Day: February 6, 2021

Brusel ide do vojny proti rakovine. Cigarety a alkohol výrazne zdražejú

Európska únia chce zatočiť s rakovinou. Komisia by dnes mala predstaviť plán, ako znížiť túto zákernú chorobu na minimum. Aj keď materiál ešte nebol oficiálne zverejnený, jeho časti už unikli.

Ako uviedol portál politico.eu, Brusel chce do roku 2040 zapracovať na tom, aby vznikla takzvaná beztabaková generácia.

To by malo v praxi znamenať, že počet fajčiarov by mal poklesnúť pod 5 percent z celkovej populácie. V súčasnosti je tento podiel u nás približne na úrovni 20 percent.

Originally published here.

Video: ‘Science over unjustified cautiousness:’ Why UK should abandon Europe’s biotech crop rules

Many groups, including the Consumer Choice Center, have endorsed genetic technologies, and there is good reason to expect the UK government to finally choose science over unjustified cautiousness inherent to EU regulations.

“Boris Johnson has repeatedly mentioned his willingness to liberate the UK’s “extraordinary bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules.” Such a policy would be a huge win for consumers and farmers, and at the same time it would also signal a momentous drift away from the European Union’s unjustified cautiousness towards these new technologies,” said Maria Chaplia, Research Manager at the Consumer Choice Center.

We at the Consumer Choice Center call on the UK government to take the path of more consumer choice and more science …. What are the benefits of enabling genetic engineering in the UK?

  • Approving GM pest-resistant crops could save about £60 million ($79 million) a year in pesticide use in the UK
  • More trade opportunities, including a trade deal with the US.
  • Improved agricultural performance with less labour and energy input and less cost input.
  • Reduced usage of pesticides and herbicides.

Originally published here.

The German approach to freedom of expression and its absurd consequences

The Federal Republic of Germany is a democratic constitutional state in which basic civil liberties are protected by law and law enforcement.

The most important aspects of freedom of expression are mentioned in the Bonn Basic Law; they are the fundamental rights. That includes freedom of art, property, freedom of assembly, freedom of profession, freedom of opinion and other basic rights that we take for granted today. However, as history teaches us, they are not.

The German understanding of fundamental rights is characterised by a scheme that is self-evident for every law student after the second semester at the latest: these fundamental rights can be restricted, depending on the circumstances provided, or, in different terms: an encroachment on fundamental rights is permitted if there is a justification. Like the Federal Constitutional Court, every student therefore first asks in a case: is the complainant covered by the personal scope of protection of the fundamental right (does this fundamental right apply to everyone, or only to German citizens?)? Is the complainant’s conduct covered by the factual scope of protection of the fundamental right? If this is the case, the question is whether there is an encroachment, in order to ask in the third step whether this is justified (different for fundamental rights of equality and fundamental rights to benefits).

Freedom of expression protects expressions of opinion: statements that have an element of evaluation are therefore covered; statements of fact are not covered by the scope of protection of freedom of opinion. Furthermore, freedom of expression can be restricted by general law, laws for the protection of minors and the right to personal honour (in the realm of defamation lawsuits).

This is also the biggest difference to the second model, namely the USA. The differences already exist in the name of the fundamental right. Unlike in Germany, in the USA we speak of the “Freedom of Speech”. The First Amendment is unparalleled in its clarity. It states quite simply that the legislature may not establish a law that restricts freedom of speech. So it is the opposite of the German understanding: there cannot be any level of justification in the USA, because encroachments on freedom of speech by the state are simply forbidden by the constitution.

A brief example to illustrate the extent of the differences: “In an argument about the limits of the Basic Law, Max loses his nerve and calls his colleague Erika an idiot.”

If American law applies, this rude and insulting, but essentially harmless, statement entails no consequences. If German law applies, however, Max is liable to prosecution for insult under §185 StGB. If Erika files a complaint, Max faces a fine – and if Max is a repeat offender who has been punished with the paragraph many times in the past, he may even go to prison for it.

We are talking here about a quite clear example where one can argue very well for §185 StGB. But it is much more absurd. In the 1990s, for example, the courts had to deal with the question of whether a provocative “duzen” (the German informal “you”) should be regarded as an insult. The case went all the way to the Higher Regional Court in Düsseldorf. Those readers who find the case as absurd as I do can breathe a sigh of relief, because the Higher Regional Court ruled that this was not a punishable offence. 

The insult paragraph protects the legal good of honour, which is defined in various ways, which is not surprising because each of us will understand something different by honour. For example, the (probably) prevailing opinion defines honour as the “personal (“inner”) value of validity accruing to a person as a bearer of spiritual and moral values, on the one hand, and the social (“outer”) value of validity of a person, i.e. his or her actual good reputation in human society, on the other (definition: Urs Kindhäuser, Strafrecht BT I §22 Rn.2, 8th edition 2017; see also BGH, 18.11.1957 – GSSt 2/57, marginal no. 17).

In this context, according to the prevailing opinion, not only the honour of the individual is protected, but also that of associations of persons, such as companies, clubs, political parties, etc. It is claimed here that honour is a condition of existence in law, especially in the social, interpersonal sphere.

Even for insulting a company or another association of persons, one can be punished if a certain situation exists. This is because the prevailing opinion within jurisprudence argues that some of these associations can only function within a society if their work is not discredited, which is why they are equally worthy of protection as individuals. There are some problems with this argument, even when applied only to individuals.

On the one hand, the work, activity or even the entire person can be discredited without committing a criminal offence. So one can discredit another person even within the limits of the law. 

On the other hand, there are states in which the protection of honour has a much lower value than in the German legal system. A good example of this is the USA, where, for example, insulting someone is not a punishable offence. Yet the United States of America exists.

This part of the argumentation of the German lawyers is difficult to justify and that even with a careful interpretation of the statements… At most, one could argue that the criminal law protection of honour positively influences, or promotes, these activities and legal interests. However, this is difficult to prove.

Finally, the negative effects of such a legal system are often overlooked. As a result, it is incredibly difficult to distinguish a statement of fact from an evaluative statement. It is even more difficult to prove whether a statement is offensive: language and society are dynamic. Even if the courts are careful in their interpretation and use of criminal law (and fortunately this can indeed be said in Germany), so-called “freezing effects” arise even in a democratic constitutional state like Germany, where supposedly unpunishable statements are not made because of fear of a legal dispute, or of prosecution per se. So one prefers to be cautious and say nothing at all because one wants to avoid legal problems.

The example of the USA shows that it can be done differently. Insults, hate speech, flag burning is allowed in the USA and the state not only exists but is probably the wealthiest in the world. Criminal law is the “last resort” of the legal system and should be used as rarely as possible. In this isolated case, the American system does more justice to this principle; in others, the German system has clear advantages. We can and should learn from each other.

If one wants to achieve basic protection of honour, or of the person, against defamation and slander, civil law would be the far better alternative. It is far more important to compensate the victim for his or her damage than to put the perpetrator in prison. Because no one should be behind bars for making statements. Whoever thinks that should cast the first stone.

Originally published here.

Miljard gram cannabis opgeslagen zonder verkocht te worden

BNN Bloomberg kondigde deze week aan dat een miljard gram legale pot in Canada onverkocht in magazijnen in het hele land ligt te verstoffen. De vraag rijst waarom deze cannabis niet wordt gebruikt om cbd-olie van te maken.

Dat is heel veel wiet. Een voorraad die genoeg zou moeten zijn om drie jaar vooruit te kunnen. Door de steeds hogere eisen die de consument stelt aan zijn cannabisproduct ligt veel cannabis uit het middensegment nu te verstoffen in magazijnen. “Je kunt echter geen THC-producten uit het middensegment voor een cent weggeven,” vertelde Peter Machalek, vice-president verkoop en partnerschappen bij TREC Brand, aan Bloomberg. “De markt is veel geavanceerder geworden en volgt wat de consumenten eisen.”

CBD-olie van onverkochte cannabis

Het roept de vraag op waarom een deel van die miljard gram niet is gebruikt om CBD-olie van te maken. De niet-bedwelmende stof die voor veel mensen wordt gebruikt als natuurlijk medicijn tegen hoofdpijn, rugklachten, slechte knieën, artritis, angststoornissen en tal van andere klachten, aandoeningen en bijbehorende pijnen. Het is een bonafide elixer voor veroudering en pijn.

Het probleem is echter dat CBD-olie, ondanks dat ze geen high geeft, nog steeds onder de Cannabiswet valt en daarom net zo streng gereguleerd is als THC. Een lastige markt die zelfs de meest bescheiden vormen van reclame en branding verhindert. David Clement, de Noord-Amerikaanse zakenmanager voor het Consumer Choice Center, gelooft dat de overvloed aan wietproducten gedeeltelijk kan worden tegengegaan door CBD-olie uit de Cannabis Act te verwijderen. Hierdoor kunnen bepaalde extracten en dranken worden verkocht bij reguliere retailers en in supermarkten.

“Vanuit het oogpunt van consumentenbescherming en volksgezondheid is er geen redelijke rechtvaardiging om CBD-producten zo strikt te reguleren als THC”, zegt Clement. “Naar onze mening is de Cannabiswet te restrictief. Wanneer CBD-producten uit de wetgeving worden verwijderd, zouden CBD-producten op grotere schaal beschikbaar komen, wat het probleem van het overaanbod zou kunnen verlichten.

Overschot aan cannabisproducten

“Bovendien moet de federale overheid de marketing-, merk- en verpakkingsbeperkingen die momenteel gelden voor legale producenten versoepelen”, zegt Clement. Volgens het Bloomberg-rapport heeft Health Canada eindelijk branchegegevens voor oktober vrijgegeven, waaruit blijkt dat 1,1 miljoen kilo onverkochte cannabis door producenten in het hele land is opgeslagen.

Met Canada’s maandelijkse consumptie van ongeveer 30.000 kilo, betekent dit dat er een voorraad van drie jaar inactief is. Er lijkt echter licht aan het einde van de tunnel om dit probleem kan verlichten. Health Canada zal waarschijnlijk binnenkort beslissen of CBD-olie ver vrij verkrijgbare gezondheids- en welzijnsproducten mag voorkomen. Later dit jaar wordt een formeel besluit verwacht. Het is een wildcard die een game-changer zou kunnen zijn voor de markt, maar is nu nog steeds een longshot.

Originally published here.

Understanding “hazard” and “risk”

A lot of the Brussels conversation over the precautionary principle is misguided.

By 2030, the European Union’s “Farm to Fork” strategy aims to reduce the use of pesticides significantly. The EU deals in percentages of the total use of chemical substances it wants to cut, whether or not their scientific safety assessment was in any shape or form negative. This in essence makes it a political ambition, not an evidence-based policy.

When reading articles, blog posts, or policy papers related to the use of pesticides, we often hear the word “hazard”. “Highly-hazardous” chemicals or substances are in the focus of many environmental groups, who demand that the EU cleans up its act on the alleged ‘poison’ in our food. Theirs is a misunderstanding of the scientific meaning of “hazard” and “risk”

Risk-based regulation manages exposure to hazards. For instance, the sun is a hazard when going to the beach, yet sunlight enables the body’s production of vitamin D and some exposure to it is essential to human health. As with everything else, it is the amount of exposure that matters. A hazard-based regulatory approach to sunlight would shut us all indoors and ban all beach excursions, rather than caution beach-goers to limit their exposure by applying sunscreen. The end result would be to harm, not protect human health. 

The same logic of hazard-based regulation is all too often applied in crop protection regulation, where it creates equally absurd inconsistencies. For instance, if wine was sprayed on vineyards as a pesticide, it would have to be banned under EU law, as alcohol is a known and quite potent carcinogen at high levels of consumption. All this is rationalized through an inconsistent and distorted application of the precautionary principle. In essence, hazard-based regulation advocates would endorse outlawing all crop protection methods that cannot be proven completely safe at any level, no matter how unrealistic — a standard which, if applied consistently, would outlaw every organic food, every life-saving drug, and indeed every natural and synthetic substance. 

By ignoring the importance of the equation Risk = Hazard x Exposure, hazard-based regulation does not follow a scientifically sound policy-making approach.

As risk-management expert David Zaruk writes on his blog The Risk-Monger:

“So why then are there individuals in Brussels who think that a regulator’s job is to remove all hazards, regardless of our ability to control exposure to the hazard, regardless of the limited exposure levels, regardless of the lost benefits? For these lobbyists (often activists for environmental-health NGOs), a hazard is considered as identical to a risk (regardless of exposure) and the regulatory goal (for them) is to remove all hazards. They support the approach known as: Hazard-based regulation.

Hazard-based regulation implies that the only way to manage risks is to remove the hazard. If synthetic pesticides are hazardous, remove them. If we cannot be certain that a chemical has no effect on our endocrine system (at any dose), then deny authorisation.”

This concept of differentiating hazard and risk in the scientific and regulatory language is also supported by EFSA — the European Food Safety Authority, which advises the European Union on things such as chemical approvals.

Understanding hazard and risk is essential when addressing all questions as they relate to the precautionary principle. Artificial intelligence is prone to fall victim to a similar level of over-regulation the advocates of extreme caution get their way. Instead, the European Union should choose the road to innovation. Evidence-based policy-making is about assessing risks, but it is also about managing risks for the sake of allowing for innovation while ironing out problems as they appear. 

We cannot allow ourselves to fall behind in the global race for innovative technology because we are too afraid of changes.

Originally published here.

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