Tuesday, 6 October 2015

An absence of democracy


So we've seen the new rules on plastic bags. Next up is the Sugar Tax. Some councils are already looking to pre-empt any specific regulation, but you can be sure specific regulation is on the way. A new WHO guideline (4 March 2015) recommends adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake. A further reduction to below 5% or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits.

They are written in conjunction with the WHO Department of Nutrition for Health and Development and the UN FAO/Codex. Such "guideline" hook into the international prestige of a number of contributory organisation, and being the rubber stamped experts on such matters, it is more than likely that such "recommendations" will be transposed verbatim into EU law and by coincidence, while the ignorati are muttering about "Brussels bureaucrats", we will see oddly familiar initiatives rolled out across the the US and Australia - just like when we saw those warnings on washing up liquid (a UNECE measure).

There will be no significant public debate about it, it will just pop up one week as the new law (just like the carrier bags). Since food producers will have been involved at the global level we will see marketing initiatives that attempt to sell us the idea they are doing it of their own accord, but they will be modifying their production regimes in anticipation of it becoming law. This is how the corporates paint themselves as self regulating and conscientious global citizens.

What we'll then see is various domestic "experts" opining, long after the legislation process has had the door slammed shut. Even on this thread, if anyone bothers to comment it will be an irrelevant comment as to the substance of the law rather than the origin of it. It seems folks are just not equipped to handle this dynamic of being ruled by a remote technocracy.

If I had to pass an unqualified remark on the substance of this particular measure, I would say that the refined sugars and recopies that do not occur in any natural state most likely are in some way carcinogens or at the very least not very healthy and so there is a function of regulation in preventing harmful produce entering markets. Food companies do use marketing psychology to design produce that people will consume in excess and so regulators need to be mindful of that to prevent them abusing human frailty to do harm.

But in that regard, the global organisations are in the grip to a deeply meddlesome agenda, often married to climate change issues - and because it is so closely linked with "scientific consensus" and institutional prestige it becomes law without any real scrutiny - and without the power to veto. Whether we would veto such measures had we the chance I do not know. Probably not, but the fact is, as things stand as members of the EU, we do not have the capacity to veto it. This, we are told, is "global influence".

The ability to veto at the very top tables, bypassing the EU gives us the opportunity to punch at our weight at the global level and show leadership in holding the global governance matrix to account. The EU has proven that it couldn't even if it wanted to.

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