Month: August 2022

Biden’s EPA Wants to Make Farming Even Harder

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in a move that considerably upsets farmers, is moving to essentially ban the commonly used pesticide atrazine.

The agency is adapting the so-called concentration equivalent level of concern (CE-LOC) for atrazine from 15 parts per billion (which it had set itself in 2020) to 3.4 ppb — meaning that thousands of acres of corn grown in the United States would be out of compliance.

In fact, the 3.4 number is purely symbolic since the chemical becomes ineffective for use at this level, essentially banning it without requiring the EPA to use the word “ban.”

In 2016, when the agency first attempted to introduce this policy, over 10,000 farmers submitted negative comments, as it would fundamentally endanger their bottom line.

The Trump administration had avoided a ban. However, the new administration is dead set on weaponising the EPA for its political ambitions: cutting down on pesticides, even if it is contrary to its own scientific advice.

In fact, the Science Advisory Panel (SAP) of the EPA has alerted its own administrators to the fact that most of the studies it uses to argue for a ban “have weaknesses in their design,” which “render interpreting their results and scoring them for “effects” or “no effect” difficult and subjective.”

One would think that the agency would be partial toward its own scientists, yet it appears it feels more strongly about the priorities set in Washington.

“When you look at all the details, you realize EPA is determined to eliminate the effective use of atrazine. That’s going to cause all kinds of problems, from loss of no-till acres to herbicide resistance in weeds. It will also be a big hit when input costs are already at an all-time high and a major loss for sustainable farming,” analysed Triazine Network Co-Chairman Gary Marshall of Missouri, a group of farmers arguing for the continued use of the product.

Kansas Corn Growers Association CEO Greg Krissek said: “This is clearly a case of agency overreach.”

Corn farmers would lose an estimated $3.1 billion to $4.6 billion per year, which would increase food insecurity and prices at a time when American consumers can afford it the least.

Adding to that, there are good reasons why atrazine, after glyphosate, remains the second most used herbicide in the United States. Consumers save $4.3 billion to almost $6.2 billion annually because the use of the product lowers prices for dairy products, eggs and meat.

Unbeknownst to environmental activists who support the measure, an effective ban of atrazine would harm the environment. The chemical is essential for no-till farming — a technique that eliminates diesel-fueled tillage and avoids soil erosion.

This keeps carbon dioxide emissions in the soil, and wildlife — such as birds — is less often disturbed by farmers passing over their fields. Farmers who support the continuation of atrazine could hit back at these activists with the adage: “I’m on your side, but you’re not.”

Biden’s politicization of the EPA is an unfortunate and misguided attempt to improve sustainability while inherently achieving the opposite. If the agency moves forward with its plans, it would reduce food security, increase prices, and reduce sustainable farming across the country.

The comment period for farmers continues until September 6. Let’s hope a change of mind is possible for regulators when all farmers have had their say.

Originally published here

Reject NDP hypocrisy and ease our plasma shortage by paying Canadian donors

Compensating donors for plasma is the only route to increase our domestic supply

Last week news broke that Canadian Blood Services (CBS) is seeking to partner with Grifols, the world’s largest blood plasma producer, to ramp up plasma collection in Canada, primarily through compensating donors for their donation. This is a major development, and one that should be celebrated.

For those who don’t know, blood plasma is the yellow liquid that houses our red and white blood cells. Donating plasma is more intrusive than giving blood, but once the plasma is extracted from the blood mix, the donor’s blood is recycled back into their body. Plasma is an incredibly valuable resource, and is used to make plasma protein therapies — medicines that treat burns, immune deficiencies, respiratory diseases and coagulation disorders, such as hemophilia.

Unfortunately though, our national collection system, which relies almost entirely on non-compensated donors, leaves our plasma supply in a state of perpetual shortage. Canada, under the current model, produces only enough plasma to meet 13.5 per cent of our national demand. In fact, we are so desperately short on plasma in Canada that 80 per cent of Canada’s plasma therapies are derived using plasma from American donors, who are compensated for their donations.

It would appear perfectly reasonable that we compensate plasma donors domestically, given that we rely on compensated donors from south of the border. What justification could there be to prohibit paid plasma in Canada while we so heavily rely on paid plasma from abroad?

Well, according to NDP health critic Don Davies, this move would “prioritizeprofits of Big Pharma over the well being of patients,” so much so that the NDP is calling on the Liberal government to block the partnership. Beyond the wild hypocrisy of wanting to ban paid plasma in Canada while importing paid plasma from the U.S., claims made by Davies were misleading.

As opponents of paid plasma often do, they cite the tainted blood scandal of the 1980s, and the Krever Inquiry. The blood scandal of the 1980s identified serious risks, which shouldn’t be played down, but those risks have been drastically cut with such new measures as heat treatment, filtration and treatment chemicals that are used to remove or render viruses inactive.

In fact, these treatment methods have eliminated HIV or hepatitis transmission caused by plasma products since the introduction of modern processing practices over 25 years ago. The claim that plasma from paid donors is less safe, or unsafe, is “categorically untrue,” according to Canadian Blood Services President Dr. Graham Sher.

Another common criticism of paid plasma, as echoed by Davies and the NDP, is that the introduction of compensation crowds out public blood donations, siphoning donors away from the public blood donor system and into the for-profit plasma system. Again, there isn’t any evidence to suggest that this is true. Research from Georgetown University’s William English and Peter Jaworski, examining whether the introduction of paid-plasma in Canada and the United States decreased blood donations overall, found no evidence of a decrease in blood donations but rather a small increase. These findings were also replicated in the Czech Republic and Germany, where donors are compensated for their donations.

To make matters worse, the NDP doesn’t want to stop at blocking CBS’s partnership with Grifols, it wants a national ban on paid plasma. In its words, to “protect and save lives.” But a ban on paid plasma in Canada would only exacerbate our current situation, one that CBS warned about as early as 2018. In its annual report, CBS stated that “we rely too heavily on a foreign supply of plasma to meet the immune globulin needs of patients in Canada. This degree of reliance is not only unsustainable, it puts patients at risk.”

Under no circumstances should Justin Trudeau and his Liberal party listen to the bloviations perpetrated by their NDP partners in Parliament. Doing so would further enshrine the status quo, which is ripe with hypocrisy, and underserves the patients who so desperately rely on these therapies. Compensating donors for plasma is the only route to increase our domestic supply. It is the right move.

Originally published here

The Counterfactual: Are secondhand ENDS emissions dangerous?

Republished from Clivebates.com with the consent of the author

WHO avoids a comparison between secondhand smoke and secondhand aerosol. Again, WHO uses the words “potentially” and “potential” to avoid saying anything about how toxic or how risky. In my own Q&A on vaping and harm reduction, I highlight three key differences between secondhand smoke and secondhand vape exposure: 

  1. The quantity emitted. Most of the inhaled vapour is absorbed by the user and only a small fraction is exhaled (15% or less, depending on the constituent).  In contrast, about four times as much environmental tobacco smoke comes directly from the burning tip of the cigarette than is exhaled by the smoker. There is no equivalent of this “sidestream smoke” for vaping.
  2. The toxicity of the emissions. Tobacco smoke contains hundreds of toxic products of combustion that are either not present or present at very low levels in vapour aerosol. Vapour emissions do not have toxicants present at levels that pose a material risk to health. Exposure to nicotine, itself relatively benign, is unlikely to reach a level of pharmacological or clinical relevance.
  3. The time that the emissions remain in the atmosphere. Environmental tobacco smoke persists for far longer in the environment (about 20-40 minutes per exhalation). The vapour aerosol droplets evaporate in less than a minute and the gas phase disperses in less than 2 minutes.

The main issue with vaping in public is etiquette and consideration for others. At this stage, there is nothing to suggest that indoor vaping presents a material risk to bystanders. But that does not mean there should be a license to vape at will anywhere. It means the owner of a property should determine the policy for their premises. A government override of these property rights can only be justified if there are material risks to bystanders or workers.

Written by Clive Bates

Generasi Penamat dan cabaran penyeludupan rokok

PETALING JAYA: Pelbagai kempen bagi membantu mengatasi tabiat merokok telah dilaksanakan Kementerian Kesihatan sejak dahulu, namun dilihat tidak efektif dan gagal mencapai sasaran.

Buktinya dapat dilihat berdasarkan Tinjauan Kesihatan dan Morbiditi Kebangsaan (NHMS) 2019 yang menunjukkan bilangan perokok di Malaysia terus meningkat kepada 4.8 juta orang pada 2021 berbanding 4.7 juta pada 2011.

Malah, kekerapan merokok di negara ini berada pada tahap yang tinggi iaitu sebanyak 21.3 peratus.

Justeru, bagi menangani tabiat itu, Kabinet baru-baru ini meluluskan Rang Undang-Undang (RUU) kawalan tembakau dan merokok yang melarang aktiviti merokok dan pemilikan sebarang produk berkaitan rokok termasuk jenis elektronik bagi generasi muda yang lahir selepas 2007.

Polisi dikenali sebagai Generational End Game (Generasi Penamat) itu telah dibentang di Parlimen.

Namun, langkah drastik yang diambil itu mencetuskan seribu satu persoalan sehingga mendapat reaksi pelbagai pihak mengenai keberkesanannya dan kebolehlaksanaan terutama dalam beberapa situasi terkini negara ini.

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Canada’s shaky rules on cryptocurrencies have their root in Ontario

The notoriously volatile cryptocurrency market has seen more downs than ups, lately. But for Canadians curious about Bitcoin and cryptocurrency — which, notwithstanding the crash of earlier this year is now once again a $1 trillion global asset class — buying and selling any of these digital assets will hinge on where you live.

Quebecers or British Columbians will have an easier time, while Ontario residents will find their choices limited. Exchanges like Binance have learned the hard way, publicly battling with the Ontario Securities Commission over whether they can serve Ontario users.

Though Binance is registered through Canada’s FINTRAC as a money service business, it must comply with Ontario’s securities rules before it can legally accept users in Ontario. That has left millions of Ontarians blocked from Binance and other platforms.

Plenty of Canadians complain about Quebec’s unique status on other matters of regulation, but Ontario is the outlier when it comes to securities.

Canada’s decentralized system gives each province autonomy in the regulation of securities and investor protection. The two most important, due to population, are the Ontario Securities Commission and Quebec’s Autorité des marchés financiers. 

However, Quebec has an advantage as a signatory to a 2004 memorandum of understanding between securities regulators that acts as a “passport” to allow licenses to be accepted in other provinces. Every province and territory has accepted this passport system and works to foster more integrated rules across the country. All except Ontario.

Though the Ontario regulator is fairly busy, it has so far avoided joining hands with other provinces.

In 2020, Canadian Securities Administrators, the umbrella organization of other provinces’ securities regulators, chastised Ontario for not including the passport rule in their highly-praised taskforce to modernize capital markets.

These piecemeal licenses and exemptions, as well as the lack of any significant cryptocurrency rules at the federal level, mean Canadians who want to use these services are forced to adopt creative —if not technically illegal — methods of bypassing restrictions.

Using the second-largest global crypto exchange FTX, for example, is out of bounds. But if you fire up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and set it to a U.S. IP address, you can easily log in, provide some information, and get to trading.

While FTX is registered with the federal government through FINTRAC, it still does not have the license necessary to offer its services to residents in Ontario. Recent acquisitions by FTX and other firms may change that, but only if the OSC accepts the new license. 

Considering dozens of other shady offshore crypto exchanges are all too happy to accept Canadians without following financial regulations or disclosures, this system is obviously broken and full of risk. Without smart rules, entrepreneurs and consumers have no other options, setting them up for a world of pain.

Dozens of liquidations and so-called “rug pulls” are cascading in the current bear market, putting millions of Canadian investments at risk. This includes Quebec’s major pension fund, which participated in a $400 million round in Celsius Network, a crypto lending and staking platform close to bankruptcy and default.

We already know that Canada, while a wealthy and free country, does not have interprovincial free trade, as we’re all too reminded in political campaigns and frequent cases before the Supreme Court. It’s no different with cryptocurrency rules.

While we await the unlocking of provincial trade barriers, there is something we can do to provide better clarity and security for Canadians who want in on the crypto economy.

Considering the billions of dollars from both institutions and Canadian investors at risk in the cryptocurrency space, it is true that there is currently no clear regulatory oversight or remedies apart from those we would traditionally apply to banking institutions. 

The current Capital Adequacy Requirements for banks in Canada can range up to 8 percent depending on the institution and holdings, usually owing to a level of risk exposure. This is a convoluted and complicated formula and keeps the number of banks in Canada quite low when compared to other industrialized and financialized countries.

While it may seem attractive to automatically lump cryptocurrency projects and protocols into Canadian banking rules and requirements, we recognize that virtual currencies are different than traditional investments and thus should also have their own set of rules. 

Disclosures, protections against fraud, and legal certainty, however, are key principles that would prove very beneficial to Canadian crypto consumers, as we have proposed elsewhere. But what can be done today?

First, Ontario should sign the memorandum to adopt the passport rule and other securities rules, like all other Canadian provinces. Second, if Ontario refuses to budge and there’s no appetite for a federal securities regulator, Canada should at least pass a law granting reciprocity of provincial securities licenses. Third, and most importantly, Ottawa should embrace smart cryptocurrency regulations that promote innovation, competition, and legally allow Canadians to buy and trade cryptocurrencies if they choose.

There are many advantages to being Canadian. We have a robust economy with plenty of opportunities that help raise our standard of living to punch above our weight. We must ensure that our rules reflect that, no matter our postal code and provincial flag. It’s time for our political leaders to follow through.

Originally published here

Checking In on the Bees

The conversation over pollinator health has sparked a heated debate on using crop protection chemicals. In Europe, both neonicotinoid pesticides (marketed since the 1990s) and its competitor sulfoxaflor (registered with the EPA since 2013) have been banned over concerns the insecticides adversely affect bee health. 

“Should other politicians vote down the (National Front’s) proposals on principle, even if they share the same opinion?” wrote EU-focused media outlet Euractiv in 2015 after Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front had vigorously argued for a ban on sulfoxaflor.

In any case, for Europeans, the ban of each additional pesticide is a win from the political viewpoint, notably because the European Commission’s soon-to-be-released Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive aims to cut pesticide use in half by 2030. The longer the list of banned products, the more likely this aim will be achieved, even if the goal is more political than scientific, and even though it elevates precaution to a level difficult to achieve for products that farmers need.

The United States continues to use both neonics and sulfoxaflor successfully, thus escaping the downsides of a phase-out: France had to reauthorize the use of neonics in 2020 after its sugar beet industry faced collapse. In fact, the EPA calls sulfoxaflor “better for species across the board,” which is probably why the U.S sent a complaint letter to the World Trade Organization in April. Any export products treated with products banned in the European Union could face barriers to entering the market.

This outlines a distinct difference in policymaking between Europe and the United States. Europe is more willing to accept collateral damage from its biodiversity policies than the United States, despite the war in Ukraine causing significant disruptions in the continent’s food supply chain and the effects of COVID-19 have burdened households with substantial food price inflation. For consumers, the effects of a more efficient food production system are palpable: in 2020, Americans spent 5 percent of their disposable income on groceries, compared to8.7 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.

However, the question remains to what extent the products — especially those like sulfoxaflor, which were pitched as the replacement for more controversial neonicotinoids — affect bees. A  study in Switzerland recently found no evidence for the claim that the product affects the fitness of bees. Researchers in Ireland equally detected no effect on bumblebees’ ability to learn through smell and taste, essential features of their pollination.

On top of that, for all the talk about “bee-killing pesticides,” strikingly few bees are dying. 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. The number of bee colonies in the United States has been stable for 30 years, while in Europe, where farmers use insecticides, the number has increased by 20 percent. Regional declines in bee populations are often due to a reduced demand for beeswax or honey, which makes beekeepers shrink their supply of managed bees. As honey prices increase, we will likely see the opposite effect.

The problem with pesticides and bee health claims is that you can make them up as you go along. The claim that pesticides make bees stupid leads to the study of the learning abilities of bees; the scientific community is just always running years behind the claims of environmental activists. As with every good conspiracy, it is hard by design to disprove it completely.

Meanwhile, agricultural output is likely to suffer as the crop protection catalog is reduced by the year in places like Europe. Organic food, by comparison, requires 130 percent more farmland to achieve the same yield. A method that is hard to reconcile with reducing the amount of cropland we need, most notably to protect natural areas for wild bees.

Originally published here

Milano Centrale è la seconda migliore stazione d’Europa

Il Consumer Choice Center, un gruppo di difesa dei consumatori, ha redatto la classificadelle migliori stazioni d’Europa, esaminando le 50 stazioni europee più grandi e classificandole in base all’esperienza dei passeggeri e a una serie di fattori, come l’affollamento, l’accessibilità e il numero di destinazioni.

Come spiega il CCC, l’indice complessivo dell’esperienza del passeggero comprende la disponibilità di servizi di ride-hailing, la concorrenza delle compagnie ferroviarie, i ristoranti e i punti di asporto in loco, negozi, il numero di destinazioni nazionali e internazionali, l’accessibilità per i disabili, l’esistenza di lounge di prima classe, il Wi-Fi e la comodità per accedere ai binari.

Zürich HB a Zurigo, in Svizzera, è al primo posto nella classifica delle migliori stazioni ferroviarie d’Europa. Anche se la stazione non ha il maggior numero di destinazioni internazionali e nazionali, ha un elevato numero di negozi/chioschi, ristoranti e punti di ristoro per allietare il viaggio.

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Na quarta-feira (27), o Federal Reserve elevou sua taxa básica de juros em robustos três quartos de ponto pela segunda vez consecutiva em seu esforço mais agressivo em três décadas para domar a alta inflação. Na visão de Fabio Fernandes, Head de Comunicação do Consumer Choice Center, os juros mais altos terão consequências dolorosas para os consumidores.

“Temos observado o impacto da inflação sobre os consumidores americanos, e isso os está prejudicando, especialmente porque está superando o crescimento salarial historicamente forte. A inflação mais alta significa que o Fed precisa agir de forma mais agressiva, que foi o que fez hoje.”

“No entanto, o remédio também é doloroso para os consumidores. Taxas de juros mais altas se traduzem em financiamentos mais caros para os mutuários. Isso vale para hipotecas, empréstimos estudantis, empréstimos para automóveis e cartões de crédito, e quanto mais altas as taxas, mais os consumidores têm que pagar”, disse Fernandes

“Os consumidores estão sendo pressionados por preços muito mais altos para praticamente tudo em suas listas de compras e, como muitos consumidores não têm muito dinheiro extra em seus orçamentos, empréstimos a taxas mais altas prejudicarão especialmente as famílias de baixa renda”, acrescentou Fernandes.

“De fato, a inflação continua sendo a principal preocupação dos consumidores e, com o crescente medo com relação ao rumo que a economia está seguindo, os consumidores passarão a gastar com mais cautela”, concluiu Fernandes

Originally published here

Generational End Game: An attack on personal liberty

RECENTLY, a polemic arose when Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin wanted to table a Bill to ban tobacco and vaping for future generation of Malaysians in Parliament, which is in session until Aug 4.

Consumer Choice Centre (CCC) firmly disagrees with the proposed ban for many reasons. Primarily, we believe that such a ban will infringe on the rights of Malaysians to choose and make decisions regarding their own lifestyle.

The Government and Members of Parliament (MPs) should examine this matter holistically, especially matters involving consumer preferences.

All of us, smokers or non-smokers alike, have a fundamental interest in defending our personal and civic freedom so that we can live our lives as we think best rather than as what the Government tells or wants us to do.

In a free society, adults must be allowed to make choices concerning their lifestyle without excessive intervention.

Freedom to seek alternatives

CCC does not condone smoking. We understand the health risks and the impact of second hand smoke.

Long-term tobacco consumption or smoking can cause health disorders to the nervous system, lungs and heart, digestive system and even the human reproductive system.

Almost 99% of tobacco-related deaths are caused by smoking rather than from the use of nicotine in other forms. The Yorkshire Cancer Research says nicotine is not the cause of smoking-related deaths. In fact, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cardiovascular disease are not caused by nicotine.

As a consequence, the idea of nicotine replacement or tobacco harm reduction has proven to help reduce the above risks. Stopping tobacco use with harm reduction products and technologies such as vape can also reduce the risk of getting or dying from cancer.

This is agreed by international organisations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) Euro Office which states that the complete replacement of burning tobacco with electronic nicotine and non-nicotine delivery systems is capable of reducing the exposure of consumers to a wide toxic range.

In addition, Public Health England also stated that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking.

Consumer safety

In the Illegal Cigarette Survey (ICS) released by Nielsen in 2021, Malaysia ranked highest in the world for the existence of illegal cigarette syndicates and smuggling.

Meanwhile, according to a study by the Datametrics Research and Information Research Centre (DARE) entitled Clearing the Smoke: Reducing Tobacco Harm, the incidence of illicit tobacco trade is expected to surge by 61.7% from 58.4% in March 2022 if the Government pursues a “Generational End Game (GEG)” policy.

It is more worrying when this illegal trade is more harmful to consumers because the products sold in the market do not meet the local health regulations. In fact, some of them are also mixed with ingredients that are not suitable for human consumption.

Every user has the right to receive accurate information in making a decision to ensure what is best for him, including information on the importance of switching to vaping or alternatives to smoking.

Consumer rights in tobacco harm reduction

Banning tobacco and vaping will restrict the freedom of individuals to obtain alternatives, increase illegal trade as well as spark the re-use of cigarettes. Smoking addiction is a complex issue that needs to be addressed with more effective and creative public policies or strategies.

The Government should see the method of reducing the harmful effects of tobacco as one of the important approaches in reducing the number of smokers in Malaysia. This is especially when we see the trend of switching to vaping as a less harmful product has received a positive response among smokers in Malaysia.

Recognising the rights of consumers towards reducing the harms of tobacco will be able to both educate and provide Malaysian consumers with accurate information. Indirectly, it can provide consumers with knowledge about health risk reduction.

Originally published here

Energy costs struggle against judicial activist squeeze

In the traditional American view of self-government, we prefer decision-making to be as local as possible.

Government works best when decisions are made closest to those affected, whether at the city, municipal, or state level, depending on the question. This makes democratic accountability easier and lets states and municipalities become “laboratories of democracy,” competing among themselves in a kind of marketplace for citizens. For example, the hefty regulations and taxes imposed on Californiaresidents are a key reason why so many Californians are seeking refuge in Texas or Florida.

But what about larger governing questions involving energy policies and the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions? That’s the question currently burning in state courts throughout the country.

A number of Democratic-run states, counties, and cities have filed lawsuits against oil and gas industries, attempting to extract large settlements for the “harm” caused by emissions, often in friendly courts where they know judges are keen to rule in their favor. But if we’re imposing additional costs on companies for providing us with the energy used to power our homes and cars, costs that will ultimately be passed to consumers, should state judges be the ultimate deciders?

The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2021 that “global warming is a uniquely international concern that touches upon issues of federalism and foreign policy. As a result, it calls for the application of federal common law, not state law.” In contrast, the notoriously left-leaning 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that California’s climate suits belong in state courts. It’s predictable what those state rulings will be: ones that cost all of us energy consumers dearly.

We should be cautious of sweeping state judicial decisions on energy policies, especially as inflation continues to rise, robbing us of more of our income.

If these lawsuits continue — and each should obviously be evaluated on its individual merits — they belong in federal courts. National energy policy should not be decided by a patchwork of state and local courts that will, inevitably, apply the law inconsistently.

This concern is made even more clear by the flagrant hypocrisy of the White House’s recent attempts to squeeze oil and gas companies. President Joe Biden is demanding cuts in prices and increases in production while severely curtailing new drilling contracts. All the while, Democratic state attorneys general are trying to sue energy companies for emissions.

We need federal courts to deliver decisions that adhere to the Constitution.

Originally published here

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