Day: January 31, 2022

Autoteste para covid-19: organização dos consumidores defende ampliar o número de estabelecimentos autorizados

A Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária (Anvisa) aprovou ontem a liberação de autotestes de covid-19 no Brasil. Será permitida a comercialização por farmácias e estabelecimentos de saúde licenciados para vender o dispositivo médico para diagnóstico in vitro.

Para Fábio Fernandes, diretor global de comunicação da associação de consumidores Consumer Choice Center, a aprovação dos autotestes é um passo importante para dar mais liberdade e opções aos consumidores na prevenção e tratamento precoce dos sintomas da covid-19:

“O fácil acesso à autotestes se provou uma arma importante na luta contra a covid-19. Há alguns meses que consumidores nos Estados Unidos e Europa já tem acesso à autotestes, a preços acessíveis, o que garante detectar de forma precoce o vírus com uma taxa alta de afiabilidade, quebrando a cadeia de transmissão. Este tipo de teste, em um país com as dimensões do Brasil, onde em áreas mais remotas outros tipos de teste tem mais dificuldade de chegar, fará a diferença em finalmente sairmos da pandemia”

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What really harms the bees?

Some myths have the tendency of never going away. Lightning does, in fact, strike at the same place twice, your zodiac sign doesn’t mean anything, and a penny dropped from the Empire State Building wouldn’t kill a person. More elaborate myths have benefited from popular supporters and even made their way into parliaments and governments, one of which being the infamous “Beepocalypse.”

The idea that bee populations are on the decline has been debunked for more than half a decade, most notably through reporting in the Washington Post, which pointed out that contrary to popular belief, bee populations are at record highs. In fact, only 2% of wild species provide 80% of crop pollination, and those 2% are thriving. However, legislators and activist organizations are still using “bee decline” as a common reference to support or enact legislation to ban neonicotinoid insecticides in the European Union.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a March 2018 Department of Agriculture report, and reports from Canada and Australia, there has been no proven link between neonicotinoids and harm to bee populations. Conversely, neonicotinoids are essential to maintain a productive farming system, which equals food security and price stability for consumers. 

The situation is similar for sulfoxaflor, a systemic insecticide used in certain areas as an alternative to neonicotinoids. Still blamed for a nonexistent decline in honeybee populations, the substance has since been found to have no effect on those same honeybees in a realistic exposure scenario. This did not stop Marine Le Pen’s far-right party from arguing for a ban back in 2015. Unsuccessful with the proposal at the time, the French government banned the substance early last year.

In fact, France has severely suffered from its ban on supposedly “bee-harming pesticides,” not least last year, when beet farmers were at the brink of collapse over the absence of any effective crop protection. To support farmers, the government enacted a three-year moratorium on the neonicotinoid ban — a decision deemed justified by the European Food Safety Authority.

When referring to actual problems facing bee populations, we can address the effects of habitat loss — a common issue facing all sorts of insects. Agriculture has an important role to play in habitat destruction. Thus, the challenge of modern farming ought to be to produce maximum yield with minimal use of resources. 

However, as politicians in the developed world call for an increase in organic farming (the European Union has even set a target of 25% in organic food production), they ignore the effect this has on overall land use. This includes the fact that USDA data have shown that organic agriculture produces yields 10-35% lower than conventional farming methods, meaning that in order to achieve the same outcome as existing farming techniques, organic farmers need considerably more resources, including land. This, in turn, drives out pollinators.

The factors above only add to the overall problems related to organic food, including its higher carbon dioxide emissions rate. A shift to an all-organic food system could ramp up carbon dioxide emissions between 21% and 70%, which also reveals organic food to be a not-so-sustainable alternative to conventional food products.

Ultimately, the choice of food products needs to be up to consumers, whether they go for organic food or conventional products. That said, politicians need to deal with facts. Consumers should be able to make choices in their supermarkets or with online retailers based on an informed conversation, not talking points that haven’t been updated in years.

Originally published here

To Tackle Smoking, South Africa Should Embrace, Not Tax, Vaping

In December 2021, the National Treasury published a proposal to tax electronic nicotine and non-nicotine delivery systems in South Africa. The Treasury points to the increased consumption of these products among youth worldwide and their potential to undermine tobacco control efforts. Based on the Treasury’s calculations, the total excise duty would range from R 33.30 to R 346.00, dependent on volume and nicotine strength.

The proposal mirrors anti-vaping efforts spearheaded by the World Health Organisation and lacks understanding of harm reduction. The vaping tax would deprive South African smokers of the opportunity to quit, and drive current vapers back to combustible tobacco consumption.

A snap survey conducted by the Vaping Saved My Life (VSML) consumer group in South Africa interviewed 1480 vapers in the country, and the results are staggering. 26.6 per cent of vapers would go back to smoking, and another 26.2 per cent would get their e-liquids from informal sources.

By introducing the tax, the South African government will further extend the list of its unsuccessful anti-smoking policies. To curb smoking, the South African government has been using conventional tobacco control measures such as advertising restrictions, smoke-free areas, and taxes. In 2020, a temporary ban on the sales of cigarettes was introduced. These restrictions rest on the dangerous assumption that complete abstinence is possible and that it can be achieved by drastically reducing access to tobacco products.

Such an approach has not proven to be effective–neither in South Africa, nor anywhere else in the world. A 2021 Tax Justice SA (TJSA) report found that 2 out of 3 cigarettes sold in South Africa are illicit. In Ireland and the UK, where the price of cigarettes is also very high, the effects are the same. These unintended consequences of tobacco control are traceable across the board, and are predictable.

A more sensible solution would be to abandon the pursuit of complete abstinence and embrace harm reduction. As Dr Tyndall, Professor UBC School of Population & Public Health, explains, “starting with abstinence is like asking a new diabetic to quit sugar or a severe asthmatic to start running marathons or a depressed person to just be happy.”

Harm reduction is, first and foremost, humane as it recognises that addiction is complex, and it is almost impossible to quit at the whim of the government. For that reason, vaping was welcomed by smokers as a safer alternative. The diversity of vape flavours allows vapers to experiment and move away from smoking entirely. Flavoured vaping devices were found to be associated with an 230% increase in the odds of adult smoking cessation.

The youth vaping pandemic is often used as a means to undermine vaping. But, in fact, between 2019 and 2021, the use of electronic cigarettes among US teens dropped by more than 50 percent from 27.5% to 11.3%.

Commenting on the effects of the proposed vaping tax, Kurt Yeo, co-founder of the VSML, said: “VSML believes implementing any tax on safer alternatives will have devastating, yet predictable consequences to existing users of ENDs products and smokers wishing to quit.”

Michael Landl, director of the World Vaper Alliance, a global vapers’ movement, added that “the tax on vaping products will harm public health in South Africa. People who want to stay away from cigarettes or switch should not be abused as a source of funding for the state’s budget crisis.”

If the South African government really wants to help reduce the smoking rates, it should abstain from taxing vaping products, or keep the tax rate as low as possible. Smokers, especially those who smoke heavily, should be encouraged to switch to safer alternatives, and the ineffective and dangerous abstinence WHO-inspired ideology should be abandoned. Vaping saves lives, and let’s hope the South African government learns that lesson before it’s too late.

Originally published here

Leading the world in vaccination

UAE tops the global ranking in fighting Covid-19

In early December when South African doctors first reported a new strain of coronavirus spreading very quickly there, researchers and governments the world over feared that Omicron might overwhelm medical services already strained by almost two years of fighting the virus.

Acting swiftly and based on painful experiences from other waves of the virus during this pandemic, restrictive measures were imposed to try and prevent Omicron from doing its worst.

Now, two months one, reality is that the new variant does not seem as severe as initially thought, and while it is far more contagious that other previous variants of Covid-19, those without vaccination are most at risk from its worst effects.

Read the full article here

UAE tops global COVID-19 pandemic resilience rankings

The UAE has been ranked first in the latest COVID-19 global resilience rankings, thanks to its proactive mass testing, vaccination campaign and administration of booster doses to curb the spread of the virus. Followed by Cyprus, Bahrain and Israel, the Emirates was placed first in the Pandemic Resilience Index 2022. The ranking has been compiled by US-based advocacy group Consumer Choice Centre. The original index has collected data up until March last year during when the UAE was ranked second globally in terms of COVID-19 resilience. 

The group recently released the updated index which incorporated new data between the end of March and late November last year. As part of this data, the group took into consideration every country’s booster programme.

Speaking in the matter, Maria Chaplia, research manager at the Consumer Choice Centre, affirmed that the UAE emerged pioneer in terms of its booster rollout. She added that countries like New Zealand, Ukraine, Australia, Spain and Canada took five months longer to implement necessary campaigns.

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UAE is most pandemic-resilient country in the world, say global reports

Two global surveys have placed UAE on top of the list when it comes to pandemic resilience.

The UAE once again has been placed at the top of the Bloomberg pandemic resilience ranking that measures the resilience and response of the world’s biggest 53 economies to the Covid- 19 pandemic.

In November 2021, the company noted that the UAE outperformed Europe in terms of containing the pandemic, naming it as the best place to be with the emergence of the Omicron variant. “Ruling out a return to full lockdown, the UAE economy is poised for strong economic growth this year helped by the rebound in oil prices,” read the most recent report.

Similarly, the UAE was also ranked first globally for its Covid-19 response and resilience, according to the Pandemic Resilience Index 2022.

Published by a United States-based advocacy group Consumer Choice Centre, the UAE was closely followed by Cyprus, Bahrain and Israel in the index.

Read the full article here

UAE tops COVID resilience rankings

The UAE is ranked first globally for its COVID-19 response and resilience.

That’s according to the Pandemic Resilience Index 2022, compiled by the US-based Consumer Choice Centre.

Vaccination, booster rollouts and mass testing were some of the key factors considered.

Cyprus, Bahrain, Israel and Luxembourg round out the top-five spots on the list of 40 nations.

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Résilience face au COVID-19 : Les Emirats arrivent en tête du classement

Selon l’indice de résilience pandémique 2022, compilé par le Consumer Choice Center (un groupe de défense basé aux États-Unis) les Emirats se placent en 1ère position du classement, suivis par Chypre, Bahreïn et Israël.

Ce sont les tests de masse, les campagnes de vaccination ainsi que la politique d’inoculation de doses de rappel qui ont contribué à ce que le pays performe en matière de résilience face à la pandémie de COVID-19.

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How will Kansas build and repair its roads without a gas tax as more electric vehicles emerge?

Getting charged up about buying a new electric vehicle? More and more Kansans are — and it presents a conundrum for the state.

Officials are expecting to see more EVs on the road in the years to come, as well as hybrid cars and those using alternative fuels. That might mean cost savings for drivers — but money not spent at the gas pump also has an impact on how the state builds and repairs its roads.

Driving an electric vehicle has the same impact on roads in terms of wear and tear — but users are not paying gas taxes, one of the core mechanisms the state uses to fund infrastructure.

At the moment, the concern is less acute. A little over 6,000 hybrid and electric vehicles are registered in Kansas, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation, accounting for .3% of all vehicles registered in the state.

The state ranks toward the bottom nationally in the number of electric vehicles on the road and on the charging infrastructure needed to support them. For instance, Kansas sits at the bottom of the U.S. Electric Vehicle Accessibility Index, a report published by the consumer advocacy group Consumer Choice Center.

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The Doings of Intergovernmental Organisations Rate Healthy Scepticism

China’s contested placement from 85th to 78th in the World Bank’s 2018 Doing Business ranking gained a lot of attention throughout the fall months of 2021 as news outlets highlighted how networks and net worth can be leveraged to have the odds fall in one’s favor.

Speculations mounted as to who was involved and Kristalina Georgieva, the chief of the IMF, came under pressure for the suspicious data points. While some were quick to speak on Georgieva’s behalf (such as the former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz), and her name was eventually cleared, the Doing Business reports have lost their credibility and publication has been suspended.

Situations such as this call into question reporting mechanisms for intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), along with the purpose and purse strings of those involved.

Over the past two decades IGOs have grown in size and influence as the financial resources from private actors have proliferated. The financing of IGOs bulged in the 1990s when the attainment of earmarked contributions (featuring conditional lending terms) became an encouraged practice for the UN, IMF, and World Bank. 

Accordingly, the operational activities, under the UN system, saw an increase in donors with special interests from 1994 to 2009 by a rate of over 200 percent. And yet the involvement of multinational corporations and politically inclined ‘philanthropists’ has received little attention.

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