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Food is the new oil, even if most of the world — including Canada — hasn’t realized it yet

Canada could yet breed a stable of unicorns that shows the wild success of Shopify Inc. isn’t a fluke, but a smart bettor wouldn’t put money on it. There’s too much risk, history argues against it and the landscape is already dominated by better…

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Canada could yet breed a stable of unicorns that shows the wild success of Shopify Inc. isn’t a fluke, but a smart bettor wouldn’t put money on it. There’s too much risk, history argues against it and the landscape is already dominated by better players. It would be like a wager on the Toronto Maple Leafs getting past the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs (smirk).

But if not in digital technology, where might Canada make a mark in a post-pandemic world full of angst over the climate and the ability of the United States and China to get along? Answer: Food. Artificial intelligence gets all the press, but agriculture holds more promise, since it is perhaps the one industry in which Canada will have obvious comparative advantages in the future.

For one thing, Canada’s growing season will get longer as climate change makes agriculture in some parts of the world impossible. Our reputation for being nice might finally become an advantage in global business, because who buys dinner from someone they distrust?

Becoming one of the world’s primary sources of food might even be enough to give us a say on how the world is run. China controls about nine per cent of the world’s arable land, but has to feed about 20 per cent of the population. It is going to need some help and it might have to take seriously those countries responsible for an outsized share of the world’s nutrition.

Food is the new oil, even if most of the world — including, remarkably, Canada — hasn’t realized it yet.

“Canada’s agri-food system has a significant comparative advantage, but it is not being leveraged to maximize outcomes,” a report last month by the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI), an Ottawa-based research group, concluded . “Strategies need to be developed to leverage the assets the agri-food system has today and the advantages it will have in 20-30 years.”

Christopher Barrett, an agricultural economist at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., offered a similar assessment of Canada on May 11 at a virtual conference hosted by CAPI. He was enthusiastic about the country’s potential as an agri-food power, but observed it comes up short, in part, because it has been content to grow raw ingredients and ship them elsewhere for processing, which is where most of the value is created. It’s like choosing to be poor.

“Without food security, you don’t have anything,” Ted Bilyea, a former Maple Leaf Foods Inc. executive and CAPI’s chief strategy officer, said in an interview. “The Canadian government needs to be more strategic. No one wants to look at agriculture like a system.”

Strategic thinking means breaking down silos. Multiple cabinet ministers should be involved, not just the agriculture minister. The various farm lobbies need to get over their jealousies and try harder to work together. The same applies to the processors, grocers and transportation companies. Universities and colleges must be present, because research and development is the engine of innovation.

The effort might be anchored on the goal of neutralizing carbon pollution. Agriculture is responsible for about 10 per cent of global emissions, but Canada’s farmers and processors are greener than many of their peers, since they account for about eight per cent of Canadian emissions, according to Bilyea. That suggests they could be part of the solution to climate change, giving the industry a comparative advantage as the world’s biggest economies strive to meet net-zero goals.

Of course, the various agriculture ministers, farmers and processors would be unable to take full advantage of that opportunity without help. Importantly, they need the support of a trade minister who backs open commerce, not tit-for-tat protectionism. If the connection to the environment isn’t obvious, consider what would happen if a trade war between China and the G7 powers led the former to purchase all its grain from Brazil, a country that has had little difficulty razing the Amazon rainforest to make room for more farmland. Global commodity markets stuffed with Canadian cereals are good for the environment.

Farmers would need to be at the cutting edge of innovation, so they would need easy access to the newest research and technology. That means governments should reinvest in extension services that were decimated by the deep budget cuts of the 1990s. The final piece would be figuring out why Canada has created so few globally significant food companies, because, ultimately, it is the processors that generate most of the value and wield much of the clout.

“Processing gives you leverage,” Bilyea said.

It all makes so much sense, and yet there is little evidence the agricultural establishment is even close to getting its act together. Consider the dairy industry. It suffered consecutive blows in recent years, as the federal government was forced to make space for more dairy imports to gain admittance to important trade agreements with the European Union and 10 Asian nations, and to keep former U.S. president Donald Trump from wrecking the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The beating appeared to persuade the public servants, lobbyists and politicians who set the parameters for Canada’s highly regulated dairy industry that the time had come to take a hard look at the system. Lawrence MacAulay, who was agriculture minister when the North American trade pact was signed, promised at the time to set up a “working group” that would “chart a path forward to help the dairy sector innovate and remain an important source of jobs and growth for future generations.” The group was put together, but, more than two years later, “no recommendations have been made,” an Agriculture Canada spokesperson said by email.

Participants blame circumstances. Pierre Lampron, president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada, said talks were first interrupted by the 2019 election, and then by the pandemic. He said the delays haven’t stopped his group from coming up with a “blueprint” of its own, and he hopes that work will accelerate the process once the group resumes meeting. “We have come to acknowledge that these processes sometimes require patience,” said Mathieu Frigon, president of the Dairy Processors Association of Canada.

Hopefully, patience doesn’t lead to more inertia. Canada’s agriculture industry has been handed a rare opportunity. We will all be better off if seizes it.

• Email: kcarmichael@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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COVID-19 may never go away, but practical herd immunity is within reach

It is unlikely that we will reach full herd immunity for COVID-19. However, we are likely to reach a practical kind of herd immunity through vaccination.

The level of immunity needed — either through vaccination or infection — for practical herd immunity is uncertain, but may be quite high. (Shutterstock)

When people say that we won’t reach “herd immunity” to COVID-19, they are usually referring to an ideal of “full” population immunity: when so many people are immune that, most of the time, there is no community transmission.

With full herd immunity, most people will never be exposed to the virus. Even those who are not vaccinated are protected, because an introduction is so unlikely to reach them: it will sputter out, because so many others are immune — as is the case now with diseases like polio and mumps.

The fraction of the population that needs to be immune in order for the population to have “full” herd immunity depends on the transmissibility of the virus in the population, and on the control measures in place.

It is unlikely we’ll reach full herd immunity for COVID-19.

For one thing, it appears that immunity to COVID-19 acquired either by vaccination or infection wanes over time. In addition, SARS-CoV-2 will continue to evolve. Over time, variants that can infect people with immunity (even if this only results in mild disease) will have a selective advantage, just as until now selection has mainly favoured variants with higher transmission potential.

Electron micrograph of a yellow virus particle with green spikes, against a blue background.
The B.1.1.7 variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Over time, variants of concern will likely continue to emerge. NIAID, CC BY

Also, our population is a composition of different communities, workplaces and environments. In some of these, transmission risk might be high enough and/or immunity low enough to allow larger outbreaks to occur, even if overall in the population we have high vaccination and low transmission.

Finally, SARS-CoV-2 can infect other animals. This means that other animal populations may act as a “reservoir,” allowing the virus to be reintroduced to the human population.

Practical herd immunity

Nonetheless, we are likely to reach a practical kind of herd immunity through vaccination. In practical herd immunity, we can reopen to near-normal levels of activity without needing widespread distancing or lockdowns. This would be a profound change from the situation we have been in for the past 18 months.

Practical herd immunity does not mean that we never see any COVID-19. It will likely be with us, just at low enough levels that we will not need to have widespread distancing measures in place to protect the health-care system.


Read more: COVID-19 variants FAQ: How did the U.K., South Africa and Brazil variants emerge? Are they more contagious? How does a virus mutate? Could there be a super-variant that evades vaccines?


What level of immunity (either through vaccination or infection) we need for practical herd immunity is uncertain, but it may be quite high. The original strain of SARS-CoV-2 was highly transmissible and transmission is thought to be higher still for some variants of concern.

Empty vials of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine
To achieve two-thirds immunity, 90 per cent of the eligible population would need to be vaccinated or infected naturally. (AP Photo/John Locher)

The amount of immunity we need will also depend on what level of controls we are willing to maintain indefinitely. Continued masking, contact tracing, symptomatic and asymptomatic testing and outbreak control measures will mean we will require less immunity than we would without these in place.

Some estimates suggest that we may need two thirds of the population to be protected either by successful vaccination or natural infection. If 90 per cent of the population is eligible for vaccination, and vaccines are 85 per cent effective against infection, we can obtain this two thirds with about 90 per cent of the eligible population being vaccinated or infected naturally.

The United Kingdom has already exceeded these rates in some age groups. Higher rates are even better, because there is still uncertainty about the level of transmissibility and vaccine efficacy against infection (although research shows they are very good against severe disease). We don’t want to discover that we do not have enough immunity through vaccination and have another serious wave of infection.

Emerging variants

A sticker reading 'I'm COVID-19 vaccinated' from Vancouver Coastal Health
Booster vaccinations will hopefully allow us to maintain long-term practical herd immunity against future variants of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Higher vaccine uptake will mean there are fewer infections before we reach practical herd immunity. The remaining unvaccinated individuals will be safer, protected indirectly by the immunity of those around them. Outbreaks will be smaller and rarer, and there will be fewer opportunities for vaccine escape variants to arise and spread.

That said, variants of SARS-CoV-2 will continue to emerge, and selection will favour variants that escape our immunity. Vaccine developers will continue to broaden the spectrum of the vaccines that are available, and boosters will hopefully allow us to maintain long-term practical herd immunity.

It’s possible that an immune escape variant will emerge that is severe enough, and transmissible enough, that it will cause a new pandemic for which we do not have even practical herd immunity. But barring that, while we may not be free of COVID-19, we can be confident that in the not-too-distant future it will be manageable when we return to near-normal life.

Caroline Colijn's research group receives funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Genome British Columbia, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Canada 150 Research Chair program of the Federal Government of Canada.

Paul Tupper's research group receives funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

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Stocks

Citadel Settles Suit Alleging Former Senior Trader Shared Its Algorithmic “Secret Sauce”

Citadel Settles Suit Alleging Former Senior Trader Shared Its Algorithmic "Secret Sauce"

Citadel has reached a settlement with the British hedge fund it accused of trying to plunder one of its senior traders in an effort to get to its algorit

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Citadel Settles Suit Alleging Former Senior Trader Shared Its Algorithmic "Secret Sauce"

Citadel has reached a settlement with the British hedge fund it accused of trying to plunder one of its senior traders in an effort to get to its algorithmic "secret sauce".

GSA Capital Partners LLC and Citadel announced the settlement late last week after Citadel accused the fund of obtaining "closely guarded" trading strategies when it hired the employee in question, Vedat Cologlu, according to Bloomberg. 

GSA said of the settlement that the two firms “recognize and respect the importance and value of the other’s rights over their confidential information and intellectual property.”

We first documented that Citadel was suing British hedge fund GSA Capital in January of 2020, after GSA attempted to hire Cologlu, allegedly in hopes of accessing the quant secrets at the core of Citadel's "ABC" automated trading strategy. 

Recall, we wrote back in November of 2020 that Citadel was seeking around $40 million over claims that GSA was able to obtain information on the strategy via texts and WhatsApp.

Citadel argued late last year that GSA "can't unsee" and can't forget the information that was taken from Citadel's secret algorithm. Citadel is also moving to try and block GSA from using their trading model. GSA has argued that they found no "secret sauce" from a high-level description of the structure of a trading algorithm. 

David Craig, a lawyer for Citadel Securities, said in late 2020: “GSA’s most senior managers now know where and how Citadel makes hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenues. They cannot forget that information, or put it out of their minds.”

He noted that only 15 of Citadel's 3,000 employees ever had access to the "strategic logic" of the strategy. One of those employees was Cologlu, a 2007 Wharton grad and self-described "stat arb trader", who helped operate and administer the models whose "returns were notably high given the low level of risk it took on."

Citadel has claimed its "ABC" quant strategy cost more than $100 million to develop. In its lawsuit, Citadel alleged that the UK fund wanted Cologlu to hand over confidential information about the strategy:

GSA asked for sensitive information on his equity-trading including his profits and the speed of the trades. And then Cologlu handed over a plan that Citadel argues was based on its own confidential model, including the way the algorithm made predictions.

And there's good reason for the information to be coveted. Citadel Securities has been wildly profitable: the company posted a record $6.7 billion in revenue in 2020. This was almost double the previous high in 2018. The blockbuster result came after some of its traders moved from Chicago and New York to set up shop in a Palm Beach hotel in late March 2020 as the pandemic upended lives and markets across the globe. The results of the privately-held company were released in presentation to investors as part of a $2.5 billion loan Citadel Securities was seeking.

The Citadel securities trading arm started as a high-frequency market-maker in options before pushing into equities. Today, the firm dominates that realm and has had a very close relationship with the likes of the millennials' favorite trading platform, Robinhood. We documented back in September 2020 that Citadel now controls 41% of all retail trading. 

GSA was spun out of Deutsche Bank AG in 2005 and manages around $7.5 billion. Citadel’s legal filing names GSA founder and majority owner Jonathan Hiscox as a defendant, alongside other officials including the chief technology officer.

Back in January 2020, we noted the full details of Citadel's lawsuit. 

Tyler Durden Sat, 06/12/2021 - 14:00

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UK Government Adviser Says Mask Mandates Should Continue “Forever”

UK Government Adviser Says Mask Mandates Should Continue "Forever"

Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit News,

A UK government adviser and former Communist Party member Susan Michie says that mask mandates and social distancing should…

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UK Government Adviser Says Mask Mandates Should Continue "Forever"

Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit News,

A UK government adviser and former Communist Party member Susan Michie says that mask mandates and social distancing should continue “forever” and that people should adopt such behaviour just as they did with wearing seatbelts.

Michie, who is a Professor of Health Psychology at UCL and a leading member of SAGE, said such control measures should become part of people’s “normal” routine behaviour.

"Vaccines are a really important part of pandemic control but it is only one part. [A] test, trace and isolate system, [as well as] border controls, are really essential. And the third thing is people’s behaviour. That is, the behaviour of social distancing, of… making sure there’s good ventilation [when you’re indoors], or if there’s not, wearing face masks, and [keeping up] hand and surface hygiene."

"We will need to keep these going in the long term, and that will be good not only for Covid but also to reduce other [diseases] at a time when the NHS is [struggling]… I think forever, to some extent…"

"I think there’s lots of different behaviours that we have changed in our lives. We now routinely wear seatbelts – we didn’t use to. We now routinely pick up dog poo in the parks – we didn’t use to. When people see that there is a threat and there is something they can do to reduce that [to protect] themselves, their loved ones and their communities, what we have seen over this last year is that people do that."

Michie’s comments once again emphasize how many scientific advisers have become drunk on COVID-19 power and never want to relinquish it.

“Unsurprisingly, Channel 5 News made absolutely no effort to scrutinise these claims. The programme’s presenter raised no objection to the idea that mask-wearing and social distancing could continue “forever”, resorting only to friendly laughter,” writes Michael Curzon.

“Professor Michie’s co-panellist, a fellow scientist at UCL, Dr Shikta Das, said:

“I think Susan has made a very good point here,” adding that the vaccine roll-out has created a “false sense of security”.

She concluded:

“I don’t think we are yet ready to unlock.”

How’s all that for balance!

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Michie is known to be a long-time Communist hardliner and was so zealous in her beliefs she garnered the nickname “Stalin’s nanny.”

Her sentiment echoes that of fellow government adviser Professor Neil Ferguson, who once acknowledged that he was surprised authorities were able to “get away with” the same draconian measures that Communist China imposed at the start of the pandemic.

“[China] is a communist one-party state, we said. We couldn’t get away with [lockdown] in Europe, we thought… and then Italy did it. And we realised we could,” said Ferguson.

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Tyler Durden Sat, 06/12/2021 - 11:30

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