Recent Media

Competition is essential to create a secure and innovative supply chain for 5G

Open markets and free trade have increased consumers’ prosperity in Europe and across the world. The impact of the technological advances that contributed to a massive connectivity and freedom of consumers would not have been possible without the existence of a global set of standards that promote competition and choice in the global market for information and communication technologies (ICT). The flipside of this bespoke connectivity can be seen in growing fear about massive data leaks and authoritarian governments targeting cyber-attacks at liberal democracies. News of all mobile data being rerouted from Europe through some Chinese nodes isn’t happening in a Black Mirror episode but is the frightening reality these days.

For decades telecommunications and internet-enabled businesses have relied on openness to operate complex networks and preserve the integrity of the information transmitted. Their efficiency and the ease with which consumers access these services depends on seamless interoperability across key technology vendors and the technical standards that underpin the network components that they build.

However, modern political realities have revealed the caveats of this globalized and interconnected system. As former German Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor Joschka Fischer wrote, “technology andsoftware exports are no longer just a matter of business; they are about power.” This is particularly evident in the telecommunications sector. National governments’ desire to field next generation 5G networks is being tempered by their growing concern over the security pitfalls created by the overreliance and dominance of untrustworthy vendors in the supply chain for 5G technology. The importance of a secure 5G is evident as governments across the European Union are currently undertaking comprehensive assessments of their exposure and risk to security vulnerabilities in the supply chain.  

While potential threats to national security are serious, pursuing a strategy of brinkmanship risks elevating geopolitical concerns at the expense of an opportunity to enact comprehensive standards for 5G. National governments and industry must reinforce their commitments to the principles that gave  consumers a thriving global technology sector in the first place: open markets and choice for ICT products and services. Safeguarding consumer privacy and security requires a coordinated framework to facilitate vendor diversity. Additionally, liberal democracies need to ensure that no single vendor from an autocratic or illiberal country of origin can monopolize their respective ICT market for 5G or legacy 4G and LTE networks.  

Security must be a defining feature of the standards and norms that govern the global ICT supply chain as well as the individual pieces of software and hardware that businesses and consumers depend on. Inaction risks the ability of businesses and consumers to exercise meaningful choice in critical 5G and other ICT products and services. Some of the EU’s largest member states, such as Germany and Italy, have used the auctions of spectrum licenses as a cash cow for their national budgets instead of seeing newly utilized frequencies as a gamechanger for consumers’ connectivity. This has led to the undesired consequence that many operators are cash-strapped and tend to go for the cheapest rather than the most trustworthy infrastructure provider. This has led us to a path dependency of toxic reliance on very few suppliers with questionable motives.

With coordinated technical standards for interoperability, such as the more trustworthy open source solutions, comes greater trust and transparency. As advancements in technology transform all matter of global exchange these principles must be reinforced and expanded to better protect consumers, promote innovation and foster a safe and secure digital ecosystem.

Fred Roeder, Managing Director of the Consumer Choice Center, and Luca Bertoletti, European Affairs Manager of the Consumer Choice Center

Originally published here

Don’t ban meat – grow it in a lab

Innovation is key to fighting climate change.

The fight against climate change has become one of the most widely discussed topics in the UK and globally. And for good reason. However, it is alarming that this noble goal is often used to justify all sorts of bans. Recently, for instance, Goldsmiths, University of London banned the sale of meat on campus.

Bans like this restrict our choices. And they often don’t achieve their desired goal. For instance, a ban on plastic straws and stirrers will come into effect in 2020. Some companies, like McDonald’s, are getting ahead of the ban by replacing plastic straws with paper ones. But recently, McDonald’s admitted that its new paper straws, which were supposed to decrease damage to the environment, cannot be recycled.

What’s more, when bans are seen as an easy solution, innovative ideas are often pushed out of the debate. The best way to reduce the impact of food production on the climate is to embrace innovation. On a positive note, Boris Johnson has promised to liberate the UK’s biotech sector from the EU’s anti-gene-modification rules. This could turn the post-Brexit UK into a global, future-oriented biotech powerhouse – and it could help the planet. This opportunity cannot be missed.

Currently, laws that cover genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the UK are primarily based on EU law. It is illegal to grow gene-modified crops for commercial purposes, but they can be imported. This approach is regressive and has left British agriculture lagging behind other non-EU countries, including the US, Canada and Australia, which have booming agricultural sectors.

However unpopular it may be, gene modification has many benefits. It improves agricultural performance and reduces the need for chemicals. It also drives down the cost, energy usage and carbon emissions associated with tractor diesel fuel and pesticide spraying. Enabling gene modification would lead to lower prices in the shops and encourage farmers to innovate. PODCASTWeed, cigarettes and Irn-Bru, with Julia Hartley-BrewerSPIKED

Aside from allowing the growth of GM crops, it is also essential to create fair market conditions for GM foods. Currently, under EU legislation, products containing GMO are labelled as such. This gives an unfair advantage to GMO-free food. It is intended to direct us away from the most innovative products.

Worse, gene-modification bans limit our choice by preventing the sale of meat substitutes, like those developed by Impossible Foods, or GM salmon. After Brexit, the UK could be the first European country to sell these – but only if it chooses the path of innovation. Retaining the EU’s anti-GM rules would also be a significant obstacle to striking trade deals around the world.

Imposing bans – whether on meat, plastics or GMOs – always seems like the easiest and most obvious course of action. But in the long run, encouraging innovative substitutes will be far more rewarding. More innovation means less environmental damage, more choice for consumers, and more prosperity for the country.

Maria Chaplia is European affairs associate at the Consumer Choice Center.

Originally published here

Permettons à l’Europe de redevenir supersonique

De nos jours, les temps de vol sont en fait plus longs qu’il y a 60 ans. Compte tenu des avancées technologiques actuelles, il est grand temps de (re)donner leur chance aux avions supersoniques.

Une opinion de Bill Wirtz, analyste de politiques publiques pour le Consumer Choice Center.
En construisant son réseau ferroviaire à grande vitesse, la France a révolutionné la conception du transport ferroviaire des voyageurs. Ce qui prenait 4-5 heures en bus longue distance de Bruxelles à Paris peut maintenant être accompli en un peu plus d’une heure avec un train Thalys. L’abandon des trains régionaux lents au profit de nouveaux modèles rapides et futuristes a apporté plus de confort et d’efficacité (au niveau temporaire) aux consommateurs.

Dans le domaine de l’aviation, c’est le contraire qui se produit. Depuis les années 1960, le transport aérien ne s’est pas accéléré. La vitesse de croisière des avions commerciaux varie aujourd’hui entre 480 et 510 nœuds, contre 525 nœuds pour le Boeing 707, un pilier du voyage en avion des années 1960. La raison en est l’efficacité énergétique, qui se traduit par un bon rapport coût-efficacité. Alors que les pilotes ont tenté de trouver les routes de vol les plus efficaces, c’est aussi le ralentissement des vols qui a permis de réduire la consommation de carburant. Selon un article paru dans NBC News en 2008, JetBlue a économisé environ 13,6 millions de dollars par an en carburant en ajoutant deux minutes à ses vols.

Mais ralentir les choses n’est pas nécessairement la seule solution, et on ne peut pas prétendre que les temps de vol plus longs qu’il y a 60 ans ravissent consommateurs. On peut le voir ainsi : les vieux trains régionaux consomment moins d’électricité que les trains à grande vitesse actuels qui roulent à plus de 300 km/h, mais personne ne nous propose de ramener à 7 heures les temps de trajet entre Bruxelles et Londres. En fait, comme nous utilisons continuellement le train à grande vitesse, nous améliorons la technologie et réduisons la consommation d’énergie. La même discussion devrait s’appliquer à l’aviation.

Une industrie (ré)émergente

Les avions supersoniques ne sont plus à l’ordre du jour en Europe depuis un certain temps, mais de nouvelles innovations devraient nous amener à reconsidérer notre approche de cette technologie. Pour les vols intercontinentaux longue distance, les avions supersoniques réduisent le temps de vol de plus de moitié. Par exemple, Londres-New York passerait de 7 heures à seulement 3 heures et 15 minutes. L’efficacité énergétique des modèles supersoniques actuels n’est pas encore idéale, mais pour une industrie (re)émergente, la seule façon d’y parvenir, c’est la croissance. Si l’on considère l’évolution des avions conventionnels, qui sont devenus 80 pour cent plus efficaces que les premiers avions de ligne, on peut être très optimiste sur les avions supersoniques. De plus, les producteurs d’avions supersoniques sont également favorables à l’utilisation de carburants alternatifs, ce qui s’ajoute au plan 2020 de l’ONU pour une croissance neutre en carbone.

Le vrai piège, c’est le niveau de bruit. Ayant grandi dans une ville voisine d’un aéroport et y ayant vécu près de 20 ans, je connais les différents points de vue sur le bruit des aéroports. Dans mon village natal, beaucoup de gens défendaient l’aéroport pour des raisons économiques, tandis que d’autres se rassemblaient en associations de citoyens inquiets, combattant l’aéroport un avion à la fois. Au fil des ans, leurs demandes ont été de moins en moins appuyées, car les avions devenant plus efficaces, ils faisaient aussi moins de bruit.

Mais les avions supersoniques ne partent pas non plus de zéro. Bien que ces appareils soient plus bruyants à l’atterrissage et au décollage, les nouveaux modèles futuristes comme Overture sont jusqu’à cent fois moins bruyants que ne l’était le Concorde, tout en demeurant, du moins pour l’instant, plus bruyants que les avions de ligne actuels. Dans le même temps, un compromis impliquerait des temps de déplacement plus courts et des attentes prometteuses en matière de réduction de la pollution.

Donner une chance aux avions supersoniques

Le moins que l’on puisse faire pour élargir le choix des consommateurs dans ce domaine est de donner une chance aux supersoniques, mais la réglementation actuelle ne considère pas que ces avions sont fondamentalement différents des avions ordinaires (subsoniques). Or il y a un équilibre à trouver entre ce que veulent les consommateurs et les citoyens concernés par les nuisances sonores ; d’une part sur ce que nous pouvons réaliser de façon réaliste en termes de réduction du bruit; et d’autre part sur les compromis avantageux que nous obtiendrions en permettant à l’Europe de redevenir supersonique.

Originally published here

Breakenridge: Paying for plasma — the rules need an update

 A poll commissioned by the Consumer Choice Centre and released last week showed that 63 per cent of Canadians — including 65 per cent of Albertans — believe that the compensation of plasma donors is morally appropriate.

Read more here

What happened to the right to choose your healthcare?

From atop the lecterns at the Democratic presidential debates and the White House, a common trope is dismantling and rejiggering how healthcare is delivered in America.

For the left, the emphasis is on expanding who can access government-backed health insurance programs while cutting off the role of the private sector. On the right, President Trump is looking to import drugs and pharmaceutical price controls from abroad.

Missing in both of these visions is the essential component that governs every other sector of the economy: the freedom to choose.

Much like housing, transportation, and education, it’s clear that the entire healthcare sector needs disruption.

We need out-of-the-box thinking, innovation, and on-demand delivery that will bring costs down for ordinary people. It’s this formula that has empowered millions to rise out of poverty, make a decent living for their families, and expand consumer choice to makes their lives better.

But both the Democrats and Trump are leading Americans astray on what really matters when it comes to healthcare.

Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris have serious proposals to totally ban the private healthcare market in favor of a “Medicare For All” system. That means every American would be thrown into the government insurance program reserved for our seniors.

All administration, billing, reimbursement claims, and hospital contracts for over 350 million people would be handled by the federal government. For a country as unique, diverse, and large as the United States, this just couldn’t be carried out effectively. The CBO’s analysis of a single-payer system admits that new taxes and an entirely new administrative bureaucracy would take years to implement.

Such plans would make it illegal for Americans to choose the type of healthcare coverage that fit them best, depriving them of fundamental choices.

This makes two grandiose and flawed assumptions. One, that a top-down government reorganization of insurance and health services would be the best method to deliver healthcare, and two, that the individual consumer cannot be trusted to make decisions about their care. That is wrong.

People choose different healthcare plans depending on their employment situation, their age, or their lifestyle.

Many younger working people, such as myself, don’t have comprehensive insurance because it doesn’t make economic sense. We’d rather pay out of pocket for small expenses and use high-deductible disaster insurance when necessary. The young and healthy tend to shy away from the large insurance plans for these very reasons.

For the 8.8 percent of Americans without health insurance, would they benefit from a mass reorganization of the system that would offer the care reserved for our seniors if the cost comes in the form of higher taxes and less consumer choice?

The same applies to Trump’s well-intended but flawed plans on importing drugs from single-payer systems around the world.

The reason pharmaceutical drugs are more expensive has more to do with subsidies than cost. Most drugs are born from innovative American firms but are subsidized greatly or negotiated for lower rates by governments who import them. Firms can afford this because it’s offset by American prices, meaning the rest of the world is freeriding on American innovation and intellectual property.

They achieve this by reducing access and choice. It’s no secret that the lion’s share of pharmaceutical drugs are available in the U.S. while they’re unavailable in the countries that refuse to pay for them. So yes, the prices of drugs may be cheaper in Canada or Norway, but the supply and choices are lacking. Do we want fewer choices of drugs for lower costs or more choices and prices at market rate?

What matters most when it comes to our personal health is the freedom to choose. Whether that it’s our doctor, insurance program, or drugs we buy, Americans want to be able to pick what works best from them. Grandiose plans that seek to completely reorganize how many taxes we pay and how we receive care would severely restrict that.

That may be a well-intended path, but one that millions of Americans are right to reject.  

Yaël Ossowski is deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center

Published in the Chicago Tribune:

Published in Globe Gazette:

Canadians support paying blood plasma donors – survey

A majority of Canadians support paying people for donations of plasma, which are blood products used to make specialized medicines, a new poll has found.

Sixty-three per cent of Canadians endorse the idea as “morally appropriate” while support is strongest, at 75 per cent, among those between the ages of 18-34.

But a narrow majority of older Canadians, age 55 and up, believe paying people for plasma donations is “morally inappropriate”.

The donation of plasma is similar to blood donations, but the process takes longer, about two hours instead of 30 minutes.

Because of a lack of plasma supply in Canada, about 75 per cent of it used in this country comes from the U.S., where donors are paid.

Last week, Canadian Blood Services announced plans to open three plasma-only donation centres, including one in Kelowna scheduled to open in the spring of 2021, to try bolster the country’s supply.

The B.C. NDP government banned paid plasma in 2018, and similar bans exist in Alberta and Ontario.

The new survey, commissioned by the Consumer Choice Centre, found that 56 per cent of B.C. residents support paying plasma donors as “morally appropriate. Although a majority, that was the lowest level of support found in Canada’s six main regions.

Supporters of a ban on paying people for plasma donations say it may negatively affect blood donations, exploits the poor, and violates human dignity because blood should not be paid for.

Those who support payment for plasma donations say the process is safe, with no transmission of any diseases from paid-for plasma donors in the past 20 years, and it would address Canada’s plasma shortage.

Plasma, a yellow liquid that houses red and white blood cells, is increasingly used to make a variety of medicines for the treatment of conditions and illnesses such as burns, respiratory diseases, and immune deficiencies.

The usage of one plasma protein product, immune globulin, has doubled internationally over the past decade.

David Clement, Toronto-based representative of the Consumer Choice Centre, said in a release the results of the new opinion poll should convince governments the public supports payment for plasma donations.

“We have long argued that allowing compensation for blood plasma donors was overdue, and now we know that Canadians from coast to coast agree,” Clement said in a release.

In Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, where paid plasma clinics operate, donors are typically paid between $30-$50.

Donors must go through medical screening to ensure they’re healthy. Their plasma is subject to the same kind of analysis and treatment as other donated blood products to ensure it’s safe to use.

Read more here

We’re helping make Britain a biotech powerhouse

The temptation to drop everything and go to the beach instead of trying to understand recent events in UK politics has been very hard to resist these last few weeks. And yet, no CCC consumer advocate can be stopped by a heatwave.

Our team has been keeping an eye on Boris Johnson’s promises and first steps. Attentively, and with a cold drink in hand.

On the 25th of July, before Boris Johnson made his first speech as a prime minister, I escaped from the rush in the centre of London, sat at a nice cafe in Clapham, got myself a sugary soda, and the moment he went live I thought “let’s see what he’s going to be up to!”.

When closer to the end of his speech, he called for the liberation of the UK’s bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rule, we all realised we should step in and get consumer choice in science some spotlight! 

That’s how the idea of our brand new policy note, co-authored by Fred, Bill and myself came about. Our recommendations concern gene modification and gene engineering and are intentionally easy to comprehend 😉 Give it a read!

Cannabis legalisation has finally entered the agenda of political debate in Europe. As policymakers are starting to approach the topic, our David Clement and Yaël Ossowski are on standby to give them a piece of advice. Our April trip to Luxembourg keeps making waves in the media. Last week, our work on cannabis got featured in The Guardian:

‘Two representatives of the Consumer Choice Centre travelled to Luxembourg in April to offer their advice on legislation.

One area of contention is whether to ban the use of cannabis in public, which risks discriminating against tenants and people of limited means. The officials recommended allowing use of the drug in specific public areas.’

One could mistakenly think that getting cannabis legalised and enabling the growth of GM crops is the limit of our ambitions 🙂

But as the world is moving forward very fast and new technologies are entering the scene, CCC’s wishlist keeps growing by the day. 

If there is one thing that excites most people in the world, it is travelling. The revival of supersonic planes would make what was unimaginable in the past two decades come true once again. For example, flights between London and New York could be reduced from seven to three hours. More time for friends, family, and sightseeing 🙂

Our Bill Wirtz and Luca Bertoletti are looking forward to sharing their policy primer on supersonic travel with you. It’ll be published this month! 

As autumn is standing at the door, our team is in anticipation of many victories for consumer choice in Europe and globally. We are grateful for your support and, as always, we are aiming for the moon! 

All the best,

Maria Chaplia

Brexit opens up British biotech bonanza

The authors, Fred Roeder, Maria Chaplia, and Bill Wirtz, emphasise how timely the note is given Brexit approaching its final stage and Boris Johnson’s ambition to ‘liberate the UK’s bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules’.

“Revolutionising the UK biotech sector by allowing it to utilise the latest developments of genetic engineering in food production and healthcare is only possible if the existing restrictions are relieved and replaced with a more pro-consumer, pro-innovation, and prosperity-fostering approach,” said CCC managing director Mr Roeder.

“Driven by a noble aim ‘to protect human health and the environment and ensure consumer choice’, the strict legislation on GM products in the UK has, however, failed to recognise the advantages of gene modification and how it could benefit consumers. This foregone opportunity to encourage the progress of the UK biotech sector has left the UK far behind numerous countries,” added Ms Chaplia.

Mr Wirtz ventured: “GM pest-resistant crops could save about £60 million a year in pesticide use in the UK. This would be much welcomed by UK farmers and consumers. Moreover, £60 million in savings means more leeway for competitive food pricing within the country. With food prices in the EU rising by 2% annually, the UK could prove that food can become cheaper by more than just dropping tariffs, but also through more efficient and technologically advanced farming and by dropping non-tariff trade barriers such as the extremely strict EU GMO rules.”

Read more here

Luxembourg to be first European country to legalise cannabis

Two representatives of the Consumer Choice Centre, a US-based NGO, travelled to Luxembourg in April to offer their advice on legislation.

One area of contention is whether to ban the use of cannabis in public, which risks discriminating against tenants and people of limited means. The officials recommended allowing use of the drug in specific public areas.

Read more here

Synthetic farm chemicals boost harvest

This is a very dangerous and reckless preposition. As one commentator said, the conference was anti-science activism based on environmental fantasies.

“Agroecology as a political doctrine has no place in science-based policy discourse, and its promotion – given the scientific knowledge we have to today – is immoral. It needs to be stopped,” said Bill Wirtz, a policy analyst.

Read more here

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