Month: June 2022

Consumer group says TRIPS deal sets a dangerous precedent for the future of prosperity

GEVENA, Switzerland — Last night, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreed to waive patents on COVID-19 vaccines, known as the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) flexibility. The historic decision had been in the making for over two years, with developing countries putting enormous pressure on the WTO and its members to strike a deal. The United Kingdom, once fervently opposed to the TRIPS waiver, was among the last countries to drop its opposition.

Under the agreed deal, third-party suppliers will be allowed to produce COVID-19 vaccines without seeking the consent of the patent owner.

In response, the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), a global consumer advocacy group, criticised the deal, stressing that the TRIPS flexibility represented a significant blow to the future of innovation and prosperity globally. The TRIPS waiver threatens the safety of consumers in the developing world, as vaccines will likely be produced without any respect for the high standards, set by patent owners. 

“There is a sense that some countries and people at the WTO put the deal on TRIPS at the core of their legacy. Instead of bettering the world and increasing COVID-19 protection, the move will be remembered as a grave mistake that threw our prosperity under the bus. We must do everything we can to prevent further waivers,” said Fred Roeder, managing director at the Consumer Choice Center.

Maria Chaplia, research manager at the Consumer Choice Center, said: “While the TRIPS waiver seems like a quick fix, the consequences of such a move will be dire. We have too many challenges ahead of us, and millions in Europe and beyond still await life-saving Alzheimer’s, Cystic Fibrosis, Diabetes, or HIV/AIDS treatment. The risk of more patent waivers being introduced in the future reduces the incentive to innovate across the board.”

“There is no guarantee that generic vaccines will increase the vaccination rates in developing countries, considering high rates of vaccine hesitancy in Africa, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, to name a few. Trading the future of the planet and next generations for a few million unsafe vaccines, which people in developing countries might refuse to take, doesn’t seem like a fair calculus,” concluded Chaplia.

***CCC Research Manager Maria Chaplia is available to speak with accredited media on consumer regulations and consumer choice issues. Please send media inquiries to maria@consumerchoicecenter.org***

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.

The FDA is betraying millions of consumers by killing one of the most popular anti-smoking devices

Washington, D.C. – The Food & Drug Administration is reportedly set to deny Juul’s pre-market authorization applications, which would effectively ban all Juul nicotine vaping products in the United States.

The Consumer Choice Center calls the FDA’s actions a “betrayal” for consumers and former smokers who have used Juul and other vaping products to quit smoking.

“The FDA is ratcheting up its all-out Nicotine Prohibition Campaign, this time by leaking that it will soon rip popular Juul products from the shelves of gas stations, convenience stores, and vape shops,” said Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center.

“This is an act of betrayal to the millions of former smokers who have switched to less harmful products like Juul to get them away from cigarettes. When you add this specific FDA marketing denial to the tens of thousands of others from smaller vapor companies, the FDA has explicitly chosen the anti-scientific stance of denying that harm reduction is a significant tool in getting smokers to switch. 

“The fact that we are in a time of economic uncertainty, high gas prices, and rising inflation, and the Biden Administration and its agencies are more focused on removing legal products from consumers’ hands tells you all you need to know. This administration does not care about consumers, and it cares even less about your health,” said Ossowski.

RELATED: The CCC recently hosted the Menthol Melee to explore the impact of the FDA’s looming bans on menthol and flavored tobacco products, again underscoring the agency’s troubling rulemaking.

Preserve privacy by rejecting a ban on Bitcoin and crypto self-custody in Lithuania

Lithuania’s Finance Ministry has announced plans that would essentially outlaw non-custodial crypto wallets – the practice of self-custodying of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies on a wallet an individual controls – and impose stricter regulations on crypto exchanges in an attempt to combat money-laundering, terrorist financing, and sanctions evasion. 

The prepared draft law heads to the Seimas and, if passed, would impose stricter regulations on individuals as well as cryptocurrency exchanges in the country.

This bill mirrors a proposed European Commission regulation that has passed various EU Parliament committees but has yet to adopt continent-wide, aiming to restrict cryptocurrency services and institutions.

“Banning non-custodial wallets, together with introducing strict and complicated measures for cryptocurrency exchanges will introduce unfavorable conditions for the growing industry and will cause a number of businesses to be forced and move their operations abroad – not to mention the harm this does to consumers who want to safely and securely enjoy crypto services,” said Aleksandar Kokotovic, crypto fellow at the Consumer Choice Center, a consumer advocacy group. 

“A measure that aims to prevent money laundering will have very little effect in doing so but will definitely hurt the privacy of Lithuanian citizens and force them to use services based outside of the country, leaving them less secure than they are at the moment,” said Kokotovic.

“Non-custodial Bitcoin and cryptocurrency wallets are basically just code, many of which are open source and can be replicated and forked indefinitely. A government trying to ban code is not only ridiculous but will do absolutely nothing to supposedly stop bad actors. All it will do, in the end, is create a precedent for the government to crack down on its own citizens for using cryptocurrencies,” said Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center.

“Banning software in 2022 is not only a bad idea that will be impossible to enforce, but will have a wide array of possible negative consequences, including the privacy of financial and crypto customers. 

“We have seen consumers voting with their feet in the past and sometimes being forced to choose service providers in different countries to avoid similar measures. We are still hoping that Seimas will understand the worries around approving such legislation and that they will preserve privacy and safeguard innovation rather than create unfavorable conditions for consumers and businesses,” said Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center.

The Consumer Choice Center strongly urges Seimas members to vote against this legislation and to preserve the privacy of Lithuanian citizens as well as continue creating a prosperous and friendly business environment for consumers and industry alike.

“We offer the following bedrock principles on smart crypto regulation for lawmakers, hoping to promote sound policies that will encourage innovation, increase economic inclusion across all income groups, all the while protecting consumers from harm,” said Ossowski.


  • Prevent Fraud
  • Technological Neutrality
  • Reasonable Taxation
  • Legal Certainty & Transparency

“The temptation to regulate cryptocurrencies and the blockchain economy based on financial considerations alone, rather than the innovative potential, is an active threat for entrepreneurs and consumers in the crypto space,” said Aleksandar Kokotović, CCC’s crypto fellow and co-author of the primer.

“Penalizing first-movers in crypto innovation or subjecting them to outdated laws will only serve to limit the unparalleled economic growth currently provided by the sector, or risk pushing all investment and entrepreneurship to less reliable and lawful jurisdictions,” added Kokotović.

The policy primer can be read in full here

ANDS hosts first virtual summit on ‘Youth Protection’ across MENA

Dubai, UAE; June 08, 2022: ANDS, a leading company in the electronic nicotine delivery solutions and heated tobacco technology, has hosted its first ever virtual summit to launch a unique initiative, the ‘Sentinel Program’, representing its vision towards youth protection. 

The program addresses solutions for youth vaping and provides ANDS’ perspective on protecting minors and non-smokers from being exposed to nicotine delivery solutions. The initiative includes steps on product conformity, packaging, marketing practices, up to trade and retail practices.

Read more here


Comment la communauté internationale fera face à de futures pandémies, similaires à celles que nous connaissons ? 

L’Organisation mondiale de la santé (OMS) en est aux premiers stades de la discussion sur ce que l’on appelle un instrument de prévention, de préparation et de réponse aux pandémies (PPR).

Cet instrument doit permettre de déterminer comment la communauté internationale fera face à de futures pandémies, telles que celles que nous connaissons actuellement. Une conférence planifiée pour ce mois-ci pourrait ainsi bouleverser le consensus international sur la propriété intellectuelle.

Confinements et vaccins

La pandémie de Covid-19 illustre de manière fascinante ce que beaucoup d’entre nous savent depuis des décennies : l’Etat est souvent lent et inefficace, tandis que l’industrie privée relève avec succès les défis de notre époque. Lorsque la pandémie a été déclarée par l’OMS, le chaos était inévitable. Des drones qui suivaient les joggeurs pendant qu’ils faisaient du sport aux bancs de parc qui ont été enlevés ou recouverts de ruban adhésif, les réactions des Etats étaient discutables du point de vue du droit civil et mal conçues en même temps.

Il était pourtant clair pour tout le monde, dès le début, qu’un vaccin était le seul moyen réaliste et rapide de sortir durablement des confinements. Le hic, c’est que, au départ, le temps de développement d’un vaccin était estimé à de nombreuses années.

Alors pourquoi sommes-nous aujourd’hui confrontés à une crise de Covid-19 contrôlée et à des infections dont les conséquences sont bien moins graves pour les malades ?

La concurrence privée entre les fabricants de vaccins a pris une ampleur et une rapidité sans précédent. Bien que tous les vaccins aient des noms médicaux, le patient ordinaire les connaît plutôt sous le nom de différentes entreprises pharmaceutiques.

Il est vrai que la passion des scientifiques et le devoir civique des entreprises jouent un rôle dans la recherche pharmaceutique et le développement des vaccins. En fait, nous ne devrions pas minimiser cet effet, car la plupart des entreprises pharmaceutiques ont vendu pendant des décennies des médicaments vitaux à prix coûtant dans les pays en développement.

A quoi sert la propriété intellectuelle sur les vaccins ?

Cependant, nous devons également comprendre que les investisseurs et les conseils d’administration des entreprises doivent voir l’opportunité d’un retour sur investissement, afin de couvrir les coûts immenses de la recherche médicale. Les droits de propriété intellectuelle répondent à cette attente, en créant un cadre juridique qui permet aux entreprises de créer des innovations médicales, en sachant qu’elles ne pourront pas être volées.

Au cours du développement des vaccins contre le Covid-19, les entreprises pharmaceutiques ont échangé des informations brevetées importantes avec leurs concurrents, afin d’obtenir des résultats plus rapidement – un échange d’informations rendu possible et organisé par une protection juridique complète.

Sans cette protection, les entreprises pourraient être hésitantes à l’idée de collaborer avec des entreprises concurrentes. Les DPI ont également permis la coopération entre les autorités de réglementation, y compris les accords de pré-achat, qui se sont avérés essentiels pour la préparation aux pandémies.

Malheureusement, ce fait n’est pas reconnu par les détracteurs de la propriété intellectuelle. Un nombre considérable de législateurs estiment que le mécanisme PRP ne devrait pas être basé sur la prémisse des droits de propriété intellectuelle.

Ils commettent une grave erreur en rendant la propriété intellectuelle responsable de la lenteur de la diffusion, car c’est le contraire qui est vrai. Toutefois, ces critiques peuvent rendre les Etats responsables d’autre chose : la lenteur des chaînes d’approvisionnement et les obstacles réglementaires sont en effet un aspect inutile et mortel de la distribution des vaccins. Nous avons besoin d’un système réglementaire harmonisé pour l’autorisation et la distribution des vaccins, ainsi que d’une réduction significative des barrières commerciales.

Quand les règles ralentissent tout

Si, en plus de la complexité du développement des vaccins, les entreprises doivent se frayer un chemin à travers la jungle réglementaire de 51 voies d’autorisation d’urgence dans 24 pays (en temps normal, il y aurait eu 190 procédures réglementaires différentes), de nombreux développeurs pourraient en conclure que cela ne vaut tout simplement pas la peine de supporter les coûts de conformité pour trouver une solution médicale. En outre, nous devons numériser les flux commerciaux entre les pays et travailler selon un système de normes médicales mutuellement reconnues.

Pourquoi le Royaume-Uni et l’Union européenne ne travaillent-ils pas selon le principe de la confiance mutuelle pour l’autorisation des vaccins ?

Les tentatives de développement d’un vaccin en dehors du système de propriété intellectuelle ont échoué. Les tentatives connues des hôpitaux et des universités d’établir des bases non commerciales pour un vaccin contre le Covid-19 n’ont pas fourni de détails sur les essais précliniques.

En parallèle, les solutions vaccinales de certaines autocraties isolées, comme Cuba, suscitent un grand scepticisme : malgré les succès qu’ils revendiquent eux-mêmes, les scientifiques cubains n’ont publié aucune donnée sur l’efficacité du vaccin.

Dans l’intérêt de l’innovation médicale, les organisations internationales de la santé ne devraient pas envisager de mesures qui porteraient atteinte aux droits de propriété intellectuelle. La pandémie de Covid-19 a justement montré que les chercheurs et les fabricants sont incités à partager leurs connaissances et à libérer ainsi leur potentiel d’innovation lorsque leurs succès peuvent être brevetés et commercialisés.

Originally published here

The Bees Are Doing Fine. Why Do Activists Say They Aren’t?

Pollinators are essential to our ecosystem; thus, a drastic decline in them would hurt not just nature around us but also humans. With that in mind, lawmakers around the globe have been worried about the effect of human behaviour on the sustainability of bee colonies. Environmentalists have been adamant that “bee-killing pesticides” are to blame, and not just in recent years: their claims that the chemicals we use to protect from crop losses and plant diseases are responsible for bee colony collapses. 

However, the numbers don’t bear that out. Since the introduction of neonicotinoid insecticides – the pesticides blamed for bee death – in the mid-90s, bee populations have not collapsed. The data show that as of 2020, there has been an increase of beehives by 17% since 2010, 35% since 2000, and 90% since 1961. In the United States, the number of bee colonies has been stable for 30 years, while in Europe, where farmers also use these insecticides, the number has increased by 20%.

Local or regional reductions in managed bees can occur because bee-keepers adapt their stock in terms of the market demand. As honey prices are currently on the rise, it is likely that in many areas, bee-keepers will increase their supply to benefit from higher prices. As for wild bees, not just are they hard to count (because, as the name suggests, they are wild), but existing research predicting catastrophic decline has been debunked in the past.

That does not mean that there are no threats to pollinators or that modern farming does not have an impact on them. In fact, climate change has affected the warming-tracking of bumble bees and led them to seek higher elevation. Added to that, solitary bees are affected by the impact of habitat loss caused by the rapid expansion of agriculture over the last centuries. That said, we need to put the habitat issue into context: research published on May 30 shows how comparative models point to peak agricultural land use already having been reached. This means that despite a growing population, humanity is unlikely to increase its need for land for farming purposes any longer. Even though that is the case, food production continues to grow because modern farming techniques allow us to create more yield with the same or even less land.

On the one hand, the reason for this shift lies in the fact that developing nations have increasing access to modern farming equipment and crop protection tools. Where previously farmers needed a lot of labour to hand-weed, machines are able to cover the entire field in a fraction of the time, and fungicides assure that the food is safe for human consumption. On the other hand, innovations in the developed world have also modernised the way we make, consume, and deliver food. Improved supply chains guarantee that we don’t need a farm in every small rural area anymore, and modern genetic engineering has made our crops more resilient and efficient. Yet even before that, the use of crop protection chemicals has ensured that farmers don’t lose a significant share of their crops each year.

However, with the development of modern agricultural practices came its opponents. Environmental activists have contested the legitimacy of the use of pesticides and instead advocated for organic farming. Not just does this undermine the trust in the regulatory bodies that oversee the safety of the products, but it also misses two key factors: organic farming, contrary to popular belief, does use a long list of pesticides, and a shift to all-organic would increase the need for farmland. A study by the University of Melbourne found that organic farming yields 43-72 percent less than traditional farming and that it requires 130 per cent more farmland to yield the same output.

Defenders of modern agriculture should vehemently push back against the notion that today’s food model undermines bee health or human health, for that matter. In fact, the solutions of environmental activists are so counter-productive to their own stated aims that we can safely say to them: we’re on your side, but you’re not.

Originally published here

Is Russia Funding European Environmental Activists?

Russia might be funding European environmental organizations to support its position in the energy market and undermine competitors.

Why is Europe’s political class questioning the effectiveness of modern agricultural practices and the legitimacy of nuclear power when the rest of the developed world is upgrading its fission capacity and allowing for gene-editing technology to revolutionize food production? One could think it’s the inherent need for Europe to be different from the rest of the world, but that would neglect the significant lobbying efforts that have prevented the continent from becoming food and energy independent.

In 2014, former NATO secretary-general and prime minister of Denmark Anders Fogh Rasmussen described this phenomenon to The Guardian:

“I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organisations – environmental organisations working against shale gas – to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas.”

The extraction of shale gas is known as fracking. While legal and used in the United States, European parliaments have consistently opposed this alternative and preferred to rely on standard Russian gas pipelines. According to a letter sent to then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin by U.S. representatives Lamar Smith and Randy Weber, Hillary Clinton told a private audience in 2016 “We were even up against phony environmental groups, and I’m a big environmentalist, but these were funded by the Russians …”

Has the Russian Federation been funding environmental activists around the world? A few more voices point in this direction.

WWF Germany, BUND (Friends of the Earth), and NABU (Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union), three environmental organisations who were avowed opponents of Germany’s NordStream pipelines with Russia, dropped their opposition after Gazprom promised funding for environmental protection, according to a 2011 report from the European Parliament. A foundation set up by a German federal state, environmental organizations, and NordStream (controlled by Gazprom) had filled its coffers with €10 million with representatives of the environmental organizations sitting on the board. Did these groups drop their opposition to the pipelines because of Russian funding? Whether they did or not is anyone’s guess.

Another striking example is Belgium, where the federal energy minister Tinne Van der Straeten (from the green party “GROEN”) has sought to dismantle Belgium’s nuclear energy capacity. Van der Straeten’s former job? Lawyer and associate at a law firm whose largest client is Gazprom. 

It’s not just energy dependence that Europe has created, but also significant food import dependency. According to the European Union (EU), 19 percent of “other feed and feed ingredients” imported to the bloc come from Russia, as well as almost 8 percent of sugar (other than beet and cane), and slightly more than 6 percent of imported wheat. While total agri-food imports from Russia to the EU only represent 1.4 percent, the country’s trade is vital for Europe’s animal feed, and by blocking Ukrainian trade routes, Moscow is worsening food security all over Europe. Conveniently, many of the organizations mentioned above have been adamant about reducing European farmland, phasing out crop protection, and blocking the use of genetic engineering.

The question of whether environmental activists have been funded by the Russian state might help resolve the even more puzzling inquiry into why they told deliberate mistruths for decades. Take the example of insecticides: when a decline in the honey bee population went unexplained for some time in the early 2000s, environmental activists first blamed their favorite boogeyman – genetic engineering. When that talking point was debunked by the scientific community, environmentalists turned their attention to neonicotinoid insecticides, and also subsequently to neonic alternatives such as sulfoxaflor.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a March 2018 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report, and reports from Canada and Australia, there has been no proven link between neonics and harm to bee populations. The scientific community rejected sulfoxaflor-related claims as recently as July last year. The European Food Safety Authority EFSA and the EPA, even called sulfoxaflor “better for species across the board.”

Not just have those claims about bee health been rejected, but bee population growth across the globe is on the rise. The data show that as of 2020, there has been a 17 percent increase in beehives, a 35 percent increase since 2000, and a 90 percent increase since 1961. In the United States, the number of bee colonies has been stable for thirtyyears while in Europe, where farmers also use insecticides, the number has increased by 20 percent.

These mistruths about crop protection and bee numbers have made countries fight what even mainstream news sources in Europe consider “bee-killing pesticides.” 

In France, Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front (itself supported by loans from Russian banks)supported a ban on sulfoxaflor in 2015. In 2019, the country outlawed neonics and sulfoxaflor, only to discover that it led to a massive decrease in sugar beet production. Paris had to pause the bansas its beet farmers were facing extinction but still received criticism from environmental organizations for their pragmatic decision. Again, the fact that Russia is a significant exporter of sugar beet is likely purely coincidental and unrelated.

Do environmental organizations support the efforts of foreign governments by increasing the dependence of NATO allies on Russia? Even if not deliberately, they do so indirectly as their advocacy leads to food inflation and economies that cannot argue from a position of strength. 

Originally published here

UK PFAS Ban Could Undermine Semiconductor Manufacturing Efforts

London, UK: A new report published by the Consumer Choice Center highlights how calls for heavy handed chemical policy could exacerbate the state of the UK’s semiconductor production.

Maria Chaplia, Research Manager at the Consumer Choice Center explained: “A few weeks ago, the UK announced an inquiry into the state of UK chips. The global microchip shortage has hampered UK car production in 2021, with limited signs of recovery. As the security concerns over UK semiconductor firms, sold to China, continue to grow, boosting domestic production should be a priority. However, regaining a competitive edge in the semiconductor industry is impossible without a flexible evidence-based stance on PFAS.

PFAS are the next target of green groups. As the pressure to ban PFAS in the UK builds up, the evidence should prevail.

“PFAS, a grouping of 4000+ man-made chemicals, are vital for the production of semiconductors, and if the UK follows these green groups and bans their use, increasing domestic chip manufacturing will be incredibly difficult. If the UK is serious about increasing domestic chip production, they have to also work to secure the key inputs involved in the production process, and PFAS are one of those key inputs.” said David Clement, an author of the report.

“In fact, we know that this is what will happen if the UK opts for a phase out. This is exactly what happened when Belgium paused production at a PFAS chemical plant in response to the tightening of environmental regulations. Reporting done by Business Korea highlighted that semiconductor producers have only 30 to 90 days of coolant inventory left before they will encounter serious production problems.” said Clement.

“With the global chip shortage, the UK has a unique chance to become a semiconductor powerhouse if it doesn’t ban PFAS. Among other things, this will ensure the UK can effectively counter China’s increased chip manufacturing. Banning PFAS would achieve nothing but feed the green groups with yet another socially disruptive victory and shift the production of chips elsewhere. The UK government shouldn’t succumb to calls to ban all PFAS,” concluded Chaplia.

EU’s green agenda and PFAS ban are incompatible

As part of the climate agenda, the European Union and member states have advocated the phasing out of gas-powered vehicles by 2035. The goal is to have at least 30 million electric vehicles on European roads by 2030, which would be a 2900% increase from the current amount. With demand for electric vehicles soaring in the EU, domestic industries are looking for innovative ways to establish supply chains for batteries and other components.

On the one hand, the EU seeks to boost the market for electric vehicles to achieve its climate targets. On the other hand, the proposed blanket PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) ban, pledged by the European Commission, will make it impossible to manufacture EVs in the EU.

PFAS are key to the production of EVs. However, instead of considering the spillover effects of banning over 4000 chemicals that carry individual risks, the EU decided to take the same approach as the US move towards banning all of them. In the US, the PFAS Action Act which would heavily restrict all these substances is awaiting the final decision in the Senate. Both the EU and US are on the verge of making the same policy mistake that will achieve nothing except make consumer products more expensive and hinder innovation.

PFAS are used to produce life-saving medical equipment and are vital for contamination-resistant gowns, implantable medical devices, heart patches, etc. These chemicals are also widely used in green technology production. In particular, solar panels, wind turbines, and lithium-ion batteries.

Fluoropolymers (one specific class of PFAS) are an essential part of green technology. Fluoropolymers are used to produce lithium batteries, the power source behind electric vehicles. They are durable, heat and chemical resistant, and have superior dielectric properties, all of these qualities make it hard for other chemicals to compete. If PFAS are banned as a class, the green ambitions of switching to electric vehicles would be extremely difficult to turn into policy. The blanket PFAS ban would cause further disruptions in the EV supply chain, increasing costs for consumers and ultimately making them less attractive as an alternative to gasoline vehicles.

Fluoropolymers are also used in coating and sealing solar panels and wind turbines that protect against harsh weather conditions. Fluoropolymers provide safety by preventing leaks and environmental releases in a range of renewable energy applications. The unique characteristics of PFAS such as water, acid, and oil resistance make these substances hard to replace.

Unless damaged, solar panels continue to produce energy beyond their lifeline. Fluoropolymers are what make solar panels durable. Going solar requires significant investments and without fluoropolymers, the risk of producing and installing them will increase, and production shortages will follow. This is exactly what is currently happening in Europe with microchips, which rely on PFAS in the production process. The closing of a plant in Belgium has left semiconductor manufacturers on the verge of serious production delays.

That is not to say that PFAS are risk-free. A 2021 study by Australian National University confirms that the PFAS exposure does carry some risk, but that most exposure comes from contaminated water. If EU regulators really want to make a difference, their legislation should focus on regulating PFAS from a clean water approach, as opposed to a full ban that comes with a long list of externalities.

The proposed ban is also problematic because fundamentally it won’t drive down demand for PFAS. Banning will shift production to countries like China, where environmental considerations are nearly non-existent. As a result, European regulators will be giving China the upper hand for both EV battery production, solar panels, and semiconductors. Not to mention, banning a substance that is key to so many production processes will magnify the damage caused by inflation. For European EV and solar panels producers, the PFAS ban will be a huge hurdle that is extremely difficult to overcome.

If the European Union is really as determined to pursue a transition to EVs as they suggest, the PFAS blanket ban should be called off. Instead, PFAS should be assessed individually and where poor production processes result in water contamination, the government should intervene.

Originally published here

What the US can learn from Europe’s war-induced food crisis

Lift the sanctions on Russia, and we’ll allow for Ukraine to export its food: that was the message that Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko passed on to its European counterparts recently. Moscow has been responsible for blocking Ukrainian transport ships carrying grain from passage through the Black Sea. Around 24 million metric tons of wheat and maize are currently unable to leave the country as prices are exploding. Wheat prices have jumped, now double compared to last year, while maize prices have gone up by 82 percent.

As Europe scrambles to find food imports from other trade partners — Russia being sanctioned and Ukraine unable to export — lawmakers are divided over the steps forward. In fact, the European Union had been discussing a comprehensive reform to its agricultural system through the so-called “Farm to Fork” plans. This roadmap seeks to reduce farmland by 10 percent, cut pesticide use in half, and increase organic farming to a fourth of the overall farmland use, up from the current 8 percent. Farmer representatives had been critical of the plans, and USDA published an impact assessment showing that the reforms would lead to a reduction in GDP between 7 and 12 percent. However, politicians in Brussels insisted that the plans were needed for the sake of the bloc’s carbon dioxide emission reduction targets.

Now that the war in Ukraine rages on longer than anyone expected, the tide is turning.

Both the European Parliament’s largest parliamentary group and France’s President Emmanuel Macron have made it clear that “Farm to Fork” comes at the wrong time and that in wartime Europe cannot afford the ambitious reforms. On top of that comes the pressure from Brexit Britain: England just introduced legislation that would legalize gene-editing in food production, in what is by far the most significant divergence from EU legislation since the exit. An adviser to the UK’s environment department said that this would have numerous benefits, from building crops that are more resistant to the climate crisis, pests and diseases to increasing crop yields, which could help to combat global hunger. All these factors are not just crucial in the long run but can also help the country weather food supply chain disruptions such as those created by the war in Ukraine.

This comes at a time when scientists just developed a gene-edited tomato that boosts vitamin D levels. Between 13 and 19 percent of Britons have a low vitamin D count, making innovations such as these essential.

Lawmakers in the United States have, in the past, attempted to copy European Union food regulations. The Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act (PACTPA), supported by lawmakers including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) would copy-paste EU food regulations into federal law. This piece of legislation, which could be approved by Democrats, would undermine the entire American food system as we know it. The United States has always preferred innovation over a hawkish approach to the precautionary principle, which is why, in contrast to Europe, it has assured that food is readily available and affordable. In 2020, Americans spent 5 percent of their disposable income on groceries, compared to 8.7 percent in Ireland (the lowest in the EU), 10.8 percent in Germany, 12 percent in Sweden, 17 percent in Hungary and 25 percent in Romania.

On the worldwide scale of food production, the United States has already fallen behind China and India. Both countries’ stake in food exports is negligible compared to the overall domestic production. However, unburdened by the increasing restrictions on modern agriculture, they could soon increase the economic competition in international food markets. China is already the leading trading partner for an increased number of countries in the world, particularly in developing nations.

The United States cannot afford to fall behind in the world food trade and should guarantee its competitive edge to support its allies in times of crisis.

Originally published here

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