Monday, August 04, 2014

Trade, the Precautionary Principle, and Post-Modern Regulatory Process: Regulatory Convergence in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership


The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (“TTIP”) has been hailed as an opportunity for the world’s two largest consumer markets to expand inter-regional trade, investment and jobs, and to secure greater regulatory convergence that could considerably reduce costly and market-distorting extra-territorial non-tariff regulatory trade barriers. This opportunity notwithstanding, Europe’s precautionary principle (“PP”) has been identified as a potential obstacle to a successful TTIP outcome. In our view, the TTIP presents a significant opportunity for creating a process for regulatory cooperation, harmonization, and convergence.

In this article, we focus on the PP and related differences in regulatory procedures. Specifically, we discuss the PP’s relation to post-modernism, and its influence on EU regulatory procedure and science, highlighting the paradoxes inherent in the PP. To put these issues into perspective, we also review the ‘reality of precaution.’ In light of this analysis, we assess the effectiveness of the trading partners’ attempts to reduce the regulatory divide, and explore what the EU and US can learn from each other. We then proceed to present some recommendations on how they should proceed in the TTIP negotiations.


A further reply to an anti-GMO liar

By Rich Kozlovich

Mike Adams, who publishes Natural News and styles himself as the Health Ranger recently posted an article entitled, The Agricultural Holocaust explained: the 10 worst ways GMOs threaten humanity and our natural worldon July 27, 2014.

He claims that, “GMOs collapse biodiversity”, saying;

"In an effort to monopolize the global seed supply, GMO companies are buying up smaller seed companies and shutting them down, collapsing their seed supplies. The following chart shows some of the seed consolidation activity that's concentrating ownership over seeds into the hands of a very small number of powerful, unethical corporations:"

(Editor’s Note: He provides a chart in the article. However, there’s no citation or link as to its origin. I can’t confirm anything the chart shows, except there seem to be an awful lot of seed companies - and based on everything else he’s said in this article – I have to wonder if he doesn’t want anyone to know its origin.)

"This consolidation of seed companies has caused an alarming collapse in seed diversity over the last decade, placing humanity at increased risk for catastrophic crop failures due to a loss of genetic diversity.

That's the problem with genetic conformity: it makes the crops far more susceptible to systemic diseases that can cause catastrophic crop failures. Precisely this scenario is happening right now with banana crops, as most commercial banana trees are genetically identical clones.

As a result, a fungus has attacked banana cropsand is causing devastating destruction across the banana industry. The industry is responding by -- guess what? -- foolishly turning to genetically engineered bananas which will suffer from the exact same weakness of genetic conformity, practically guaranteeing a future disease epidemic.”

Before I go on, let me state from the outset that the worst lies start with the truth. But once the truthful statements have been twisted with lies of omission and logical fallacies it’s perverted to generate erroneous conclusions. It’s a lot like snake oil salesmen and a fast hustle. It’s true that genetic diversity is important to continued health in seeds, but everything he says after that is seriously flawed.

Let’s start with this business of loss of genetic diversity he claims is being caused by “unethical” companies deliberately causing a “collapse” (what does that mean?) in the seed market. That’s a load of horsepucky! When I first read his claims I have to admit it took me by surprise because not once could I remember seeing any commentaries about this, and there was nothing in my files. So I sent out a request for information to my net hoping someone out there could provide some information on this. People started responding back about what he portrays as a deliberate and nefarious effort to destroy biodiversity.

We have to understand that, just as in any industry, there are natural ebbs and flows. There is a constant ebb and flow regarding seed stock involving GMO’s, non-GMO’s, hybrids, self pollinators, and cross pollinating plants. Just as there is in any business. Recently there’s a resurgence in non-GMO breeding efforts because it appears we’re in a growers market. This makes sense as the ASTA -American Seed TradeAssociation states on its web site – “everything starts with the seed”.

One of my correspondents, who works for a large international trade association involved in Agriculture, stated the entire seed industry is very “robust….big and small companies alike”. All these so-called consolidations have actually strengthened the mid-sized and small companies because they’re more agile than the larger companies and can move more quickly into profitable situations.

As for these companies deliberately trying to “collapse” the seed market – I keep asking - what does that mean? Does he imply these companies are buying up smaller seed companies and destroying their seed stock? It seems to me that’s what he’s trying to convey – but he won’t dare say it because he knows it’s a lie. No company would deliberately destroy seed stock because these large science based companies know better than anyone how science is constantly moving forward and tomorrow they may suddenly discover a new tool to unlock some “genetic assets in a seed line”. “Self interest alone would compel companies to preserve genetic resources.”

Is he trying to say these large companies are buying up all the small companies and hiding seed stock? Well, that’s loony. They’re buying seed stock to utilize it in some fashion, and they’re not ever going to eliminate the small and mid-size companies, and I doubt if they want to. It wouldn’t be worth the cost and it wouldn't prevent new companies from forming. GMO companies are not causing a loss in genetic diversity, they’re preserving genetic diversity and enhancing the genetic diversity that already exists.

About twenty five years ago Waste Management Incorporated decided the pest control industry was a good fit for their corporation because they felt they had corporate expertise in the legislative and regulatory arena that was compatible with the pest control and lawn care industries. So they went around the country and bought up a large number of quality regional pest control companies. Overnight they became the number three company in the nation.

A lot of prominent people in the pest control industry started covering themselves in sackcloth and ashes, wringing their hands, believing this was the end of the small pest control companies – the conglomerates were taking over – “it’s the end of the pest control industry as we know it!” A few old hands just chuckled, shook their heads and said – that will never happen – and they were right, and the conglomerate “consolidation” scare ended.

Are bigger companies still buying smaller companies? Of course! That’s the nature of business! Are small companies still coming into existence? Of course! That’s the nature of business! Everything else is horsepucky!

There’s one more thing about his claim that large companies are deliberately “collapsing” (what does that mean?) the seed market that bothered me from the start. He provides not one piece of evidence other than a chart without a source link - not one link to a commentary explaining the information on the chart - not one commentary from anyone in the seed market, including any small companies warning us of these alleged abuses - not one quote from an honest broker of information and not one news story! Why?

He then asks us to take a leap of faith and believe that GMO’s are destroying the banana crops in the world. He now issues another really big lie of omission, claiming;

“This consolidation of seed companies has caused an alarming collapse in seed diversity. As a result, a fungus has attacked banana crops and is causing devastating destruction across the banana industry. The industry is responding by -- guess what? -- foolishly turning to genetically engineered bananas which will suffer from the exact same weakness of genetic conformity, practically guaranteeing a future disease epidemic.”

There’s a real problem with this Jeremiad in that he fails to include in his statement. The lack of bio-diversity is common in bananas because bananas are self pollinating. Bananas are not suffering from a lack of diversity due to GMO’s. There are wild species that are pollinated by bats, but those used in food production aren’t. I don’t know about anyone else, but somehow I think that’s an important piece of information. Don’t you?

Currently the banana we’re most familiar with the a variety called the Cavendish, and it is under attack from something called the Black Sigatoka fungus, which is becoming resistant to fungicides. Did any kind of genetic engineering have anything to do with this. NO!

The variety that preceded the Cavendish was called the Gros Michal, also a self fertilizing banana. It became commercially “unviable” in the 1950’s due to the Panama Disease, which is caused by a fungus to which the Cavendish is immune. However, the Gros Michel isn’t extinct and can be used where the Panama disease isn’t found. But let’s understand this. The Gros Michel variety became commercially interesting in the 1820’s and it took about 130 years before this naturally occurring problem struck. All that happened long before GMO's.

Within the next 10 to 20 years is seems likely the Cavendish, which like almost all bananas lacks genetic diversity, will suffer attacks that can’t be thwarted with fungicides. This will have a serious impact on large commercial and small farm agriculture. However there are a very large number of varieties of bananas out there we’re not familiar with which could produce one or more replacements, although they would be substantially different than  what we’re used to. But no matter what direction agriculture goes in this matter we must come to realize that this problem is a naturally occurring one that can’t be blamed on GMO’s. In fact it seems rational that GMO’s will be the answer!

Scientists have made announcements about the complete sequencing of the banana genome, and by utilizing genes from wild species that reproduce via seeds they could potentially develop a non-seed variety that would be immune to fungi and even pathogens. Resistant genes from onions and dahlias were introduced into plantains –a member of the banana family used in cooking - which are demonstrating resistance to a greenhouse fungus. Will they make it in the real world? The only rational answer is yes - eventually! Will this lead to high tasty high yield bananas at some point. The only rational answer must be a resounding YES, eventually! But only if we abandon all this scare mongering about GMO’s. GMO’s will save commercial banana production and will end the need to make so many applications of fungicides, which is a very real financial burden for small farmers. That's why American Farmers Just Love Their GMOs and You Should Too.


Roger Pielke Jr. on FiveThirtyEight and his Climate Critics

By Keith Kloor

Earlier in the year, Roger Pielke Jr. was named as a contributing writer for Nate Silver’s newly re-launched FiveThirtyEight site. Shortly after that, Pielke, a climate policy scholar and political scientist at the University of Colorado, in Boulder, published an article at FiveThirtyEight headlined, “Disasters Cost More Than Ever–But Not Because of Climate Change.”

Critics pounced immediately in blogs and on Twitter. That harsh reaction was then reported and commented on at Salon, Huffington Post, Slate, the Columbia Journalism Review, and elsewhere.

I recently conducted a Q & A with Pielke about this episode and the aftermath. The links in my questions are from me. I asked Pielke to provide his own links.

KK: It’s been noted on Twitter that you are not listed on the main contributors page for FiveThirthyEight. Does this mean you no longer write for the site? If so, can you explain what happened?

RPJR: That is correct, I no longer write for 538. Last month, after 538 showed some reluctance in continuing to publish my work, I called up Mike Wilson, the lead editor there, and told him that it was probably best that we part ways. I wished them well in their endeavor going forward. I remain a fan. Since then I have joined up with SportingIntelligence, a UK-based website that focuses on analyses of economic and other quantitative aspects of sport. It’s a great fit. And of course, I continue to publish in places like USA Today and the Financial Times on a wide range of subjects

KK: What do you make of the uproar your FiveThirtyEight piece generated? I know it quickly degenerated into an ugly pile-on, which I and some other journalists found unseemly. But did critics have any legitimate points you want to acknowledge?

RPJR: Well, that first piece was written on a subject that I have written on many times before (and perhaps as much as anyone) – disasters and climate change. The short essay was perfectly consistent with the recent assessments of the IPCC. The fact that some folks didn’t like it was not surprising — most anything on climate change is met with derision by somebody. What was a surprise was the degree to which the negative response to the piece was coordinated among some activist scientists, journalists and social media aficionados. I think that took everyone by surprise. I learned some new things about certain colleagues and journalists — both really good things and some really pathetic things. Seeing a campaign organized to have me fired from 538 also taught me a lesson about the importance of academic tenure.

KK: If you could write the piece over again, what would you do differently, if anything?

RPJR: Looking back, probably the main thing I would do differently would be to simply not write about climate change at 538. When I was originally hired there was actually zero discussion about me focusing on climate or even science, but rather covering a wide range of topics. I made clear to Nate and Mike that I was looking to at least partially escape from the climate change wars by focusing on other issues.  The climate change piece was an obvious place to start even so because the IPCC reports had just been released and the topic is also covered so thoroughly in the peer reviewed literature. Clearly, that judgment was wrong!

KK: Have you and Nate Silver talked about this ordeal? What was his reaction?

RPJR: I have not spoken with or corresponded with Nate since that first piece. Of course, I do wish that 538 had shown a bit more editorial backbone, but hey, it is his operation.  If a widely published academic cannot publish on a subject which he has dozens of peer-reviewed papers and 1000s of citations to his work, what can he write on?  Clearly Nate is a smart guy, and I suspect that he knows very well where the evidence lies on this topic. For me, if the price of playing in the DC-NYC data journalism world is self-censorship for fear of being unpopular, then it is clearly not a good fit for any academic policy scholar.

KK: The condemnation of your 538 piece quickly spiraled into ugly personal broadsides painting you (incorrectly) as a climate skeptic. This happened in various high profile venues, such as Slate. How did you feel when this happened?

RPJR: If you are engaged in public debates on issues that people care passionately about, then you will be called names and worse. It goes with the territory. It is not pleasant of course, but at the same time, it is a pretty strong indication that (a) your arguments matter and (b) people have a hard time countering them on their merits. Even so, it is remarkable to see people like Paul Krugman and John Holdren brazenly make completely false claims in public about my work and my views. That they make such false claims with apparently no consequences says something about the nature of debate surrounding climate.

More HERE  (See the original for links)

No Evidence That Climate Change Is Increasing Disaster Losses

Roger Pielke Jr.

A new paper appeared in Climatic Change this week by Visser et al. which looks at disasters and climate change (open access here).  Like other studies and the IPCC assessment, Visser et al. find no trends in normalized disaster loses, looking at several metrics of economic and human losses.

They conclude:

"The absence of trends in normalized disaster burden indicators appears to be largely consistent with the absence of trends in extreme weather events. This conclusion is more qualitative for the number of people killed. As a consequence, vulnerability is also largely stable over the period of analysis."

The top line conclusion here is not surprising, though it is interesting because it uses independent methods on largely independent data. It is consistent with previous data and analyses (e.g., Bouwer 2011, Neumayer and Bartel 2011, Mohleji and Pielke 2014) as well as with the conclusions of the recent IPCC assessments (SREX and AR5).

What is perhaps most interesting about this new paper is their discussion of vulnerability. Some have argued that our methodological inability to fully account for possible changes in vulnerability to losses over time may mask a climate change signal in the data. (It's gotta be there somewhere!) This line of argument has always been suspect, because there are not relevant trends in phenomena such as floods and hurricanes which would lead to an expectation of increasing normalized losses.

Visser et al. take this issue on and offer several explanations as to why vulnerability does not mask any hidden signals:

"Firstly, global disaster management initiatives have only recently been put in place. The Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) was adopted by 168 Member States of the United Nations in 2005 to take action to reduce vulnerabilities and risks to disasters (UNISDR, 2011). Although these highly important efforts will certainly pay off in the near future, it is unclear whether they are reflected in the sample period chosen for this study. Similar conclusions are drawn in IPCC (2014). . .

Secondly, it is unclear to what extent adaptation measures work in practice. Heffernan (2012) argues that many countries, and even the richest, are ill-prepared for weather extremes. As an example, he names Hurricane Sandy, which wreaked a loss of 50 billion USD along the northeast coast of the US in 2012. As for early warning systems, Heffernan states that not all systems are functioning well. For example, in 2000, Mozambique was hit by a flood worse than any in its history, and the event was not at all anticipated. Warnings of above-average rainfall came too late and failed to convey the magnitude of the coming flood.

Thirdly, a positive trend in vulnerability may be offset by the increasing number of people moving from rural to urban environments, often situated in at-risk areas (UN 2012). Since many large cities lie along coastlines, these movements will make people more vulnerable to land-falling hurricanes (Pielke et al. 2008), coastal flooding and heatwaves (due the urban heat island effect). With regard to economic losses, Hallegatte (2011) argues that these migration movements may have caused disaster losses to grow faster than wealth.

Fourthly, it is unclear how political tensions and violent conflicts have evolved over large regional scales since 1980. On the one hand, Theisen et al. (2013) show that the number of armed conflicts and the number of battle deaths have decreased slightly at the global scale since 1980. On the other hand, these methods are rather crude as far as covering all aspects of political tensions are concerned (Leaning and Guha-Sapir et al. 2013).

We conclude that quantitative information on time-varying vulnerability patterns is lacking. More qualitatively, we judge that a stable vulnerability V t, as derived in this study, is not in contrast with estimates in the literature."

In short, those who claim that a signal of human caused-climate change is somehow hidden in the disaster loss record are engaging in a bit of unjustified wishful thinking. The data and evidence says otherwise.

The bottom line? Once again, we see further reinforcement for the conclusion that there is no detectable evidence of a role for human-caused climate change in increasing disaster losses. In plain English: Disaster losses have been increasing, but it is not due to climate change.


Gina McCarthy's strange conception of "investment"

In the laguage of the Left, government spending is called "investment" but the head of the EPA goes even further off the rails in the matter

I don’t think Gina McCarthy had thought this through. McCarthy to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee:

“And the great thing about this proposal is it really is an investment opportunity. This is not about pollution control. It’s about increased efficiency at our plants…It’s about investments in renewables and clean energy. It’s about investments in people’s ability to lower their electricity bills by getting good, clean, efficient appliances, homes, rental units,”
“This is an investment strategy that will really not just reduce carbon pollution but will position the United States to continue to grow economically in every state, based on their own design,” McCarthy added.

She is discussing something called the Clean Power Plan. Mark this day. She goes on to find the perpetual motion machine of economics:

"Sir, what I know about this rule is that I know it will leave the United States in 2030 with a more efficient and cleaner energy supply system — and more jobs in clean energy, which are the jobs of the future,” McCarthy responded.

The EPA doesn’t just have a landline to God. They are God. They can use less energy to generate more wealth, more employment, and global peace.

But she said she doesn’t expect any adverse impact from this rule — “other than to have jobs grow, the economy to grow, the U.S. to become more stable, the U.S. to take advantage of new technology, innovation and investments that will make us stronger over time.”

Asked to explain what consumers can expect from the new rule, McCarthy said EPA expects people to see lower energy bills “because we’re getting waste out of the system.” In other words, if electricity costs more, people will use less of it.

The whole supply-demand idea of economics is obviously wrong. By making electricity cost more and shifting people off electricity to other forms of energy, demand will fall for electricity. OK. At the same time increasing demand for other energy will make that cheaper instead of more expensive. Somehow technological advance only works on EPA approved topics.

We should have done this years ago. If we had stopped using coal, oil and gas in 1970, we could have been so rich now.


UK: Proposals to fight climate change will trigger 'astronomical costs', campaigners warn

The Climate Change Committee said Britain needs to "strengthen" its policies and do more to boost renewable energy such as windfarms.

It said that without tougher action Britain will miss its 31 per cent target of cutting emissions by 2025 and may only manage a 21 per cent reduction.

That will hinder it meetings its commitment to cut emissions by 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050.

The CCC called for more progress on insulating homes, promoting the uptake of ground source and air source heat pumps, and investment in support for electric vehicles.

The CCC also urged the Government to end the "high degree of uncertainty" about its support for renewable energy.

It urged ministers to provide funding to deliver  strategies for commercialising offshore wind.

Critics warned that households which already pay an average £1,264 for electricity and gas would face higher bills if the Government follows the CCC's advice.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change already forecasts that green levies will account for 5 per cent of  gas and 11 per cent of electricity bills by 2020.

But Benny Peiser of the Global Warming Policy Foundation said: "UK households and consumers already face a cumulative £50 billion bill for renewable energy subsidies by 2020 in the form of the green Levy Control Framework.

"If the CCC's post-2023 proposal were to succeed, the additional costs would be astronomical. This is politically unsustainable."

Dr Peiser also pointed to Chancellor George Osborne's scepticism about green policies and his pledge not to make Britain uncompetitive in the global market.

He said: "George Osborne has repeatedly made clear that the government will not cut UK CO2 emissions faster and deeper than other countries in Europe."

Dr Lee Moroney of the Renewable Energy Foundation, a think-tank which opposes energy subsidies, said: "In spite of the Chancellor’s sensible promise in 2011 not to cut emissions faster than our competitors, the Climate Change Committee is recommending faster, deeper cuts than the EU.

"The Committee’s proposal is an enormous and very risky gamble on the future price of fossil fuels with the costs falling on consumers and taxpayers already groaning under the burden of ever-increasing energy costs."

But the CCC said that action now offers "significant cost savings" compared to delaying.

It argued that reducing emissions can be achieved "at affordable cost".

Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, said: “Climate Change demands urgent action.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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