Science

Wissenschaftliche Rosinenpickerei – Die Grünen wieder als Verbotspartei? – Ein Kommentar

Die Grünen wollen die industrielle Landwirtschaft in Deutschland komplett verbieten. Für Verbraucher und Landwirte würde das große und teure Veränderungen mit sich bringen.

Wir Grüne im Bundestag stehen für eine bäuerlich-ökologische Landwirtschaft“, heißt es auf der Webseite der Grünen Bundestagsfraktion. Man würde sich für gentechnikfreies Essen, eine pestizidarme Landwirtschaft, mehr Ökolandbau und  regionale Vermarktung einsetzen.

Mit „einsetzen“ meinen es die Grünen ernst, da die Partei nunmehr nicht weniger als das komplette Verbot der industriellen Landwirtschaft fordert. Nachdem jahrelang der Bioladen eine Nische für Verbraucher die anders einkaufen wollen bedeutete, sollen Bioprodukte nun also Pflicht werden.

Auch im Ausland schlägt das Wellen. Der Daily Telegraph in Großbritannien schreibt,dass das Image der Grünen „prohibition party“, also einer Verbotspartei, das man bisher abschütteln wollte, zurückkehrt. Warum dies Wellen schlägt ist ersichtlich:

Die Grünen erleben einen konstanten Wählerzufluß in Deutschland, und damit sind sie und ihre Politik so ernst zu nehmen, wie während ihrer letzten Beteiligung an der Bundesregierung.

Verbieten wollen die Grünen auch die Genschere, die durch Techniken wie CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) bekannt ist. Mit diesen Systemen können Forscher Gene in lebenden Zellen und Organismen dauerhaft verändern und in Zukunft Mutationen an genauen Stellen im menschlichen Genom korrigieren und somit genetische Krankheitsursachen zu behandeln.

In der Landwirtschaft kann die gleiche Technik ebenfalls zum Einsatz kommen. Die Grünen sehen das „Genome-Editing“ gleich mit der Frage der genetisch veränderten Organismen (GVO), die für die Partei ebenfalls weiter verboten gehören.

Hier stimmt die Grünen-Position inzwischen nicht mehr mit der der eigenen Jugend überein. Bereits letztes Jahr verlangten die Grüne Jugend in Niedersachsen „die Debatte um grüne Gentechnik ohne Dogmen neu beginnen und auf wissenschaftlicher Basis politisch argumentieren“.

Neue Kritik gab es auch dieses Jahr. Im Parteibeschluss der Grünen Jugend Sachsen-Anhalt heißt es Ende März:

Heute ist es gerade für die Bewältigung der kommenden globalen Herausforderungen elementar wichtig, diese historische Position [komplettes Verbot von GVO] zu überdenken“

Diese Wissenschaftsferne ist verwunderlich, da die Grünen beim Klimawandel meist sehr wissenschaftlich argumentieren. Auch wenn die daraus resultierenden Politikvorschläge, radikal und gewagt sind, zitieren sie wissenschaftliche Studien als Basis für ihre Forderungen rigoros. In der Landwirtschaft hingegen verhält die Partei sich dogmatisch.

Wer GVOs und Pestizide in Wissenschaft und Politik verteidigt muss von internationalen Großkonzernen gekauft worden sein. Skeptiker des Klimawandels funktionieren hier gleich: Wissenschaftler, die den Klimawandel beweisen, müssen von irgendwelchen einflussreichen Kreisen gekauft worden sein.

Auf der Strecke bleibt die wissenschaftliche Methode und faktenbasierte Politik.

Wo führt das alles nun hin? Genome-Editing ist wichtig für weiteren wissenschaftlichen Fortschritt, doch aktuelle Entscheidungen vom EU-Gerichtshof in Luxemburg, sowie dem Widerstand von verschiedenen Umweltaktivisten in Deutschland, machen dem schnell ein Ende.

Für Landwirte heißt das weniger Fortschritt und somit die Weiternutzung von ebenso unpopulären Pestiziden, oder Kupfer als Fungizid in der Biolandwirtschaft. Unterdessen wird im Ausland schneller geforscht. Eine weitere Abschottung in der Handelspolitik wäre dann wieder nötig um die stehengebliebenen Landwirte in Europa vor ausländischen Produkten zu „schützen“.

Verbrauchern würde nach solchen Verboten die Wahl fehlen. Bio oder nicht-bio bleibt weiterhin eine große gesellschaftliche Diskussion. Sie sollte allerdings nicht durch die Abschaffung der konventionellen Landwirtschaft gelöst werden, sondern Aufklärung und Innovation.

Die Jungen Grünen in Sachsen-Anhalt schreiben in einer ihrer Forderungen:

Das Schüren von irrationalen Ängsten zum Erreichen eines politischen Zieles lehnen wir grundsätzlich ab, das gilt auch für Gentechnik.“

Das ist ja schon mal ein guter Anfang.

Der Autor Bill Wirtz arbeitet als Senior Policy Analyst für das Consumer Choice Center. Twitter: @wirtzbill

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I Paesi in via di sviluppo pagano il nostro ambientalismo

L’ambientalismo anti-scientifico e pauperistico rischia di danneggiare i Paesi in via di sviluppo

Per quelli di noi che possono permettersi di avere un termostato intelligente, che regola la temperatura in base alla temperatura esterna, è una grande comodità. Ma ha un costo. La protezione e lo sviluppo ambientale sono, indubbiamente, una causa giusta e nobile che però ha un costo.

Dopotutto, attraverso i cambiamenti negli atteggiamenti dei consumatori, le più recenti innovazioni sono diventate più sicure, più sostenibili e in generale più “verdi”. È quello che spinge i supermercati a scambiare i loro sacchetti di plastica per quelli di carta, e per nuovi prodotti come cannucce di metallo e bottiglie di bevande per diventare vitali.

Purtroppo, questo meraviglioso sentimento condiviso da un numero crescente di consumatori non si traduce altrettanto bene nel mondo della politica. La bellezza dell’innovazione orientata al consumatore è che si tratta di un processo naturale: i consumatori acquistano verde sia perché lo vogliono e perché possono permetterselo. Mettere lo stesso principio in politica spesso trascura questo passaggio cruciale.

L’atteggiamento della politica rischia di scaricare gli effetti negativi soprattutto sui Paesi in via di sviluppo. I paesi avanzati con buone intenzioni ignorano i bisogni e le capacità delle nazioni più povere nel nome dell’ambientalismo.

Prendiamo, ad esempio, un imminente conferenza in Kenya, tenuta congiuntamente dall’Organizzazione delle Nazioni Unite per l’alimentazione e l’agricoltura (FAO) e dal Centro mondiale di conservazione degli alimenti. La “Prima conferenza internazionale sull’agroecologia che trasforma l’agricoltura e i sistemi alimentari in Africa” ​​mira ad attuare le politiche dell ‘”Agroecologia” in tutto il continente.

L’agroecologia propagandata dalla conferenza si riferisce a uno stile di agricoltura più “organico”, uno che è libero (o, almeno, meno dipendente) dai fertilizzanti sintetici e dai pesticidi. Di per sé, questa può sembrare una missione piuttosto nobile; se tali sostanze sono dannose per l’ambiente, perché non dovremmo voler ridurre il loro utilizzo?

Bene, in nazioni sviluppate come la nostra, questa sarebbe la reazione giusta. Il nostro settore agricolo, così come la nostra capacità di importare da altre nazioni, ci consente il lusso di chiedere riduzioni di tali pratiche agricole senza troppa preoccupazione per gli effetti sulla nostra offerta di cibo. Dopo tutto, se optare per l’opzione “organica” rappresenta qualche quid in più ogni settimana, qual è il problema?

In molte parti dell’Africa, dove questa conferenza si tiene, questo lusso purtroppo non esiste. Non dovrebbe sorprendere che i metodi di agricoltura agroecologica siano, in genere, molto meno efficienti rispetto alla moderna alternativa meccanizzata (una conclusione raggiunta in uno studio condotto da sostenitori agrocologici). In un continente che è stato a lungo afflitto da una scarsa crescita economica e, molto più gravemente, gravi carestie e scarsità di cibo, il rischio di passare a metodi meno produttivi in ​​nome dell’ambiente sarebbe cieco alle necessità di un’economia in via di sviluppo .

Visto semplicemente, si potrebbe facilmente etichettare questa visione del mondo e la prescrizione come arrogante. Se le persone nei paesi sviluppati (o altrove per quella materia) desiderano stabilire una fattoria biologica e agroecologica per promuovere un sistema più rispettoso dell’ambiente, allora hanno più potere per loro. Ma semplicemente non possiamo aspettarci che questo si applichi ai paesi in via di sviluppo come quelli in Africa.

La realizzazione di pratiche e tecnologie sostenibili e rispettose dell’ambiente nei paesi in via di sviluppo dovrebbe essere raggiunta attraverso maggiori investimenti e commercio, stimolando la crescita economica e lo sviluppo. A seguito della Brexit, il Regno Unito si troverà in una posizione ideale per farlo senza le restrizioni della politica agricola comune dell’UE, che ha reso ancora più difficile il commercio con gli agricoltori dei paesi in via di sviluppo.

I cuori degli ambientalisti sono certamente nel posto giusto, ma suggerimenti come quelli della prossima conferenza di agroecologia minacciano di negare alle economie in via di sviluppo le possibilità di crescita e sviluppo di cui hanno disperatamente bisogno. Investiamo in questi paesi e lasciamo che le innovazioni si scatenino mentre le loro economie migliorano.

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Frivolous Lawsuits Against Scientific Innovation Are Just Another Form Of Socialism

Unjustified and outsized verdicts harm society by discouraging investment in innovative products, yet they’re becoming startlingly common.

Only 51 percent of Americans think socialism would be a bad thing for the country, according to a Gallup poll released in May. Although the 2020 election will be a big test for whether socialism gains a foothold, freedom-lovers should be worried more broadly than at the polls.

The slide towards socialism is taking root not only at the ballot box, but also from the jury box. Plaintiffs’ lawyers are having wild success in their campaign to redistribute wealth from innovative companies to sympathetic clients—all while taking a healthy cut for themselves, of course.

Unjustified and outsized verdicts harm society by discouraging investment in innovative products. Researchers at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Tilburg University recently aggregated data from more than 40,000 lawsuits filed between 1996 and 2011 and found that “frivolous lawsuits tended to focus on highly innovative businesses,” costing the average defendants $1.1 million each year. They found that the cases were, in effect, a disproportionate tax on innovation.

Consider the recent $2 billion jury verdict against Bayer AG (which acquired Monsanto) for allegations that its Roundup herbicide, made with glyphosate, caused cancer in plaintiffs. This was the third verdict for plaintiffs in California in the last year, with more than 13,400 cases pending nationwide.

Yet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, under Democrat and Republican administrations alike, has thoroughly and repeatedly evaluated glyphosate and found that it is not a carcinogen and it poses, “no risks to public health from the current registered uses of glyphosate.” The risk-averse European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) similarly does not classify glyphosate as carcinogenic. Australian and Canadian regulators reached the same conclusion.

But plaintiffs’ lawyers are making bank on a controversial report issued by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an affiliate of the scandal-ridden World Health Organization. In all but one of its 900 evaluations, IARC’s flawed methodology led it to identify a chemical (Caprolactam), as “not” carcinogenic to humans.

Cherrypicking Data to Make Bank with Gullible Juries

IARC’s conclusion that glyphosate is “probably” carcinogenic to humans was particularly tainted. Christopher Portier, a consultant for lawyers suing on behalf of “victims” of glyphosate, and a part-time employee of Environmental Defense Fund, was behind the initiation IARC’s evaluation glyphosate. He then served as an “invited specialist” for IARC, despite having no background in chemical research. Not surprisingly, IARC relied on cherrypicked low-value studies and excluded relevant safety data.

That report then became the centerpiece of an anti-glyphosate campaign Portier led to undermine the safety findings of every major government evaluation of the herbicide. The outlier report and the political campaign to leverage it prompted the executive director of EFSA, Bernhard Url, to offer dramatic testimony before the European Parliament’s environment committee, lambasting IARC’s politicized work and how far it strayed from EFSA’s transparent peer-reviewed scientific work.

Url pointed out that the activism and the turmoil it caused by undermining legitimate studies suggested we have entered the “Facebook age of science,” where you post a report you like “and you count how many people like it. For us this is no way forward.” In this environment, it’s easy to see how a group of jurors, asked to evaluate “conflicting studies,” could side with sympathetic plaintiffs over a big chemical company.

I could imagine jurors in the $2 billion verdict thinking, “I don’t really know whether this product caused Alva and Alberta Pilliod’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but a big verdict in their favor will help them more than it’ll hurt Bayer.” Bayer’s share price fell 6 percent on news of the verdict, reflecting investor concern about liability in the thousands of other cases.

False Lawsuits Are Attacks on Discovery

Put aside the cost to a typical investor’s retirement account and consider the costs to society in a world where innovative scientists have to answer the following questions from potential investors: Let’s say your product actually does the wonderful things you are developing it to do. Let’s also say that regulators around the world repeatedly vouch for the safety of its proper use.

But what’s to stop plaintiffs from ginning up enough high-dose animal studies to get IARC to study it, leading to an almost certain cancer warning? And what’s to stop those lawyers from using that report to canvas for cancer patients who used the product? Won’t this be another glyphosate?

There are no good answers to these questions. And that’s why these types of cases represent a serious attack on progress.

We are all beneficiaries of technology. Whether it’s lower-cost food and reduced soil erosion because of glyphosate, or critical components of computers, cell phones, and aircraft, innovation makes life better for everyone. That’s why they are so widely used.

Sadly, if not ironically, it’s also why enterprising plaintiffs’ lawyers are seeking to capitalize on sympathy towards socialism, both abroad at IARC, and at home in the jury pool. For them, it’s a solid investment.

Don’t look to Congress to fix the problem anytime soon. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, passed in 2016, made it clear that the legislation would not preempt toxic tort litigation.

The best we can hope for is a more scientifically literate populace who, as jurors, are less likely to be duped by those who game the system. We should also be cautious about what we share on social media. As Smokey Bear said, “Only YOU can stop forest fires.” And only YOU can tamp down the “Facebook age of science.” At a time when nearly half of Americans don’t seem to understand the threat of creeping socialism, it’s time for those of us who do to be on guard on all fronts.

Jeff Stier is a senior fellow at the Consumer Choice Center. He is also a senior fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance and a policy advisor to the Heartland Institute.

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UN exacerbates global hunger

UN’s insistence on organic food prolongs the needless starvation of millions on the globe’s poorest continent, says Bill Wirtz. 

This month the World Food Preservation Center in partnership with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, will hold the first “International Conference on Agroecology Transforming Agriculture & Food Systems in Africa”, in Nairobi, Kenya. The goal of this conference is to promote organic and non-GMO farming as part of a complete “socio-economic transformation” of Africa. A misguided and unscientific overhaul, it would devastate the parts of developing Africa that need innovation the most.

The fascination for increased organic farming isn’t new. In the UK, organic production makes up almost ten per cent of total farming, with Environment secretary Michael Gove being pushed continuously to do more for organic farming on a public policy level. The French government is increasing subsidies to organic farms in an effort to reach 15 per cent organic production by 2022.Germany and Luxembourg have set goals of 20 per cent organic production by 2025 and 2030 respectively.

Even the international development community has bought into the concept – but they’ve taken it to a whole new level. Led by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), development programs and assistance are increasingly being predicated on adoption of “agroecology,” which takes organic farming as its starting point and adds on a series of social and economic theories that seek to achieve the “total transformation” of agricultural production, and even society as a whole.

According to its original definition, agroecology is simply the study of ecological practices applied to agriculture. What started out as science, however, has morphed into a political doctrine that not only rules out modern technologies such as genetic engineering, advanced pesticides and synthetic fertilizer, but explicitly extols the benefits of “peasant” and “indigenous” farming and in many cases discourages mechanization as a way of freeing the world’s poor from backbreaking agricultural labor. Add on to a hostility to international trade and intellectual property protections for innovators (“seed patents,” which are standard in all advanced crops, not just GMOs, are a frequent cause of complaint) and you can see why agroecology’s promoters so often talk about it as “transformative.”

We should remember, however, that not all “transformations” are good. They can just as easily be bad, even catastrophic. A recent study by pro-agroecology activists found that applications of their principles to Europe would decrease agricultural productivity by 35% on average, which they considered a positive, as in their view Europeans eat too much anyway. It’s hard to see how a 35% drop in productivity among the world’s rural poor – a large percentage of the 800 million people who currently suffer from malnutrition – would be anything other than a calamity.  

As someone from a family that were peasants from their existence until the end of the last world war, I can only stand in awe at the idea of ridding agriculture of mechanisation. My ancestors worked 60-hour weeks of hard manual labour, and it was modern agriculture that was able to make them more productive and allow them free time: something they were never able to enjoy before.

There is nothing wrong with practicing “peasant farming” on a purely voluntary basis, within a community of people who enjoy being one with nature (and/or inflicting terrible back pain on themselves). In fact, in a Western world of mechanised farming, it is even sustainable to have some farms operate in such a fashion (even if it requires increased subsidies), for the purpose of pleasing nostalgic customers. However, what is truly disturbing is when agroecology activists and international institutions supposedly dedicated to alleviating poverty are willing to distort the scientific reality and impose their ideology on those who can least afford it.

The Nairobi conference

The conference held in Kenya is a combination of two events that were initially set to be organised at the same time. “The Eastern Africa Conference on Scaling up Agroecology and Ecological Organic Trade” and the “1st All Africa Congress on Synthetic Pesticides, Environment, and Human Health“. Scrolling through the list of organisers and participants, it’s most notable that agencies, institutions, and organisations that don’t endorse agroecology, or have a scientific view on herbicides and GMOs contrary to the pushed narrative, won’t be present. Seemingly, some people were not supposed to ruin the party.

And a party it will be. That is, at least, if you’re of the belief that the end justifies the means when spreading misinformation about pesticides and GMOs.

One of the speakers at the conference is Gilles-Eric Séralini, a French biologist and anti-GMO activist. He is famous for his 2012 study claiming to demonstrate that that rats fed with genetically modified corn reported an increase in tumours. What followed was coined the “Séralini affair”, with various regulatory authorities and scientists dismissing the study for deep-rooted methodological flaws. The study was later retracted, and four recent government-funded studies (three by the EU and one by France) have now thoroughly refuted the Seralini thesis. 

Other speakers speakers include fringe scientists Don Huber and Judy Carmen, both of whom have made similar – and similarly debunked – claims about GMOs, and Tyrone Hayes, who is famous for his claim, now championed by conspiracy monger Alex Jones, that the herbicide atrazine, in his words “turns frogs gay”. Such an invite would be discrediting for any major organisation, but seemingly the FAO doesn’t seem to care.

And still, even though the conference disreputes itself merely by its choice of speakers, agroecology is making leaps forward (pun intended). Through the FAO, these policies are increasingly being required by international governmental organisations and NGOs as a condition of receiving financial aid.

Now that it is expanding to Africa, which is in desperate need of mechanisation and of efficient farming methods, it needs to be called out for what it is: anti-science activism, based on environmentalist 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.

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A new Middle Ages for science

GMOs and pesticides are safe – ignore the anti-science hysterics who say they aren’t.

It’s usually an upper-middle-class elite, living in the metropolitan centre, that shops for organic and GMO-free food items from fancy stores. That’s fine, nobody really has an issue with people paying more for green carton packaging and food with no added health benefits. What is concerning, however, is that, increasingly, the same people want to impose their habits on those who don’t believe in it and those who can’t afford it.

Despite scientific evidence showing the safety of gene-edited crops and modern pesticides, radical activist groups are trying to get them banned. But as some politicians are still choosing to listen to scientific arguments, activists are shooting the messenger.

The head of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Dr Bernhard Url, says that just because you don’t like the results, ‘don’t shoot science’. He adds that ‘if science becomes just one more opinion, which can be overlooked in favour of superstition, this carries an enormous risk for society’.

EU health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis even speaks of a new ‘Middle Ages’ for science and of a witch-hunt. The former Lithuanian minister of health even points to established newspapers such as France’s Le Monde misrepresenting scientific evidence, saying: ‘We sent [them information] several times to explain the reality, [but] it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t work.’

He could have been talking about the UK’s Defra minister, who apparently wants to ban even synthetic fertilisers, or the French agriculture minister, who says farming should return to the practices of our ‘grandparents’. Never mind that the EU already has to import food in order to have enough to eat. The bureaucrats at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation are pushing the same regressive, low-yield organic practices on malnourished African farmers in the name of promoting – this is no joke – ‘peasant’ agriculture.

Anti-science activists likely don’t care. The scientists who enthusiastically talk about new types of crops made possible by new forms of gene-editing that could banish food insecurity from the world will be drowned out by an avalanche of unscientific bogus claims. Standing up to this crowd with facts gets you slandered and labelled in the most colourful of manner.

Again, nobody objects to alternative foods being sold. However, it is also the prerogative of those consumers who choose to believe in the scientific evidence and the achievements of modern agriculture to shop as they see fit. In a larger sense, it should be the aim of all enlightened individuals to defend the scientific method, as well as the realm of free expression and debate.

Bill Wirtz is a policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center.

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Exporter l’agroécologie en Afrique est immoral [Tribune]

Vers la fin du mois de juin, le “World Food Preservation Center”, en coopération avec l’Organisation des Nations Unies pour l’alimentation et l’agriculture (ONUAA), tiendra la première “Conférence internationale sur l’agroécologie transformant les systèmes agricoles et alimentaires en Afrique”, à Nairobi, Kenya. L’objectif de cette conférence est de promouvoir l’agriculture biologique et non-OGM dans le cadre d’une “transformation socio-économique” complète de l’Afrique. Une réforme malavisée et non-scientifique qui aurait un impact dévastateur dans les parties de l’Afrique en développement qui ont le plus besoin d’innovation.

La fascination pour l’agriculture biologique n’est pas nouvelle. Le gouvernement français augmente les subventions aux exploitations agricoles biologiques dans le but d’atteindre 15% de production bio d’ici 2022. L’Allemagne et le Luxembourg se sont fixés des objectifs de 20% de production biologique d’ici 2025 et 2030 respectivement.

Même la communauté internationale du développement a adhéré au concept, mais elle l’a porté à un tout autre niveau. Dirigés par l’Organisation des Nations Unies pour l’alimentation et l’agriculture (ONUAA), les programmes de développement et d’aide reposent de plus en plus sur l’adoption de l’agroécologie, qui prend l’agriculture biologique comme point de départ et ajoute une série de théories sociales et économiques visant à réaliser la “transformation totale” de la production agricole, et même la société dans son ensemble.

Selon sa définition originale, l’agroécologie est simplement l’étude des pratiques écologiques appliquées à l’agriculture. Ce qui a commencé comme science, cependant, s’est transformé en une doctrine politique qui non seulement exclut les technologies modernes telles que le génie génétique, les pesticides de dernière génération et les engrais synthétiques, mais qui exalte explicitement les avantages de l’agriculture “paysanne” et “indigène”. Dans de nombreux cas, l’agroécologie décourage même la mécanisation comme moyen de libérer les pauvres, et a une hostilité à l’égard du commerce international.

Il ne faut cependant pas oublier que toutes les “transformations” ne sont pas bonnes. Elles peuvent être également mauvaises, voire catastrophiques. Une étude récente menée par des militants pro-agroécologie a montré que l’application de leurs principes à l’Europe réduirait la productivité agricole de 35% en moyenne. Pour ces activistes, c’est positif, car de toute façon nous mangerions déjà trop en Europe. Il est difficile de voir comment une baisse pareille de la productivité parmi les régions les plus pauvres de cette planète – un pourcentage élevé de personnes souffrent actuellement de malnutrition – pourrait être autre chose qu’une calamité.

Issu d’une famille paysanne, je ne peux qu’être abasourdi à l’idée de débarrasser l’agriculture de la mécanisation. Mes ancêtres ont travaillé plus de 60 heures par semaine de dur labeur manuel et c’est l’agriculture moderne qui a pu les rendre plus productifs et leur donner du temps libre : quelque chose dont ils n’avaient jamais pu profiter auparavant.

Il n’y a rien de mal à pratiquer ce que l’on nomme aujourd’hui l’agriculture paysanne” sur une base purement volontaire, au sein d’une communauté de personnes qui aiment à retrouver un contact avec la nature (et/ou s’infliger de terribles maux de dos). En fait, dans un monde occidental d’agriculture mécanisée, il est même soutenable de voir certaines fermes fonctionner de cette façon (même si cela nécessite des subventions accrues), dans le but de satisfaire une clientèle nostalgique. Cependant, ce qui est vraiment troublant, c’est lorsque des militants de l’agroécologie et des institutions internationales censées se consacrer à la lutte contre la pauvreté sont prêts à déformer la réalité scientifique et à imposer leur idéologie à ceux qui peuvent le moins se le permettre.

La conférence de Nairobi

La conférence qui se tiendra au Kenya est une combinaison de deux événements qui devaient initialement être organisés en même temps. “Conférence de l’Afrique de l’Est sur l’intensification de l’agroécologie et du commerce écologique des produits biologiques” et le “1er Congrès panafricain sur les pesticides synthétiques, l’environnement et la santé humaine”. En parcourant la liste des organisateurs et des participants, il est à noter que les agences, institutions et organisations qui ne soutiennent pas l’agroécologie ou qui ont une véritable position scientifique à propos des herbicides et des OGM, ne seront pas présentes. Apparemment, certaines personnes n’étaient pas censées gâcher la fête.

Et ce sera une fête. Du moins, si l’on croit que la fin justifie le fait de diffuser de fausses informations sur les pesticides et les OGM.

Parmi les orateurs figurent les scientifiques Don Huber et Judy Carmen, qui ont tous deux fait des déclarations non-scientifiques – et tout aussi discréditées – sur les OGM. Tyrone Hayes, qui est célèbre pour son affirmation, maintenant défendue par Alex Jones, le conspirationniste de InfoWars, selon qui l’herbicide atrazine “rend les grenouilles homosexuelles“. Une telle invitation serait discréditante pour toute grande organisation, mais apparemment l’ONUAA/FAO ne semble pas s’en soucier.

Par l’intermédiaire des Nations Unies, ces politiques agroécologiques sont de plus en plus exigées par les organisations gouvernementales internationales et les ONG comme condition pour recevoir des aides financières. Maintenant qu’elle s’étend à l’Afrique, qui a désespérément besoin de mécanisation et de méthodes agricoles efficaces, il faut l’appeler pour ce qu’elle est : de l’activisme anti-science, basé sur des fantasmes écologistes. L’agroécologie, en tant que doctrine politique, n’a pas sa place dans le discours politique fondé sur la science et sa promotion – étant donné les connaissances scientifiques dont nous disposons aujourd’hui – est immorale.

L’Occident peut bien supporter de dépenser des quantités de subventions dans des activités peu productives. Vouloir l’imposer comme modèle dans des pays en voie de développement, où la malnutrition fait des ravages, est criminel.

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Umweltaktivisten und fragwürdige Methoden

Ende Juni veranstaltet das “World Food Preservation Center” in Zusammenarbeit mit der Welternährungsorganisation der Vereinten Nationen, die erste “International Conference on Agroecology Transforming Agriculture & Food Systems in Africa” in Nairobi, Kenia.

Ziel dieser Konferenz ist es, den ökologischen und gentechnikfreien Landbau im Rahmen einer vollständigen “sozioökonomischen Transformation” Afrikas zu fördern. Klingt verwirrend, und ist es auch. Das technische Wort lautet “Agrarökologie”, und will die Landwirtschaft weltweit komplett umkrempeln. Da die Welternährungsorganisation FAObeteiligt ist, geht es um mehr als nur reine Theorie.

Die Faszination für ökologischen Landbau und Bio-Produkte ist nicht neu. Deutschland hat sich zum Ziel gesetzt, bis 2030 eine Bio-Produktion von 20% zu erreichen. Klimafreundliches Wachstum und ökologische Landwirtschaft waren auch auf der Tagesordnung von Prinz Charles und Camilla, die während eines Bayernbesuchs einen Bio-Bauernhof in Glonn besuchten.

Selbst die internationale Entwicklungsgemeinschaft hat sich dem Konzept angeschlossen – allerdings hat sie es auf eine ganz neue Ebene gehoben. Unter der Leitung der Welternährungsorganisation (FAO) basieren Entwicklungsprogramme und -hilfen zunehmend auf dem ideologischen Prinzip der “Agrarökologie”, die neben biologischem Landbau auch eine Reihe von sozialen und wirtschaftlichen Theorien beinhaltet. Das Ziel: Die komplette Transformation der landwirtschaftlichen Produktion und sogar der Gesellschaft.

Nach ihrer ursprünglichen Definition ist die Agrarökologie schlicht die Untersuchung ökologischer Praktiken in der Landwirtschaft. Was als Wissenschaft begann, hat sich jedoch zu einer politischen Doktrin entwickelt, die nicht nur moderne Technologien wie Gentechnik, Pestizide und synthetische Düngemittel ablehnt, sondern ausdrücklich die Vorteile der “bäuerlichen” und “einheimischen” Landwirtschaft lobt. In vielen Fällen werden auch Mechanisierung internationaler Handel abgelehnt.

Es bedarf keinem Historiker um zu verstehen, dass nicht alle Transformationen gut sind. Eine aktuelle Studie von Befürwortern der Agrarökologie ergab, dass die Anwendung ihrer Prinzipien auf Europa die landwirtschaftliche Produktivität im Durchschnitt um 35 % verringern würde. Für die Aktivisten ist das positiv, da die Europäer ihrer Meinung nach ohnehin zu viel essen. Es ist schwer zu erraten, wie ein Rückgang der Produktivität um 35 % – im Anbetracht der großen Anzahl an Menschen, die momentan an Hunger leider – alles andere als eine Katastrophe wäre.

Als jemand aus einer Familie, die bis zum Ende des letzten Weltkriegs Bauern waren, kann ich über die Idee, die Landwirtschaft von Mechanisierung zu befreien nur den Kopf schütteln. Meine Vorfahren arbeiteten 60 Stunden lang in schwerster Feldarbeit, und nur die moderne Landwirtschaft erlaubte ihnen produktiver zu werden und etwas Freizeit zu genießen.

Es ist nichts falsch daran, “bäuerliche Landwirtschaft” auf rein freiwilliger Basis in einer Gemeinschaft von Menschen zu betreiben, die es genießen, eins mit der Natur zu sein . In der Welt der mechanisierten Landwirtschaft ist es sogar hilfreich, wenn einige Betriebe auf diese Weise arbeiten, um nostalgische Kunden zufrieden zu stellen. Wirklich beunruhigend ist jedoch, wenn Agrarökologie-Aktivisten und internationale Institutionen, die sich angeblich der Armutsbekämpfung widmen, bereit sind, die wissenschaftliche Realität zu verzerren und ihre Ideologie denen aufzuzwingen, die sie sich am wenigsten leisten können.

Die Kenia Konferenz

Die Konferenz in Kenia im Juni ist eine Kombination aus zwei Veranstaltungen, die ursprünglich gleichzeitig stattfinden sollten. “The Eastern Africa Conference on Scaling up Agroecology and Ecological Organic Trade” und die “1st All Africa Congress on Synthetic Pesticides, Environment, and Human Health”. Wenn man durch die Liste der Organisatoren und Teilnehmer blättert, ist es bemerkenswertest, dass Agenturen, Institutionen und Organisationen, die die Agrarökologie nicht unterstützen oder eine wissenschaftliche Sichtweise auf Herbizide und GVO (genetisch veränderte Organismen) haben, nicht anwesend sein werden. Anscheinend will man die Feier nicht mit wissenschaftlichen Debatten stören.

Einer der Referenten auf der Konferenz ist Gilles-Eric Séralini, ein französischer Biologe und Anti-GVO-Aktivist. Er ist bekannt für seine Studie aus dem Jahr 2012, in der er behauptet, dass Ratten, die mit gentechnisch verändertem Mais gefüttert wurden, eine größere Anfälligkeit für Tumore verzeichneten. Was folgte, prägte die “Séralini-Affäre”, bei der verschiedene Regulierungsbehörden und Wissenschaftler die Studie wegen tiefer methodischer Mängel ablehnten. Die Studie wurde später zurückgezogen, und vier aktuelle Studien (drei von der EU und eine von der französischen Regierung finanziert) haben die Seralini-These nun vollends widerlegt.

Weitere Redner sind die Wissenschaftler Don Huber und Judy Carmen, die beide ähnlich widerlegte Behauptungen über GVO aufgestellt haben. Hinzu kommt Tyrone Hayes, der für seine Behauptung berühmt ist dass das Herbizid Atrazin, in eigenen Worten, “Frösche schwul macht”. Diese Behauptung wurde durch die (widerlegte) Hayes-Studie stetig vom amerikanischen Verschwörtungstheoretiker Alex Jones, der kürzlich von Facebook gebannt wurde, vertreten.

Die FAO nimmt trotz der wissenschaftlichen Fragen in Sachen Agrarökologie und der fragwürdigen Redner wohl am Ende doch an der Konferenz teil. Dass letztere in Kenia stattfindet, ein Land das dringenden Bedarf an effizienterer Landwirtschaft hat, muss hinterfragt werden. Wenn sich nämlich herausstellt, dass staatliche Gelder in eine ideologisch geprägte Stillstandspolitik in Afrika geflossen sind, und Menschen dadurch zu Schaden gekommen sind, dann muss irgendjemand die Verantwortung übernehmen.

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Interview with Fred Roeder, an overview of the European medication Market

European elections 2019: science at the polls

In the context of the European elections, European Scientist is bringing you an overview of experts from different countries on various topics around science and science policy in Europe, in order to provide a panorama and analysis, which will be useful for the next commission.

The Europeans Scientist: What does the European medication Market looks like at the moment? How about the regulation?

After the United States, Europe is the most important and innovative region for pharmaceutical breakthroughs. Five out of ten of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies are based in Europe (though only two of them in the EU after Brexit). The regulation and access to medicines in Europe is partially regulated by the EU and partially by Member States. To understand this better it’s important to distinct between mere market authorization, which allows a drug manufacturer to sell its product in a country and pricing and reimbursement decisions which determine the price of the drug and whether the public health insurance covers it.

Market access decisions are either made by the EU or at least regulated uniformly. While the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is currently busy with moving from London to Amsterdam, it has also a central role in the medicines approval system within the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. If a pharmaceutical company seeks marketing authorization for an innovative drug in even just one EU Member State it has (in most cases) to apply centrally at the EMA for a marketing authorization. Generics and other medicines can be approved by national medicines agencies through either a decentralized method or by mutual recognition of existing marketing approvals in other Member States.

The decision on how much a pharmaceutical company, a wholesaler, and pharmacies can actually charge for drugs is made on either member state level or even on lower regional levels. Traditionally wealthier countries pay higher prices for drugs and cover more innovative medicine than less wealthy member states. There has been recently a push by Italy and also the World Health Organization to bring price controls on to a supranational level. Several EU countries already collaborate in the hope to have a higher bargaining power against pharmaceutical companies in the price negotiations.

ES: Is there a model to follow? Do you recommend more regulation and harmonisation or do you think that each state should keep its difference?

Different numbers show that innovative pharmaceutical companies make over 50% of their global profits in the United States. This has historically allowed Europe to have lower drug prices than the US. The current aggressive moves to bring drug prices even further down in several EU countries might severely harm the future pipeline for innovation in Europe. As a patient I am of course interested in cost control but I am even more interested in new drugs that are able to cure diseases we currently can’t treat. Many politicians run a populist train of cutting profits for pharmaceutical companies. This sounds first sexy but might jeopardize future scientific breakthroughs.

ES: What are your recommendations for the next Commission?

During the stalled TTIP talks there were good idea about more regulatory harmonization between the US FDA and Europe’s EMA. It would be good if the next Commission picks up these conversations and pushes for mutually recognizing market approvals of FDA and EMA. This would put both regulators under competitive pressure: Drug companies would seek approval first at the regulator that promises a better market approval process. Patients in this jurisdiction would benefit from life-saving innovative drugs being earlier available. Another important area were we still need improvements is to allow more patients to have access to potentially life-saving drugs that have not been approved by regulators yet. This is called compassionate use – One of these programs got recently approved in the United States and is called Right to Try. A terminally ill patient should have the right to try experimental (and potential unsafe) medicine if there’s a chance that this drug would save his or her life.  At the same time the Commission should refrain from pushing for unified drug prices in the EU.

Right now less affluent Member States benefit from high drug prices in the ‘North’. If there’s regulatory push to bring drug prices down to the smallest common denominator we risk that some innovative medicines companies just pull out of Europe entirely or massively delay the launch of their drugs in Europe.

Fred Roeder is a Health Economist and Managing Director of the Consumer Choice Center

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Liberals want to build their campaign around pharmacare, but ignore where drugs would end up

Fred Roeder is a health economist and the managing director of the Consumer Choice Center. David Clement is the North American-affairs manager for the Consumer Choice Center.

Internal documents from within the Liberal Party recently showed that Ontario Liberal MPs want 2019’s election campaign to be built on a national pharmacare plan.

Specifically, the proposed plan would seek to centralize and consolidate the 46 drug-procurement programs that exist in Canada. The goal would be to give Canada as a whole more bargaining power in the drug-procurement process, which would potentially lower the prices Canadians pay for their medicine. Although pharmacare could lower drug prices in the short run, it could also run the risk of exacerbating Canada’s existing drug shortage, and significantly limit patient access in the long run.

If a national pharmacare plan were to work, as advertised, it would help Canadian patients by lowering the price they pay for medicine. Unfortunately, the Liberals are largely ignoring the issue of where much of these low-priced drugs would end up, which is the United States. It is one thing to lower drug prices for Canadians, but that benefit isn’t realized if Canadian patients never actually have access to those cheaper drugs.

Pharmacare would be an attempt to further control the price of drugs. The problem is that Canada already has price-control mechanisms for prescription drugs at the federal and provincial level. Those price controls lead to much lower drug prices compared with the prices paid south of the border. That said, because Canadian drugs are cheaper than in the United States, several U.S. states have begun looking at importing pharmaceutical products from Canada in an attempt to undercut U.S. prices. For example, the Republican Governor of Florida has recently pushed for federal approval for drug importation from Canada, and U.S. President Donald Trump has already signalled his support of this measure.

And while importation from Canada to the United States could mean lower drug prices for patients in Florida, Canadian patients could suffer as a result of worsening access. U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar has publicly stated that Canada doesn’t have the appropriate supply to meet patient demand, and that large pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to increase their supply for the Canadian market. Worsening drug shortages are the most likely outcome for Canadians if the federal government adds in more price controls while having large-scale drug exports to the United States. We know that this is the probable outcome because Canada already suffers from a lack of supply, and another measure to intervene on pricing will simply increase the incentive for American states to import from Canada.

Supply is one problem for Canadian patients, but it isn’t the only issue they face, and it isn’t the only issue that could get worse as a result of pharmacare. In addition to poor supply, Canada is significantly lagging in terms of access to potentially life-saving and innovative medicines. Countries such as Germany, Japan and the United States all introduce, and reimburse for, innovative drugs quicker than in Canada. Here, it takes more than 450 days for a new drug to be reimbursable, while that number is only 180 days in the United States. It can be expected that a pharmacare plan would make this innovation problem worse. It is unlikely that the manufacturers of these drugs will want to roll out innovative medicines in Canada, under various forms of price control, if those drugs can then be resold into other markets, undercutting prices abroad.

For cost, it is important to remember that Canadians have lower drug prices than Americans. At the same time, it is important to be aware that because of price controls, Canada is not a significant market for drug manufacturers, especially when compared with the United States, which accounts for more than 50 per cent of the industry’s global profits. If Canada goes too bullish against drug prices, while at the same time allowing American states to import prescription drugs from Canada, we might run the risk of drug companies leaving entirely, or massively delaying the introduction of new drugs in Canada.

Companies leaving the domestic market entirely might sound like a far-fetched concept, but it is something the Canadian marketplace has seen in other industries. Take Google and the recent issue of political advertising in Canada. Ottawa significantly changed its election advertising regulations, and rather than comply, Google decided that it would leave the political advertising market altogether. Thus, we have a large multinational entity cutting itself out of the political advertising market because conditions aren’t ideal, and because Canada’s market is minuscule in comparison to others.

Everyone wants more competitive and better pricing for patients. Unfortunately, the elephant in the room is where these price-controlled drugs end up, and how industry will respond. Our concern, as a consumer group, is that the pharmacare plan, without addressing export, could exacerbate the already serious issue of drug availability in Canada.

If a provider of vital pharmaceuticals were to pull out of the Canadian market as a result of price fixing and undercutting, it would be Canadian patients who pay the ultimate price. Drug access – especially to new innovative treatments – lags in Canada, and without the foresight to correct some of these blind spots, access could either get significantly worse, or be eliminated altogether under a national pharmacare plan. That scenario should concern all Canadians.

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Les jeunes manifestants pour le climat seront les gilets jaunes de demain

Depuis des mois, les jeunes marcheurs pour le climat s’emparent de l’Europe. Leurs récentes déclarations nous montrent ce qu’ils veulent vraiment – et c’est exactement ce qu’on pensait.

Ces derniers temps, difficile d’ignorer dans la presse les nombreuses images de grandes manifestations en faveur de “l’action pour le climat”. On y trouve notamment les signes les plus drôles que tiennent de jeunes lycéens, incitant les politiciens à adopter des actions inspirantes.

Jusqu’à présent, ce que les marcheurs du climat espéraient réellement réaliser n’était pas tout à fait clair.

Pour la plupart, les activistes déplorent simplement que les politiciens et les riches restent les bras croisés alors que la planète tend vers son inévitable effondrement, prévu pour dans 12 ans.

Leur symbole : Greta Thunberg, élève de secondaire de 16 ans, qui a initié le mouvement avec sa “grève scolaire” pour le climat.

Mais à l’approche de ses 18 ans, âge officiellement requis pour se présenter aux élections législatives en Suède, son pays d’origine, il lui est désormais crucial d’avoir un programme politique clair. La question est : que faire exactement contre la catastrophe climatique ?

Ces jeunes gens voudront commencer “doucement”, en exigeant simplement que toutes les émissions de carbone cessent immédiatement. Un exemple ? Annuler l’expansion vitale de l’aéroport de Copenhague, dont la jeune fille suédoise parle dans un tweet.

tweet de Greta Thunberg

“L’erreur la plus dangereuse que l’on puisse faire quant à la crise climatique est peut-être de penser que nous devons ‘réduire’ nos émissions. Parce que c’est loin de suffire. Nos émissions doivent cesser si nous voulons rester sous les 1,5/2° de réchauffement. Cela exclut la plupart des politiques actuelles. Y compris l’extension d’un aéroport.”

Une combinaison parfaite

La fin du monde approche et les jeunes nous rappellent que nous devons agir. C’est la combinaison parfaite pour l’activisme : comme vous n’êtes pas soumis aux normes politiques des adultes, vous avez une sympathie instantanée, et le facteur médiatique est énorme.

Tout le monde peut se sentir vertueux en applaudissant la foule de jeunes marcheurs pour le climat… jusqu’à découvrir ce que cela signifie dans la pratique.

Le nombre de pays participant aux manifestations “Fridays For Future/vendredis pour l’avenir” n’est pas négligeable, mais ce sont des militants allemands qui ont été parmi les premiers à publier une liste complète de revendications qui fait écho aux sentiments des gens de la rue.

Le document exige le respect des objectifs de l’Accord de Paris sur le climat de 2015 pour ne pas dépasser la barre des 1,5°C d’augmentation de la température.

Pour ce faire, l’Allemagne (un pays qui dépend fortement de la production industrielle et du commerce international) devrait atteindre l’objectif de zéro émissions nettes d’ici 2035, d’une élimination complète de l’énergie au charbon d’ici 2030 et d’une utilisation totale des sources d’énergie renouvelables d’ici 2035.

Rappelons que l’Allemagne a commencé à éliminer progressivement l’énergie nucléaire après l’incident de Fukushima, au Japon, en 2011, et s’appuie davantage sur le charbon et le gaz pour maintenir la stabilité énergétique. Cette Energiewende (transition énergétique) a entraîné une augmentation des prix de l’électricité.

Le retour de la taxe carbone

Au-delà d’un simple changement dans la politique énergétique du pays, les marcheurs réclament une taxe carbone lourde, qu’ils fixent à 180€ par tonne de CO2. Même l’économiste Joseph Stiglitz, qu’on peut difficilement qualifier de défenseur de l’économie de marché, estime que ce montant ne sera que de 40$ à 80$ l’année prochaine et ne représentera que la moitié de cette estimation en 2030.

Le magazine allemand Der Spiegel a calculé ce qu’un prix de 180€ par tonne de CO2 signifierait en pratique pour les consommateurs. En voici quelques exemples :

1 litre d’essence : émissions de CO2 de 2,37 kg. Frais supplémentaires : 0,43 €

1 litre de diesel : émissions de CO2 de 2,65 kg. Frais supplémentaires : 0,47 €

1 an d’électricité, ménage moyen de trois personnes dans une maison individuelle sans production d’eau chaude sanitaire, mix électrique 2017 : émissions de CO2 de 1 760 kg. Frais supplémentaires : 317 €

1 kilogramme de bœuf (aliments congelés) : émissions de CO2 de 14,34 kg. Frais supplémentaires : 2,58 €

1 litre de lait : émissions de CO2 de 0,92 kg. Frais supplémentaires : 0,17 €

iPhone X (2017) : émissions de CO2 de 79 kg. Frais supplémentaires : 14,20 €

Vol direct Düsseldorf-New York et retour, classe économique : émissions de CO2 de 3,65 tonnes. Frais supplémentaires : 657 €

Vol Francfort-Auckland via Dubaï, aller-retour, classe économique : émissions de CO2 de 11,71 tonnes. Frais supplémentaires : 2 107 €

L’augmentation du prix du carburant devrait particulièrement attirer l’attention. Y a-t-il eu pareille tentative de taxe de la part des politiciens récemment ? Oui… et même eux n’ont pas tenté une politique fiscale aussi radicale.

Bref.

L’estimation la plus élevée possible des coûts potentiels d’une tonne de CO2, l’explosion des prix à la consommation qui en résulte, montrent le véritable visage de l’écologie : des personnes sans connaissances financières qui ne cherchent pas à trouver des solutions innovantes, mais plutôt à réduire la consommation tout court.

Si vous êtes de la classe moyenne supérieure, 17 centimes de plus par litre de lait ne sera pas la fin du monde. Mais comme ces coûts s’additionnent, les ménages à faible revenu ne pourront bientôt plus se permettre certains produits.

C’est là le véritable objectif final : surtaxer les pauvres pour qu’ils arrêtent de consommer. Que cela vienne d’une génération de nantis qui résident en Allemagne et dans de nombreux pays scandinaves est d’autant plus stupéfiant.

L’avion consomme de moins en moins de carburant et les gens sont de plus en plus conscients que polluer est un problème à la fois esthétique et environnemental. Il n’est pas possible de s’attendre à des changements considérables immédiatement suite à l’indignation des jeunes et, surtout, cela nuira aux ménages à faible revenu qui ont déjà du mal à joindre les deux bouts.

Le jour où ils auront réalisé ce qu’impliquent leurs prescriptions politiques, ces marcheurs du climat mettront leur gilet jaune.

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