und mit vielen Wiederholungen wird’s vielleicht doch wahr ...

Eine neue Studie entkräftet den Mythos, dass jugendliche und erwachsene Nichtraucher über das Dampfen zum Rauchen verführt werden.

Die World Vapers Alliance und das Consumer Choice Center haben in der Meta-Studie „Vaping and the Gateway Myth“ den gängigen Vorwurf, Dampfen würde Jugendliche zum Rauchen verführen, widerlegt.

Niedrige Raucherquote dank E-Zigaretten

Länder wie die USA, Kanada und das Vereinigte Königreich verzeichnen historische Tiefstände ihrer Raucherquoten – in den USA sank diese von 21 % im Jahr 2005 auf 14 % in 2018. 2018 führte der US National Acacedemies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Report an, dass die Raucherquote deutlich stärker gesunken sei, seit sich der E-Zigaretten-Konsum weit verbreitete.

Gateway? Nonsense

Auch der Leiter der WHO-Krebsforschungs-Agentur, Joachim Schüz, stellte im Februar 2020 vor dem Europaparlament fest: „E-Zigaretten sind in keiner Weise so schädlich wie Tabakzigaretten und können schweren Rauchern beim Rauchstopp helfen. Die Eignung von E-Zigaretten als Entwöhnungswerkzeug ist gut belegt, zudem wenden sie sich dezidiert an Raucher. Die häufigen Anschuldigungen, E-Zigaretten wären ein Türöffner ins Rauchen, entbehren jeder Grundlage.“

Dazu stellten Colin Mendelsohn und Wayne Hall in ihrer im Journal of Drug Policy veröffentlichten Arbeit fest, dass zumindest 70–85 Prozent aller Jugendlichen, welche das Dampfen ausprobieren, zuvor auch schon Raucher waren. Die Autoren resümieren: „Im starken Gegensatz zur Gateway-Hypothese scheint das Dampfen einen Teil dieser Jugendlichen vom deutlich riskanteren Rauchen abzubringen.“

Originally published here.

November 2020

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It’s November, time to be thankful!


Hi there *|FNAME|*,

Hunkered down, quarantined, or super productive in home office, I hope you’re receiving this newsletter with some measure of delight!

For our team, we’re used to being on the road at this time: testifying before some government committee, meeting new partners and allies, or presenting our research to a group of journalists at a press conference. But alas…


Here are some of the latest and greatest from my colleagues at Consumer Choice Center. We’re thankful for you, your attention, and your belief in our mission.

U.S Elections

The US elections are (finally) (somewhat) over but our struggle for smarter consumer policies is far from done. While the role of social media played a crucial part in the election and was highly debated, I penned an article making the case for how NOT to respond to actions social networks must take to safeguard information.

I called it “How Not to Respond to Alarming Social Media Censorship” — does that catch your attention? 

READ HERE

Election Analysis on Consumer Choice Radio on Big Talker 106.7FM

WATCH HERE

Me on ANews to discuss Elections aftermath

WATCH HERE

Agriculture

Not to be outdone, Fred spoke at the annual meeting of Euroseeds on why consumers deserve to have access to modern agriculture and new breeding techniques such as Gene Editing. You can catch a clip of that speech here.

And always quick with the wit, our colleague Bill Wirtz slammed the EU’s “Farm-to-Fork” strategy, calling it “too much of a political utopia”. Ouch.

READ HERE

How to feed 11 billion people?

You can also find Fred’s piece on how to feed 11 billion people by 2070 in the Parliament Magazine

READ HERE

More Webinars!

Our last webinar on Illicit Trade had over 2,000 viewers — w00t!

Our next webinar will be on November 19th with MEP Liesje Schreinemacher, discussing market place safety in the European Union. Head on over to YouTube to click the “reminder” button when it goes live!

WATCH LIVE HERE

Illicit Trade

Though she can’t travel outside of Europe at the moment, Maria wrote in an article in far-off South Asia in the Sunday Daily Malaysia on how to fight black markets and on Euractiv on the same topic.

Canadian Plastics Ban Would Be A Travesty

And this newsletter wouldn’t be complete without a little bit of our own David Clement, this time in the Toronto Sun newspaper articulating why Prime Minister Trudeau should steer clear of banning plastic — especially in the midst of a pandemic when plastic has become vital to fighting the virus!

READ HERE

How vaping is a gateway out of smoking?

Just to pique your interest a bit more, Maria partnered up with Michael Landl of the World Vapers Alliance to write this study on how vaping is a gateway out of smoking. Several media outlets across the world picked up their paper and we expect to see a lot more action in the coming weeks.

They call it the “Vaping and the Gateway Myth” — LOVE it!

READ HERE

Why the VAT on medicines should be reduced

Bill made the case in English, German, and Indonesian media outlets why the VAT on medicines should be reduced to 0%. It’s vital for patients who need access to life-saving drugs.

READ HERE

Europe Digital Market

Our colleague Maria isn’t done — she wrote an article on why Europe needs to reform its Digital Markets and had it published in Parliament Magazine. You WON’T want to miss.

READ HERE

Legal Reform

Oh yes, and I figured I wouldn’t let you go without a final article on LEGAL REFORM, this time on the public nuisance cases that are bloating our courts and costing consumers. It was featured in the Miami Herald in the days after the election — you’ll even see that some of my predictions came true!

READ HERE

Thank you for your attention, Happy Fall, and hope to see you again soon!

Yaël Ossowski
Deputy Director
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October Newsletter

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It’s October, it’s spooky time!


Dear *|FNAME|*,

The world without consumer choice would be a truly spooky place to be. There would be no intellectual property to safeguard innovation, no genetic modification as a means to make agriculture more sustainable, no vaping as a safer alternative to smoking, no sugar, no free trade… and no fun at all!

Thankfully, with all the amazing work my colleagues at the Consumer Choice Center are doing, consumers and their choices are in safe hands.

In North America

US Vaping Index: Yaël and David crunched the numbers and ranked all 50 US states on how friendly their regulations are towards vapers. New York and California are the states vapers might want to think twice before moving there.

Read Here

Pushing against a plastics ban

In response to the Canadian government’s plastic ban announcement, David published this thorough critique in the Financial Post highlighting how a plastics ban does little to address marine waste, inflates costs for consumers, and could jeopardize Canada’s position as a trading nation. 

Learn More

Canzuk as a Covid19 vaccine?

The Canadian economy has taken a huge hit as a result of the pandemic. David wrote for the Western Standard on how a CANZUK trade deal could help promote economic growth, and benefit Canadian consumers. 

Read Here

Consumer Choice Radio

Yaël and David interviewed the IEA’s Chris Snowdon on alcohol policy: U.S. dietary guidelines want to decree that no adult should ever enjoy a 2nd beer @cjsnowdon says it’s the latest move by prohibitionists and there’s no evidence to support it. 

Read Here

Divorcing health insurance from jobs and the WHO comes out against lockdowns

In the Boston Herald newspaper, my colleague Yaël made the consumer case for separating health insurance from people’s jobs. This would allow individuals to choose their own plans, increase competition, and lower prices for everyone. Read it here for the bold idea.

Speaking of bold, the World Health Organization, our favorite organization, has finally stated what we’ve known all along: COVID lockdowns hurt the poor and should not be a primary method of trying to control the virus. Yaël breaks it down on FEE.org. 

Read Here

Meanwhile in Europe

Economist’s Panel: On October 8th Fred participated in a panel discussion on Single-Use Plastics which was part of the Economists Sustainability Week.

On September 17th Bill moderated a discussion with two scientists on the future of gene editing in Europe. This event was specifically hosted for German members of parliament and their staff.

On September 24th, I interviewed the World Vapers’ Association Director Michael Landl on how vaping can help to beat cancer in a CCC webinar. Over 7,000 people watched it across platforms. Watch Here.

Euroseeds Conference: On October 13th Fred talked about the consumer perspective on the EU’s Farm2Fork strategy at Euroseeds Annual Congress.

Digital Single Market consultation: Luca joined a high-level consultation on the digital single market and digital services act of the EU. On the digital front, David made the case in the Western Standard why additional platform regulation would hurt Canadian consumers.

Read Here

Infographic: How to feed 10 billion people?

We produced a lot of content on Agriculture and Food Supply:

Bill’s sustainability paper is now available in German

Video: Bill asks three questions on sustainability to Mazaly Aguilar, MEP

Video: Bill asks three questions on the Farm to Fork strategy to Hermann Tertsch, MEP

Interview with Florida State Senator Jeff Brandes

Illicit Trade: Lessons from the Pandemic

Upcoming Webinar on illicit trade: Join us on October 28th for a deep-dive discussion on Illicit trade. During the event, we will touch on very many areas where illicit trade is flourishing, in particular healthcare, digital, and agriculture.

Use the link below to watch the broadcast.

Watch Here

Protecting Intellectual Property in Brazil

In Brazil, a patent application waits between 7 to 10 years, delaying technological evolution. With the rapid technological evolution we have, patent waiting time can age new technologies, making them old by the time they are approved.

Article 40 of the Intellectual Property Rights Law (No. 9,279) recognizes this and, therefore, automatically grants the patent a minimum exclusivity of ten years, to compensate for administrative delays. However, the Federal Supreme Court is expected to rule on this article shortly. Is innovation in Brazil in danger?

My colleague Fabio is fighting for intellectual property rights in Brazil.

Learn More

We’re listening.

Let us know if you have any ideas on what we should be focusing on in the future!

Maria Chaplia
European Affairs Associate
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[EU] Action plan for the development of EU organic production​

Introduction

The aim of this public consultation is to collect the opinion of stakeholders and the public on challenges and opportunities to increase the production and consumption of organic food. Your answers will feed into a European Commission communication to be published early in 2021. This communication will lay the ground for concrete action in line with the European Commission’s objectives of ensuring that at least 25% of the EU’s agricultural land is under organic farming by 2030 and that there is a significant increase in organic aquaculture. These objectives ultimately aim to both improve the sustainability of the food system and revert biodiversity loss.


Responses

Section 1: General – the state of organic production today

Organic production today covers some 8% of total utilized agricultural area and organic aquaculture accounts around 5% of total aquaculture production in the EU. Although this is a significant increase compared to the past, there is still significant room to increase these shares. The aim of this section is to identify the main bottlenecks to the production and consumption of organic food.

  1. To what extent are the following factors obstacles to greater production and consumption of organic food in the EU today?

at least 15 answered row(s)

 Strongly agreeSomewhat agreeSomewhat disagreeStrongly disagreeDon’t know
Retail price of organic products too highX    
Price of organic products at suppliers too high    X
Not profitable enough for producers X   
Too expensive for consumersX    
Insufficient consumer demandX    
Lack of consumer confidence in organic production methodsX    
Lack of consumer awareness of the EU label  X  
Lack of consumer confidence in the EU label   X 
Insufficient financial incentives for producers to convert to organic production    X
Low interest from retailers in giving organic products shelf-space  X  
Low consumer awareness of the benefits of organic production for climate and the environment   X 
Competition with other ways of producing and/or other schemes    X
Competition with private label products  X  
There are too many ecological food schemes that can be confused with organic   X 

Other (please specify):

For further explanations, we refer to our position paper.

  1. The COVID-19 crisis has had many significant impacts on different sectors, including on the food system and the production and consumption of organic food. To what extent do you agree with the following statements? 

at least 4 answered row(s)

 Strongly agreeSomewhat agreeSomewhat disagreeStrongly disagreeDon’t know
The crisis has strengthened organic farming and its role in EU food supply    X
The crisis has accelerated structural changes in our food consumption in favour of organic farming   X 
The crisis has shown our reliance on seasonal labour in farming X   
In the post-crisis period, the greater demand for organic products reported by the sector will be maintained    X

Section 2: Organic for all – stimulating demand and consumer confidence

Consumption of organic products per capita varies greatly among EU Member States. This section aims to identify concrete measures to stimulate the consumption of organic products and to ensure that consumers feel confident that the organic products they buy are produced according to such standards. 

  1. To what extent do you agree with the following statements?

at least 9 answered row(s)

 Strongly agreeSomewhat agreeSomewhat disagreeStrongly disagreeDon’t know
The EU organic logo is not sufficiently recognised  X  
Information campaigns for the EU organic logo are needed   X 
More awareness is needed on the environmental and climate benefits of organic farming   X 
Campaigns to promote agricultural products should specifically target organic products   X 
Price competitiveness of organic products should be improved    X
Schemes in schools to promote healthy diets should focus on organic products   X 
Food served in public/private offices and canteens should focus on organic products   X 
The range of organic products at retailers should be broader and more visible    X
Authorities should use much more public procurement to boost organic consumption   X 

Other (please specify): We would like to specify that our answer on the price competitiveness as “Don’t know” is due to the fact that the question did not elaborate on whether that refers to an intrusion on price competitiveness by producers and retailers or whether this should be done on an institutional governmental level.

For further explanations, we refer to our position paper.

  1. Demand for organic products also depends on consumer confidence that the products are produced in line with organic standards. To what extent do you agree that the following actions are important?

at least 7 answered row(s)

 Strongly agreeSomewhat agreeSomewhat disagreeStrongly disagreeDon’t know
Reasons for lack of consumer confidence should be explored X   
Consumers should be able to clearly distinguish between the EU organic logo and other environmental/quality schemesX    
It should be easier to trace organic products back to their origin X   
The information on organic producers should be transparent and available for consumersX    
Information technologies such as blockchain (data shared across a network of computers) should be used more often to improve tracing of organic productsX    
Compliance with the rules for organic production must be better controlled by public authoritiesX    
More effort is needed to tackle fraud in the organic sectorX    

Other (please specify):

For further explanations, we refer to our position paper.

Section 3: Promoting organic production

The share of land under organic farming varies considerably across EU Member States, ranging from some 2% in Romania to 24% in Austria. One reason for these differences could be the lack of structures in the supply chain to allow producers to benefit from the added value created by organic production. This section will help identify the main measures to: (i) stimulate conversion to organic agriculture and aquaculture and (ii) strengthen the value-chain for operators who have opted for organic production.  

  1. To what extent are the following measures important to stimulate the production of organic products?

at least 10 answered row(s)

 Strongly agreeSomewhat agreeSomewhat disagreeStrongly disagreeDon’t know
The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and the support it provides should target organic production   X 
Other financial support for organic production is also needed (e.g. national, local or other public and private initiatives)   X 
Provide sufficient training and advice on organic farming (including visits and pilot farms) to stimulate conversion especially in regions lagging behind the EU average   X 
More research is needed to develop plants with greater resistance to pests and to extreme and variable climate conditionsX    
Investments (including in research and innovation) are needed to scale up labour-saving technologies    X
Improve information and data on developments in the organic market to facilitate decisions for producers    X
Improve information and data on developments in the organic market to support decision making for retailers    X
Help organic producers to better organise (e.g. producer organisations) to improve their bargaining power    X
Investments (including in research and innovation) for organic food processing   X 
Strengthen local and small-scale processing and foster short supply chains    X
  1. Organic animal husbandry must comply with higher standards than conventional animal husbandry. There are also higher standards for organic aquaculture. To what extent do you agree with the following statements? 

at least 4 answered row(s)

 Strongly agreeSomewhat agreeSomewhat disagreeStrongly disagreeDon’t know
Organic animal production should benefit from specific support   X 
Producers should be helped to find appropriate organic feed for animal nutrition   X 
More research is needed to identify and develop best practices on feeding methods suitable for organic feed, and alternative feeding ingredients X   
Aquaculture should be supported to gain more knowledge on breeding and feeding methods, including through research  X  

Section 4: Societal benefits – the contribution to climate and environment

One of the aims of organic farming is to combine agricultural production with respect for the environment and climate. It aims to preserve biodiversity, soil fertility, and aquatic ecosystems while allowing producers to make a decent living. This section will provide us with concrete ideas on how organic farming can be a model for: (i) more sustainable practices in farming and aquaculture, (ii) greater use of renewable resources, and (iii) greater animal welfare, while maintaining European food production.

  1. What are the main environmental advantages of organic production?

at least 8 answered row(s)

 Strongly agreeSomewhat agreeSomewhat disagreeStrongly disagreeDon’t know
Organic farming is beneficial to biodiversity   X 
It responsibly uses energy and natural resources, such as water   X 
It reduces leakage of nitrates into water and thus protects water quality   X 
It protects soil quality   X 
It helps reduce air pollution   X 
It promotes a circular economy by using bio-based materials   X 
It promotes carbon neutrality by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and storing carbon in soil   X 
It allows for adaptation to a changing climate   X 
  1. To further increase the benefits of organic farming for the environment and climate, to what extent do you agree with the following measures?

at least 6 answered row(s)

 Strongly agreeSomewhat agreeSomewhat disagreeStrongly disagreeDon’t know
Funding to increase the availability of species suitable for organic production, notably through research   X 
More investment on organic agricultural research and innovation   X 
Networks of organic farms to act as demonstration projects and promote best practices    X
Phase out of contentious inputs (e.g. copper) still used in organic farmingX    
Promote the replacement of plastics in packaging with fully recyclable or biodegradable materials   X 
Promote the sustainable use of water in organic farming    X

Section 5: Conclusions – the role of the EU and the road ahead

The EU has actively promoted organic production as a pillar of its Common Agricultural Policy while also supporting the increase of organic aquaculture. However, local producers, national authorities and producer organisations also play an important role. This section will help us understand whether the EU should intensify its actions in favour of organic production and consumption, or whether these actions should be devolved to the national/local level. The final question provides you with an opportunity to present your own proposals for how the production and consumption of organic food can be strengthened, in addition to those proposals identified earlier in the questionnaire.

  1. To what extent do you agree with the following statements?

at least 3 answered row(s)

 Strongly agreeSomewhat agreeSomewhat disagreeStrongly disagreeDon’t know
The main responsibility for promoting organic production and consumption lies at national level    X
The development of organic production should be left to the market with no specific supportX    
The development of the organic sector requires a mix of EU and Member State support as well as private initiatives   X 
  1. Are there any more specific or additional actions that you would suggest?

For further explanations, we refer to our position paper:

DOWNLOAD HERE

To reduce illicit trade, make licit goods available and accessible

Criminal groups have been exploiting the pandemic to enrich themselves through illicit trade and undermine global security.

In August, the US Justice Department knocked down three $2 million worth cryptocurrency campaigns involving the Islamic State. The terrorists were selling fake masks and protective equipment for hospitals online claiming that it was FDA approved and used the profit to fund terrorist attacks.

Illicit trade across the board is a devil in disguise that lures us with cheap prices at the expense of our safety, security, and wellbeing. In order to fight it, we need to guarantee access to and availability of licit goods, especially drugs.

Weak law enforcement and corruption among customs officials are often seen as the main reason why illicit trade flourishes. Both do help facilitate illicit trade but hardly explain its persistence. According to a research conducted by Oxford Economics in 2018, only 11% of illicit trade is seized on average across Europe. Tracking and tracing smugglers is an uphill battle not least because a lot of illicit trade is carried out through official retail channels too.

Yet curbing supply alone won’t help: reducing consumer demand for illicit products is key. That would include raising awareness among consumers about illicit trade and making sure that licit goods are available and accessible. The price does play a role in consumer decision of whether to buy illicit goods or not, but as the said research by Oxford Economics showed it is not the only reason.

At the beginning of the pandemic – which hardly any country was prepared for – many Europeans countries ran out of masks and protective equipment as demand had been spiking. Combined with export bans this has naturally created favourable conditions for illicit trade. For example, OECD data suggests that since March 2020, at least 100 000 new domain names containing coronavirus related words (e.g., Covid, corona or virus) were registered on the darknet to sell medical items.

Lockdowns, trade restrictions and generally global unpreparedness for the pandemic are some of the reasons why illicit trade has scaled up, and tackling these unintended consequences will be a major challenge for the years ahead.

We should start by strengthening IP rights and cutting the red tape to protect brands on a local level so their products are accessible and available to the public. COVID-19 is unfortunately not the only public health issue we have faced, and we have to keep in mind that every flawed policy of peaceful times provides criminals with an opportunity to strike harder in a crisis.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a 20% increase in enquiries for brand protection, most of which came from the pharmaceutical sector. Multiple European policymakers have made calls against intellectual property rights, while in fact in order to protect ourselves from fake PPE and drugs from China and alike, we have to safeguard IP rights at home.

A failure to mutually commit to regulatory harmonisation between the US FDA and Europe’s EMA is also one of the reasons why illicit trade has been booming. This would allow regulators on both ends to compete for better market approval procedures thereby gradually decreasing the bureaucratic costs for innovators.

We still don’t know how to cure 95 per cent of diseases, and it is crucial that as soon as a new drug is developed it becomes available on both sides of the Atlantic. To make it accessible though, the EU will have to allow consumers to access legal online pharmacies across the bloc.

Illicit trade of medicines puts the lives of millions of consumers in the EU and globally at risk. Reinforcing criminal responsibility for outlawed trade practices is essential but not enough. Curbing demand for illicit products by ensuring the licit ones are available and accessible should be the way forward.

By Maria Chaplia, European Affairs Associate at the Consumer Choice Center

Originally published here.

Public-nuisance lawsuits stifle innovation, and consumers ultimately foot the bill

With arcane rule changes and different policies on absentee voting, we are bracing for lawsuits and recounts that could keep both presidential candidates’ legal teams busy until New Year’s. For once, thankfully, it will not be Florida’s fault.

This is another reminder of how much we have allowed our country to be captured by the legal profession. Whether it’s elections, climate change or the latest corporate scandal, lawsuits have become as American as apple pie.

In the past year alone, personal injury or tort lawsuits have risen more than 7 percent to a whopping 73,000 a year, according to the Department of Justice.

One surprising legal principle that has helped fuel these cases is “public nuisance.”

In the past few decades, plaintiffs’ attorneys have expanded the claim of public nuisance — meant to cover pollution or obstructions that cause harm to property — to include widespread social problems such as climate change and opioid addiction.

The goal is to extract large paydays from firms because of either real or perceived damage. Most companies would rather settle than be publicly dragged by the media. Just ask Elon Musk.

There are, no doubt, legitimate cases where real harm has been done. But many of these cases stem from complex issues that require public-policy solutions rather than judicial rulings, which distort our legal system and set dangerous precedents.

Originally, public nuisance was invoked as a way for local governments to protect the public’s right to access public roads, local parks, and waterways, or to halt domestic disturbances like prostitution or gambling.

But recently, state and local courts have been more open to looser interpretations of public nuisances, leading to gross abuses of our already overly litigious justice system.

For example, in 2000, attorneys went to localities in California to sign on as plaintiffs in a massive lead-paint lawsuit. The claim was that lead paint, later known to be dangerous, was “aggressively marketed” by the producers, constituting a public nuisance.

Over $1 billion was ordered to be paid to the California cities and counties, eventually reduced to $305 million in a settlement. Trial lawyers pocketed $65 million, and judges became empowered to use the law to address larger societal problems. Then came the opioid crisis.

In 2019, Oklahoma used the state’s overly broad public-nuisance statute to sue companies that marketed and distributed opioids. While other drugmakers settled, Johnson & Johnson went to trial. Even with a small share of the opioid market and no causal link found between its products and widespread opioid addiction, they were ordered to pay $572 million in damages, of which $85 million went to the lawyers.

From vaping to plastics to environmental cleanups, the public nuisance legal strategy has increasingly become an effective and profitable way to skip the legislative process and push political agendas against innovation.

Environmental foundations, including one headed by Mike Bloomberg, have funded lawyers and activists to recruit governments to join lawsuits against energy companies for climate change. These attorneys then seek friendly courts where public-nuisance statutes exist or where activist judges are willing to embrace this legal theory.

Some judges have dismissed these public-nuisance claims, ruling that energy producers have contributed significantly to our economic development. But federal appeals courts have allowed California cities, as well as the city of Baltimore, to advance their cases against fossil-fuel producers. And more could be coming.

This trend shows how our legal system is being used to advance anti-innovation political agendas.

This makes our legal system unpredictable, undermines the rule of law and increases the cost of doing business as companies must prepare for future lawsuits, whether they caused any actual harm or not. All of that ends up increasing prices for all consumers. We need smart and better policies, not more lawsuits.

Yaël Ossowski is deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center.

Originally published here.

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