Monday, June 29, 2015

Good Friday

The United States Supreme Court does not always come to the right decision.  However, they did very much get it right in Obergefell v. Hodges (U.S. 2015).  Arguments by opponents of same sex marriage that biology supported their cause were woefully misguided.  (See previous post, entitled Sex, Biology, and the Supreme Court.)  Congratulations to the Supremes, to the citizens of the United States, and to the cause of civil rights around the globe!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Where GRAS Is Leaner

The United States Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") has announced that within three years partially-hydrogenated oils (major sources of trans fats) will no longer qualify to be "generally regarded as safe" ("GRAS"). Often used as a grandfathering mechanism for ensuring light regulation of foods whose wide consumption preceded passage of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act, food designated as GRAS may be legally sold without specific proof of nutritional benefit. In light of overwhelming scientific evidence, the FDA outlined its new policy on June 16, 2015:
Based on a thorough review of the scientific evidence, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration today finalized its determination that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods, are not “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS for use in human food. Food manufacturers will have three years to remove PHOs from products.
This new policy furthers a previous FDA initiative regarding trans fats:
Since 2006, manufacturers have been required to include trans fat content information on the Nutrition Facts label of foods. Between 2003 and 2012, the FDA estimates that consumer trans fat consumption decreased about 78 percent and that the labeling rule and industry reformulation of foods were key factors in informing healthier consumer choices and reducing trans fat in foods. While trans fat intake has significantly decreased, the current intake remains a public health concern. The Institute of Medicine recommends that consumption of trans fat be as low as possible while consuming a nutritionally-adequate diet.
By 2019, partially-hydrogenated oils will be banned from food unless specifically approved by the FDA:
The FDA has set a compliance period of three years. This will allow companies to either reformulate products without PHOs and/or petition the FDA to permit specific uses of PHOs. Following the compliance period, no PHOs can be added to human food unless they are otherwise approved by the FDA.
Whatever its other effects, this new dietary policy will lend credence to the proposition that the GRAS is always leaner.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Towards Jurassic World

Like the passenger pigeon, the Tasmanian wolf, and the wooly mammoth, the Jurassic Park franchise has recently been the object of serious resurrection efforts.  Deextinction has been successful in the case of the latter:  Jurassic World hits movie theaters on June 11, 2015.  I had fun being interviewed by reporter Amina Smith of 6News television on the prospects, ethics, and legality of deextinction.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Mother Of Infringements

The Canadian Telecom Summit describes itself as "deliver[ing] thought provoking presentations from the prime movers of the industry...[in a] a structured atmosphere of frank discussion and high octane idea exchange".  Apparently, such frank discussion can include calling j'accuse on alleged copyright infringement by one's own children.  In a keynote address she delivered at the Summit on June 3, 2015, Bell Media President Mary Ann Turcke is reported to have called out her 15-year old daughter for using a virtual private network ("VPN") to watch Netflix' U.S. programming rather than settling for what Netflix Canada offers.  This, Turcke declared, was "stealing".

Not so fast, says Professor Michael Geist, a copyright law expert at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law.  In an article in the Toronto Star newspaper, Geist questions whether using a VPN to access Netflix' U.S. version of its streaming video content is, in fact, theft.  He notes that such actions might constitute breach of contract or possibly violate Canadian anticircumvention law, but considers "arguments that the subscribers [who access Netflix U.S. via VPN] violate copyright law are very weak". 

One thing is almost a certainty:  any teenager whose parent tattles on her in a public speech will feel very strongly (to euphemize) that her rights to privacy have been egregiously infringed.