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European Union

Parliament decides on F2F this month, here is what it should know

Parliament should raise serious questions about the plans.

This month the European Parliament is set to discuss the Farm to Fork strategy of the European Commission. The plans set out significant changes to the farming system, mandating a 50% reduction of pesticides by 2030, and an increase to 25% of the share of organic in all EU food production in 2030. Adding to that, the strategy wants to set out goals for “healthy diets”, combining the goal of reducing meat consumption for both health and environmental purposes.

The essential claim is that processed meat is a danger to public health, as it is associated with an increased risk of cancer. The “associated with” is quite an important keyword here, especially since it is being repeated so often. Everything you consume is essentially carcinogenic, and can therefore be linked to different cancers. The question is how dangerous it is exactly. 

Read the full article here

The ConsEUmer Podcast nominated as a top European Union podcast by Welp Magazine

We’re excited to announce that the ConsEUmer Podcast, produced by Consumer Choice Center, was named as one of the best European Union Podcasts of 2021. The list was recently published by Welp Magazine and is intended for everyone wanting to boost their knowledge of everything related to the European Union. 

Various factors played a part in selecting these podcasts and it is worth noting that podcast hosts and guests come from across the political spectrum, so listeners have a chance to hear different points of views about the European Union. The ranking was created using the data provided by ListenNotes, Crunchbase, SemRush and Ahrefs.  

ConsEUmer Podcast is hosted by Bill Wirtz, a senior policy analyst at the Consumer Choice Center. Besides his active role at the organisation, Bill is a pro-liberty freelance journalist who publishes in 4 languages, he has been featured in multiple news outlets around the world. His podcast focuses on consumer issues, such as free trade, science-based policy making, privacy, digital single market, and more. The podcast also offers insightful commentary on the hottest EU related topics. Bill critically examines and evaluates strategies and policies of the EU and its member states. Each episode lasts around 20-40 minutes and features experts and policy makers from various fields. Some of the topics that have been discussed on the podcast include the Polish sugar tax, EU Beating Cancer plan and its effect on vaping, Farm to Fork strategy, the e-scooter revolution, nanny state index, and more. As you can see, the podcast is very diverse in topics and there’s definitely something for every taste. Stay tuned for podcast updates and in the meantime catch up with the past episodes below.

P.S. If you want to find out more about the work we do around Europe, we recommend checking out our European Railway Station Index 2021 as well as the list of Europe’s Most Passenger-Friendly Airports 2020

EP51: Scandinavia opposes minimum wage, and EU vape politics (w/ Michael Landl) The ConsEUmer Podcast

Shorter episode of ConsEUmer this week, with these topics: 💼 Danish and Swedish labour unions oppose minimum wage directive 🇪🇺 Michael Landl talks about his pro-vaping activism in Brussels You can follow Michael Landl on Twitter @LandlMichael. November 25, 2021 Follow ConsEUmer wherever you get your podcasts: Apple: https://apple.co/2HR4TLT Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3l3GZdx Google podcasts: https://bit.ly/3fyyzto Donate: http://consumerchoicecenter.org/donate See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
  1. EP51: Scandinavia opposes minimum wage, and EU vape politics (w/ Michael Landl)
  2. EP50: France delays FTAs, Expensive petrol, and Germany's lights-out moment (w/ Rainer Klute)
  3. EP49: Joint episode with Consumer Choice Radio on COP26 (w/ Yaël Osswoski & David Clement)
  4. EP48: Taiwan relations, EU spending, and Farm to Fork (co-hosted with Fabio Fernandes)
  5. EP47: France turns on Nutri-Score, the truth about PFAS, and CZ elections (w/ Martin Pánek)

Junk food ad bans don’t work

Recognised as a risk factor for severe COVID-19 cases, obesity will likely top the European policy agenda for the years to come.

The recent launch of the MEPs for Obesity and Health System Resilience intergroup combined with several surveys and events signals an increased interest in finding the most effective solution. However, the traceable tendency to use the WHO’s recommendations as a shortcut when it comes to lifestyle issues does more harm than good.

In November 2016, the WHO published a report calling on the European Member States to introduce restrictions on marketing of foods high in saturated fat, salt and/or free sugars to children, covering all media, including digital, to curb childhood obesity. 

Same year the “What about our kids?” campaign, led by Romanian MEP Daciana Octavia Sârbu and organised by 10 European health organisations, called for a change of the Audio-Visual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) to impose a watershed on junk food advertising at a time when the directive was undergoing a review. As a result, the updated directive did include a clause on the co-regulation and the fostering of self-regulation through codes of conduct regarding HFSS.

The WHO’s implicit impact is traceable across the board which, however, doesn’t add up to its legitimacy. The said report claims that there is unequivocal evidence that junk food ads impact children’s behaviour, but it doesn’t back it up with facts to show a causal link between the marketing of these foods and children’s obesity. What the report does though is demonise the marketing industry globally for intentionally targeting children.

The link between advertising – in particular TV ads – and childhood obesity is weak and most of the current conclusions are based on studies from decades ago. One such example is a trial conducted in Quebec over 40 years ago. As part of a 1982 study, five- to eight-year-old children who were staying at a low-income summer camp in Quebec underwent a two-week exposure to televised food and beverage messages. It was found that children who viewed candy commercials picked significantly more candy over fruit as snacks. Although there appears to be an established non-directional link between childhood obesity and television, and a plausible link with food ads, it is not sufficient to justify bans.

Junk food ad bans policies fail to recognise that childrens’ choices are heavily dependent on the environment where they grow up and behaviours that are treated as acceptable.  Therefore, if the parents live unhealthy lives then their children are much more likely to live unhealthy lives as well. 

To tackle obesity, we need to fundamentally change the societal narrative of what is healthy and what is not, and futile attempts to solve the problem through bans are not an effective way forward.

Education – both at school and home through model behaviours – and parental responsibility play a key role in fighting obesity. WHO’s junk food ad bans are a knee-jerk solution to a problem that requires a fundamental societal change.

Originally published here.

The EU should drop the Digital Services Tax

European consumers risk paying more

With the rise of the digital economy, a trend towards increased regulation of digital services has come to the fore. Digital services tax (DST), under which multinational enterprises are taxed in countries where they provide services through a digital marketplace, has become one of the most popular means to tame the big players.

In 2018, the European Commission initiated the introduction of a 3 per cent DST on the revenues generated in the EU digital market, including online sales and advertising. However, with the opposition of countries such as Sweden or Ireland, no agreement at the Council level has ever been reached. Despite the lack of compromise, member states went on to introduce DSTs on national levels. As a result, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Spain have proposed, announced or are already implementing some sort of digital tax. 

According to a KPMG report, the said tax is generating 2 to 3 percent of the countries’ government revenues from a narrow group of large Internet companies. Although rates slightly differ between the member states – 7.5 percent in Hungary and 3 percent in France – the target is generally the same: large multinational companies.

Under current international tax rules, a country where multinational service companies are subject to corporate income tax is generally determined by the place where  production occurs rather than where consumers or users are. However, the proponents of DST argue that digital businesses get income by selling to users abroad through the digital economy but do so without physical presence there and conversely they are not subject to corporate income tax there.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has called on more than 130 countries to amend the international taxation system. This current proposal would require multinational businesses to pay some of their income taxes where their consumers or users are. According to the OECD, the dilemma could be unlocked this year, and great hopes are put into the Biden administration to help make that happen.

DSTs distort the market

While Austria and Hungary are taxing just advertising, in France, Turkey, and Italy, the tax scope is much broader. It includes revenues from providing a digital interface, targeted advertising, and data transmission about users for advertising purposes. Ultimately these taxes and the additional costs companies will have to be borne by consumers. Higher costs for advertising are likely to result in higher prices for these companies’ products and services. According to a 2019 study on the economic impact of the French Digital Service Tax “approximately 55 percent of the total tax burden will be borne by consumers, 40 percent by businesses that use digital platforms, and only 5 percent by the large internet companies targeted.”

Turkey and Austria provide a valuable insight into how these taxes work.

According to the report mentioned above, in Turkey, in September 2020, an additional 7.5 percent fee was added to the costs of in-app subscriptions and other types of payment made on the digital platforms. In Austria, 5 percent of DST has been added to developers and advertisers’ invoices when promoted as part of the Austrian DST. 

These additional costs are paid by consumers and small developers and do nothing to address the evolving nature of the digital market. In economic terms, DSTs increase the deadweight loss.

At first glance, it seems unfair that big multinationals don’t pay taxes while traditional businesses are overwhelmed by taxation and regulation. The EU Commission found that within the EU, digital companies had to pay 9.5 percent in tax on average while traditional business models were subject to a 23 percent  average effective tax rate. However, if the goal is to enhance economic well-being, a better solution would be to drive down taxes for both types of businesses. 

Digital platforms are creating innovation and wealth within the economy. The “app economy” has created millions of jobs in the last few years, with 800,000 jobs in Europe and the United States in 2017 alone.

On the opposite of the current political belief, the digital service tax won’t affect big multinationals, but small developers will have to increase their price. European innovation will suffer too. If the prices of scaling up go up, small developers and innovators won’t be able to effectively compete with the US companies.

Digital platforms and services have helped millions of people working from home during the recent COVID-19 pandemic and generally have revolutionised the global economy. It is exactly because digital platforms are different from the supply chain that had been prevalent for hundreds of years, that there is a temptation to overregulate them, otherwise to put brakes on them in order to limit risks stemming from the lack of knowledge. 

Every tax, including a revenue tax, is more preoccupied with collecting profits rather than enhancing innovation. When talking about DSTs, it is key to understand what goal we are pursuing. If we want the European Union to become an innovation hub, then the DST definitely isn’t the way forward but if we want to punish big tech companies valued by European consumers for their success, then it is exactly what we need. 

And yet, even if we were to go down that road and continue to stand by the DST, we should do so by encouraging tax competition within the EU instead of imposing even more tax centralisation. Competition would allow EU member states to compete between themselves as regulatory regimes. In a similar fashion, that would provide digital services and platforms with more choice.

Digital economy boosts economic well-being. Some apps, such as Shazam, which recognizes the song played in that moment, or Slack, a service that provides instant messages for companies and teams, have been created by young entrepreneurs. Since then, they have exponentially expanded, becoming part of our daily life. 

In order to increase competitions in the digital market the EU should look to push more to smartly regulate the digital platform not to tax them. Such regulation would include clear rules of conduct defining blacklisted practices (e.g.i.e. self-preferencing) in order to self regulate certain aspects of a digital platform conduct, including transparency towards users, reporting obligations and prohibitions. 

Such an approach would safeguard the competition so that SMEs are able to compete with big players and create the dynamic market that benefits all consumers.

If, on the other side, European countries continue to push to introduce and increase DSTs without any agreement at the global level, European consumers risk paying more than their North American or South Asian counterparts and lose innovation and choice. DSTs are ineffective, and the EU should walk away from it once and for all.

Originally published here.

How Can We Ensure Consumer Privacy?

Each and every week, we hear of new data breaches, hacks, and disclosures of sensitive financial and personal information.

Last month, it was the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline in the United States, causing spikes in gas prices and long lines at the pump. Before that, news broke of a data leak affecting half a billion Facebook accounts, a bot that has successfully scraped 500 million LinkedIn accounts, and a hack at Stanford University that exposed thousands of social security numbers and financial details. The cycle is endless.

The sheer number of reports of data leaks, hacks, and scams on affected accounts has now grown so gargantuan that consumers and users are left numb. The more that number grows, the more we grow numb.

But breaches of private data matter. And consumers should be rightly ticked off.

Because for every company screw-up, hacker exploit, and insecure government database, there are thousands of firms and organizations doing it right, keeping users’ data secure, encrypted, and away from prying eyes.

And while individual countries in the European Union have their own privacy and data laws, the more troublesome aspect here is the troubled General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which all too often makes it more difficult for legitimate businesses to secure data, not less.

While we should always be vigilant about potentials for leaks and hacks, a chief concern of a smart and common-sense data privacy law or directive should be in championing innovation, which isn’t the case at present.

For every new health data company, logistics firm, or consumer wearable, proper data collection and retention are a core value. The more that rules are uniform, clear, and do not create barriers to entry, the more innovation we will see when it comes to data protection.

We should incentivize firms to adopt interoperability and open data standards to ensure data is portable and easy to access for users. Major social media networks now allow this prevision, and it has been the standard for website data for several years.

If that becomes the standard, consumers will be able to choose the brands and services that best cater to their needs and interests, rather than just companies left standing in the wake of overregulation.

At the same time, if we are to have revised privacy rules in the EU, we should enshrine the principle of technology neutrality, where government avoids decreeing winners and losers. That means that regulating or endorsing various formats of data, algorithms, or technology should be determined by firms and consumers, not government agencies without the knowledge necessary to make good decisions. The EU’s recent attempt to designate the “common phone charger” as the micro-USB connection, at a time when USB-C connections are becoming the industry standard, is an easy example.

This also extends to innovation practices such as targeted advertising, geo-targeting, or personalization, which are key to the consumer experience.

Added to that, we should be wary of all attempts to outlaw encryption for both commercial and personal use.

Pressure has mounted on the European Commission to overhaul encryption by private actors, but that would be a mistake.

The reason encryption remains a powerful tool in the arsenal of companies and agencies that handle our data and communications is because it works. We must defend it at any cost.

While there is plenty to be concerned about when it comes to online breaches and hacks, consumers should be able to benefit from an innovative marketplace of products and services, unencumbered by regulations that all too often restrict progress.

This balance is possible and necessary, both if we want to have a more secure online experience, and if we want to continue to have the best technology at our disposal to improve our lives.

Originally published here.

Sustainability: the European word-battle

It will mean something different to everyone.

The Farm to Fork Strategy of the European Union attempts to foster sustainability in the agricultural sector. While sustainability is a laudable goal in a general sense, it has a wide range of possible meanings and applications. EU institutions have adequately defined the word. 

It is necessary to establish a clear and precise definition of what we mean by sustainability, as only this will allow us to set concrete goals and objectives and develop clear and precise metrics to track our progress in achieving them.  The implication from the European Commission seems to be that organic agriculture is essentially synonymous with sustainable agriculture. But that is a mere assumption, made without reference to a host of practical concerns and obviating any real scientific examination of the facts. 

The European Commission’s web page for sustainable agriculture lauds the improvements on sustainability made by the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), yet it has not established a definition that matches the goals met by the policy. The Farm to Fork Strategy is a political roadmap that outlines certain numerical goals, yet the claim that these goals are sustainable is merely implied. In order for European consumers to understand the objectives of the European Union in the realm of sustainable agriculture, we need to establish definitions that concisely describe what sustainable agriculture is.

In any given webinar or even the word sustainability can be thrown meaninglessly, often supporting the speaker’s agenda. That speaker is often a supporter of agro-ecology or the food production system that rejects the advancements of modern agriculture. And that is fair game; those advocates have to have their voice in the democratic process. That said, they are often co-opting a term that has yet to be well-defined. You can take the test: stop an average consumer in the street and ask whether we should want more sustainable food. Who would possibly disagree with that? As to whether we should support sustainable food without defining what that means, is much like asking whether or not we should want “good” food. We will have different understandings of what that implies. In the organic sector, standards of sustainability would not be met.

Credible research has established that moving all current farming to organic farming would increase greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 70% . Researchers analysed the hypothetical move of Welsh and English farm production to organic, and found that reduced crop yields in organic farming increased the need to import food from overseas. Including the GHGs emitted growing that food abroad — a part of the equation often ignored advocates of organic agriculture — otal GHGs emitted would increase between 21% in the best-case scenario to an astounding 70%, depending on how much natural habitat and forest had to be cleared to make up for the decline caused by England’s and Wales’ switch to organic production. For the European Union, which aims at a 25% organic production target in Europe, the impact of overseas imports would be even more considerable. While the study assumed England and Wales would import the majority of the extra food they needed from Europe, a 25% organic EU would be making up its production deficits by importing food grown in less developed countries with considerably less efficient farming methods, which would significantly increase emissions.

So while we’re in the business of defining sustainability, why don’t we deal with the facts and only the facts?

Originally published here.

The global organizations and populists who aim to seize COVID vaccine tech and IP

When Donald Trump claimed in September 2020 that every American would have access to vaccines by April 2021, his comments received scorn. The Washington Post said his claims were “without evidence,” CNN quoted health experts who said it was impossible, and The New York Times claimed it would take another decade.

Now, a year into this pandemic, nearly half of the eligible population has received at least one vaccine dose in the U.S., and distribution has been opened to every American adult.

Operation Warp Speed, which invested tax dollars and helped reduce bureaucracy across the board, has contributed to what has truly been a miraculous effort by vaccine firms.

While Trump’s proclamations eventually become true and the question of vaccine ability has been settled, there is now pressure on the Biden administration to turn over domestic vaccine supply to countries with skyrocketing cases.

On Sunday, the U.S. declared it will send additional medical supplies to India, currently experiencing the largest global spike in cases.

But at international bodies, countries and activist groups are petitioning for far more: they want to force biotech companies to waive intellectual property rights on vaccines and COVID-related medical technology.

Along with nearly 100 other countries, India and South Africa are the architects of a motion at the World Trade Organization called a TRIPS Waiver (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights).

If the waiver is triggered, it would ostensibly nullify IP protections on COVID vaccines, allowing other countries to copy the formulas developed by private vaccine firms to inoculate their populations and play into the hands of future governments more hostile to private innovation.

This week, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai met with the heads of the various vaccine makers to discuss the proposal, but it is uncertain if the Biden administration will support the measure at the WTO.

While many companies have voluntarily pledged to sell them at cost or even offered to share information with other firms, this measure would have more far-reaching implications.

This coalition seeking the TRIPS waiver includes Doctors Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, and World Health Organization Secretary-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who first backed this effort in 2020 before any coronavirus vaccine was approved.

They claim that because COVID represents such a global threat and because western governments have poured billions in securing and helping produce vaccines, low and middle-income countries should be relieved of the burden of purchasing them.

Considering the specialized knowledge needed to develop these vaccines and the cold storage infrastructure required to distribute them, it seems implausible that any of this could be achieved outside the traditional procurement contracts we’ve seen in the European Union and the U.S.

That said, rather than celebrating the momentous innovation that has led to nearly a dozen globally-approved vaccines to fight a deadly pandemic in record time, these groups are trumpeting a populist message that pits so-called “rich” countries against poor ones.

Intellectual property rights are protections that help foster innovation and provide legal certainty to innovators so that they can profit from and fund their efforts. A weakening of IP rules would actively hurt the most vulnerable who depend on innovative medicines and vaccines.

If the cost of researching and producing a COVID vaccine is truly $1 billion as is claimed, with no guarantee of success, there are relatively few biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies that can stomach that cost.

BioNTech, the German company headed by the husband-wife team of Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci that partnered with Pfizer for trials and distribution of their mRNA vaccine, was originally founded to use mRNA to cure cancer.

Before the pandemic, they took on massive debt and scrambled to fund their research. Once the pandemic began, they pivoted their operations and produced one of the first mRNA COVID vaccines, which hundreds of millions of people have received.

With billions in sales to governments and millions in direct private investment, we can expect the now-flourishing BioNTech to be at the forefront of mRNA cancer research, which could give us a cure. The same is true of the many orphan and rare diseases that do not otherwise receive major funding.

Would this have been possible without intellectual property protections?

Moderna, for its part, has stated it will not enforce the IP rights on its mRNA vaccine and will hand over any research to those who can scale up production. The developers of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have pledged to sell it at cost until the pandemic is over.

While this should smash the narrative presented by the populists and international organizations who wish to obliterate IP rights, instead they have doubled down, stating that these companies should hand over all research and development to countries that need them.

If we want to be able to confront and end this pandemic, we will continue to need innovation from both the vaccine makers and producers who make this possible. Granting a one-time waiver will create a precedent of nullifying IP rights for a host of other medicines, which would greatly endanger future innovation and millions of potential patients.

Especially in the face of morphing COVID variants, we need all incentives on the table to protect us against the next phase of the virus. 

Rather than seeking to tear them down those who have performed the miracle of quick, cheap, and effective vaccines, we should continue supporting their innovations by defending their intellectual property rights.

Yaël Ossowski (@YaelOss) is deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, a global consumer advocacy group.

MERCOSUR : Le Temps des Plates Excuses

L’accord entre l’Union européenne et le Mercosur est remis en question – sous de faux prétextes. Il est temps de réaliser les vrais enjeux qu’il recouvre.

L’accord commercial entre l’Union européenne (UE) et le Mercosur (une communauté économique regroupant plusieurs pays d’Amérique du Sud) est critiqué – voire pratiquement mort selon plusieurs déclarations politiques. C’était l’intention de la France dès le début : plus de protectionnisme, moins de libre-échange.

Tout a commencé avec les feux dans l’Amazonie, au Brésil. D’après l’expert forestier et spécialiste environnemental Emmanuel Macron :

“Notre maison brûle. Littéralement. L’Amazonie, le poumon de notre planète qui produit 20% de notre oxygène, est en feu. C’est une crise internationale. Membres du G7, rendez-vous dans deux jours pour parler de cette urgence. #ActForTheAmazon”

Avec de tels appels, la chose pertinente à faire est de mettre les choses en perspective. Nous savons que le nombre d’incendies au Brésil cette année est supérieur à celui de l’an dernier, mais il est aussi à peu près le même qu’en 2016 et inférieur à 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010 et 2012.

Les données de l’Institut national de recherche spatiale du Brésil, qui collabore avec la NASA, montrent que 2019 n’est pas en décalage. Ces données sont obtenues grâce à l’analyse de l’imagerie satellitaire.

Bien que le nombre d’incendies en 2019 soit en effet 80% plus élevé qu’en 2018 – un chiffre largement rapporté ces derniers temps – il n’est supérieur que de 7% à la moyenne des dix dernières années. De plus, la plupart des incendies se produisent actuellement sur des terres déjà déboisées en Amazonie.

Un mythe populaire

Le mythe populaire veut que l’Amazonie soit « le poumon de la Terre », produisant « 20% de l’oxygène du monde ». C’est en tout cas ce que dit le tweet d’Emmanuel Macron. En réalité, ces deux éléments sont inexacts… et pas seulement parce que vos poumons ne produisent pas d’oxygène.

Pourtant, ce chiffre continuera de circuler tant qu’il y aura des reportages à produire ; l’agence Associated Press elle-même l’a propagé – elle a dû le retirer ensuite.

Selon le site de fact-checking Snopes :

« En fait, presque tout l’oxygène respirable de la Terre provient des océans, et il y en a assez pour durer des millions d’années. Il y a de nombreuses raisons d’être consterné par les incendies d’Amazonie de cette année, mais l’épuisement de l’approvisionnement en oxygène de la Terre n’en fait pas partie. »

Donc non, vous n’étoufferez pas à cause des incendies de l’Amazonie.

Les vraies raisons…

L’Irlande et la France proposent malgré tout de mettre fin à l’accord avec le Mercosur, pour des raisons environnementales.

Malheureusement pour elles, aucun prétexte écologiste ne pourra cacher leurs vraies motivations : défendre les intérêts protectionnistes des agriculteurs irlandais et français, qui se sont plaint d’une concurrence accrue de la part de pays comme l’Argentine.

Il faut savoir que cet accord a une grande importance géopolitique ; il constitue un signe fort contre le protectionnisme. S’il est ratifié, cet accord avec le Mercosur établirait la plus grande zone de libre-échange que l’UE ait jamais créée, couvrant une population de plus de 780 millions d’habitants, et consoliderait les liens politiques, économiques et culturels étroits entre ces deux zones.

L’accord élimine les droits de douane sur 93% des exportations vers l’UE et accorde un « traitement préférentiel » aux 7% restants. De plus, il supprimera à terme les droits de douane sur 91% des marchandises que les entreprises de l’UE exportent vers le Mercosur.

Le nombre de plaintes officielles présentées à l’OMC en 2018 était de 122% supérieur à celui de 2009. En 2018, l’UE était le deuxième plus gros défenseur des plaintes à l’OMC, soit près de deux fois plus que la Chine.

L’importance de la Chine

Ce pays n’est pas cité au hasard. Il est crucial de comprendre l’influence chinoise sur le terrain sud-américain.

Depuis 2005, la China Development Bank et la China Export-Import Bank ont consenti plus de 141 Mds$ en prêts à des pays et à des entreprises appartenant aux Etats d’Amérique latine et des Caraïbes.

En Amérique latine et ailleurs dans le monde, les prêts chinois sont considérés à la fois comme une recherche de profit et comme une forme de diplomatie.

La Banque de développement se concentre sur huit domaines : électricité, construction de routes, chemins de fer, pétrole, charbon, télécommunications, agriculture et services publics.

Avec cet accord, il devient possible de contrer l’influence chinoise. La France et l’Irlande doivent cesser de s’y opposer et travailler sur un accord commun en Europe.

Donner plus de choix aux consommateurs, garantir plus de libre-échange pour les producteurs des deux côtés et défendre les intérêts géopolitiques par le biais de la politique commerciale : tout cela devrait être évident. Il semble malheureusement que ne plus rien n’est évident, pour la classe politique actuelle…

Originally published here.


Pour en savoir plus sur l’accord MERCOSUR, consultez notre infographie ici.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

#Environment needs saving through innovation, not starvation

As the winter times come closer, people resume their arguments about the thermostat at home. While there is great convenience that comes with heating, it also comes at an environmental cost. Environmental protection and development are, undoubtedly, both a necessary and noble cause, and while we may sometimes disagree with the fearmongering or reactionism that comes with eco-politics, it’s a wonderful thing to see consumer preferences gravitate towards greener alternatives, writes Bill Wirtz.

It is through changes in consumer attitudes that force innovations to become safer, more sustainable, and just generally ‘green-er’. The same however also applies to price: as companies attempt to reduce prices, their incentives force them towards the use of less energy. This is what we’ve seen happen to cars, which have seen fuel efficiency double since the 70s, or air travel, which has seen 45% less fuel burn since the 1960s.

The beauty of consumer-driven innovation is that it comes naturally through the marketplace. In the area of food, we’ve seen immense strives towards safer, more affordable, and less energy-consuming crops. With current agro-tech innovations, like through gene-editing, this becomes a promising prospect. However, the political world seems unimpressed with innovation, and more interested in reacting to fear-mongering. Nowhere are the dangerous effects of this felt more than in the developing world. Advanced countries with good intentions ignore the needs and abilities of poorer nations in the name of pretended environmental protection.

Take, for instance, a recent conference, jointly held in Kenya by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Preservation Center. The ‘First International Conference on Agroecology Transforming Agriculture and Food Systems in Africa’ aims to implement the policies of ‘Agroecology’ throughout the continent.

The “agroecology” touted by the conference refers to a more ‘organic’ style of farming, one that is free (or, at least, less dependent upon) synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. In many parts of Africa, where this conference had its attention, this could have devastating. It should come as no surprise that agroecological methods of farming are, typically far less efficient than the modern, mechanised alternative (a conclusion reached in a study performed by agroecological advocates).

On a continent that has long been plagued with poor economic growth and, far more seriously, severe famines and food shortages, taking the risk of switching to less-productive methods in the name of the environment would be blind to the necessities of a developing economy. Viewed simply, one could easily label this worldview and prescription as arrogant. If people in developed countries (or anywhere else for that matter) wish to establish an organic, agroecological farm to promote a more environmentally-friendly system, then more power to them. But we simply cannot expect this to apply to developing countries such as those in Africa. Bringing sustainable practices and technologies to the developing world should be achieved through increased scientific innovation, stimulating economic growth and development.

Following Brexit, the UK will be in an ideal position to do this without the restraints of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and biotech regulations, which has made trade with farmers in developing countries, as well innovative crops domestically, impossible to achieve. While the hearts of those arguing for “agroecology” are certainly in the right place, we need to understand that their suggestions threaten the chances of developing economies to grow and develop.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

Une nouvelle initiative européenne pro-science mérite le support public

Une nouvelle initiative citoyenne de l’UE organisée par des étudiants exige un processus d’autorisation scientifique rationalisée dans le domaine de l’agriculture. Ils méritent d’être entendus et soutenus.

Le 25 juillet, la Commission européenne a enregistré l’initiative citoyenne “Grow Scientific Progress : Crops Matter !” (“grandir l’innovation scientifique: les cultures sont importantes”). Deux étudiantes sont nommées comme représentantes, à savoir Martina Helmlinger et Lavinia Scudiero. Helmlinger est sur le point de terminer sa maîtrise en “sécurité de la chaîne alimentaire” à l’Institut des sciences et technologies alimentaires de l’Université des ressources naturelles et des sciences de la vie de Vienne, et possède une licence en biotechnologie. Scudiero est diplômée en médecine vétérinaire, elle s’intéresse à la sécurité alimentaire, et elle poursuit actuellement une maîtrise en sécurité alimentaire, le droit alimentaire et affaires réglementaires à l’Université de Wageningen.

Dans l’argumentaire de l’initiative, les deux étudiants soutiennent que la directive 2001/18/CE de l’UE est dépassée, et suggèrent un mécanisme automatique pour la réviser. L’objectif est de rationaliser la procédure d’autorisation de mise sur le marché, désormais longue et coûteuse, et de permettre davantage de progrès scientifiques dans l’UE. Les évaluations individuelles, par opposition aux définitions générales, aident à permettre l’arrivée de nouvelles technologies sur le marché.

Comme l’explique Marcel Kuntz, directeur de recherche au CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique) à Grenoble : “L’agro-biotechnologie n’est pas un mode de production agricole, c’est un moyen d’accroître la biodiversité. Ce qui est important, c’est ce qu’on fait d’un produit, pas comment on l’a obtenu.” Kuntz se plaint aussi des attaques contre les scientifiques et que la sûreté des innovations scientifiques est définie à travers un débat politique.

Le débat sur l’innovation en agriculture a été pris en otage par des communicateurs professionnels qui ont tout fait pour calomnier l’innovation technologique. C’est un phénomène médiatique problématique — pour chaque innovation on nous parle longuement des risques potentiels (souvent imaginaires), en oubliant les opportunités énormes.

Cela affecte même les outils de communication des institutions de l’UE, visible dans le débat des OGM. Sur le site web “Legislative Train Schedule” (“calendrier du train législatif”) du Parlement européen, les rapporteurs des directives sont censés expliquer de manière neutre la ligne d’action législative. C’est un outil qui transmet l’information aux citoyens de façon non partisane.

Frédérique Ries, membre belge du Parlement européen, n’a pas pris ce travail très au sérieux. Dans un article sur le site résumant la directive (UE) 2015/412, elle écrit :

“Le Parlement européen a également insisté pour que les États membres, dans lesquels des cultures GM sont cultivées, évitent la contamination transfrontalière en établissant des zones tampons le long de leurs frontières avec les États membres voisins dans lesquels les OGM ne sont pas cultivés.”

La vérité est que des organisations comme Greenpeace mentent sur les OGM depuis des décennies. Ils expliquent que les OGM représentent des “risques inacceptables”, sans mettre en évidence des preuves scientifiques soulignant ce risque. Ils écrivent par exemple:

“Les cultures génétiquement modifiées n’ont pas leur place dans l’agriculture durable. Ils comportent des risques inacceptables créés par le processus de génie génétique.”

Les mêmes ONG qui se sont assurées que l’UE n’utiliserait pas de cultures génétiquement modifiées ont également célébré une affaire devant la Cour de justice de l’Union européenne, dans laquelle il est dit que le génie génétique devrait être traité de la même manière que les OGM. Greenpeace décrit le génie génétique comme “OGM par la porte de derrière”.

Le chef de l’Autorité européenne de sécurité des aliments (EFSA), Dr. Bernhard Url, explique qu’il ne faut pas “tirer sur la science” si on n’aime pas les résultats en question. Il ajoute que “si la science ne devient qu’une opinion de plus, qui peut être négligée en faveur de la superstition, cela comporte un risque énorme pour la société”.

Il a raison. Le génie génétique offre déjà de nombreux avantages à l’amélioration génétique, par exemple en créant des aliments sans allergènes. Imaginez l’immense changement pour les personnes atteintes d’allergies potentiellement mortelles, si nous parvenons à créer des arachides sans allergènes ou du blé sans gluten. Cependant, ces applications dépassent le domaine de l’agriculture. Le génie génétique peut aider à combattre le virus Zika, à prévenir la transmission du paludisme, à guérir la leucémie et montre des recherches prometteuses dans les domaines de la maladie d’Alzheimer, de la maladie de Huntington, du cancer du col utérin et du cancer du poumon.

Le génie génétique risque d’être victime de la même peur non scientifique que les OGM. D’autres continents innovent alors que l’Europe s’enfonce dans un fossé technologique. 

L’initiative Grow Scientific Progress peut aider à aller à l’encontre de cette évolution. L’Union européenne doit s’ouvrir à l’innovation scientifique afin de saisir les opportunités passionnantes de demain.


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