Carbon taxes have a far more significant impact on food prices than grocery chain profits
Justin Trudeau has summoned Canada’s top grocers to Ottawa to come up with a plan to solve surging food prices, saying, “It does not make sense in a country like Canada that our largest grocery chains should be making record profits while Canadians are struggling to put food on the table.” He then added that if the grocers do not come up with a credible plan, “we will take further action and we are not ruling anything out, including tax measures.”
This sounds like a threat to punish supermarket chains by taxing them if they don’t lower their prices.
The Trudeau government should get an F in basic economics on at least three counts.
The first count is the idea that imposing a tax on grocery chains would lower food prices. This is patently absurd. Taxes would raise their costs, and some of the increased costs would be passed on to consumers.
The second count is blaming grocery chains’ profits for food price increases.
Grocery chains have been enjoying record profits in absolute dollar terms, but of course, record dollar profits don’t look quite as high when adjusted for the increase in the consumer price index (CPI) since inflation began to surge in early 2021. Also, their volume of sales is huge, translating into pretty small markups over costs.
Economist Jim Stanford of the Centre for Future Work calculated that the net profit margin in food retailing increased from 1.62 percent in early 2020 to 2.85 percent in early 2023, an increase of 1.23 percentage points in three years. Food has a weight of about 17 percent in the CPI, so the increase in profit margins can explain about a 0.21 percent increase in the CPI. Spread out over three years, this means that grocery chain profits may have added about 0.07 percent to Canada’s headline inflation rates. Not much more than a rounding error.
Much of the blame for increased profit margins can also be laid at the doorstep of the federal government itself. The pandemic lockdowns led to many smaller grocery stores shutting down temporarily, and the temporary closures, in many cases, turned into permanent closures. This had the effect of reducing competition in the food sector, and it’s a well-known fact of economic life that markups in an industry are inversely related to the degree of competition in that industry.
The third count: the impact of the federal government’s carbon taxes on food prices has been considerably higher than grocery chain profits.
Troy Media contributor and Dalhousie University professor Sylvain Charlebois, one of Canada’s top experts on food and food distribution policy, noted in 2019 that it is hard to estimate the exact impact because energy is required at all stages of food production from planting the seeds to refrigerating the produce on store shelves. He does cite a study from 2012 suggesting that a carbon tax of $50 per tonne would increase food prices by about three percent.
Since Apr. 1, we have had a carbon tax of $65 per tonne, up from $20 in early 2020, which will have increased food prices by about 2.7 percent. Once again, spreading this over three years and multiplying by the weight of food in the CPI, this works out to juicing food price inflation by 0.153 percent, over twice the impact of grocery chain profit margins. And this, of course, neglects the impact of carbon taxes on prices in other sectors, which also use energy at all stages of the production process.
Finally, we know that CO2 diffuses throughout the atmosphere. To the extent that CO2 emissions are a problem, they are a worldwide problem. Completely eliminating Canada’s emissions would have little or no effect on the world’s climate, and would be more than offset within a year by the increase in emissions from China, which is building six times more coal-fired power plants than the rest of the world combined – a fourth reason for an F in Econ101.
By Steve Ambler
Steve Ambler is a professor emeritus of economics in the École des sciences de la gestion, Université du Québec à Montréal.
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Guerilla gardening: how you can make your local area greener without getting into trouble
Many people are gardening on land that is not theirs – here are some things to consider to avoid getting into trouble.
When Richard Reynolds first started gardening around London’s streets, he was so worried he might be arrested that he worked under the cover of darkness. Reynolds was one of the UK’s first modern guerrilla gardeners, a movement that encourages people to nurture and revive land they do not have the legal rights to cultivate.
This issue is particularly pronounced among city dwellers, ethnic minorities and young people. A 2021 survey conducted in England revealed that those aged 16-24 were more than twice as likely to lack access to a garden or allotment compared to those aged over 65.
This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about issues affecting those of us in our twenties and thirties. From the challenges of beginning a career and taking care of our mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or just making friends as an adult. The articles in this series explore the questions and bring answers as we navigate this turbulent period of life.
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Guerrilla gardening is a particularly good option for these groups of people. It can involve planting herbs or vegetables for a whole community to enjoy, spreading seeds or plants, tidying weeds, or even something as simple as picking up litter.
But if you’re considering becoming a guerilla gardener, it’s important to understand your rights. Could you be arrested for it? And should you wait until after dark?
Can you be prosecuted?
It’s important to remember that much of the unused or abandoned land that is potentially suitable for guerilla gardening in towns and cities throughout the UK is owned by local councils. Common examples of such locations include broken pavements with missing slabs, wasteland and the central areas of roundabouts.
Although much of this land is already open for the public to walk over, actively gardening on it would become an act of trespass.
The law of trespass sounds scary. However, gardening on this land would be a breach of civil law rather than a crime. This means that most guerrilla gardeners are unlikely to receive a fine or a criminal record.
Landowners do have the legal right to use “reasonable force” to remove trespassers from their land. But, fortunately, it seems most councils have ignored guerrilla gardeners, having neither the time, money or inclination to bring legal action against them.
Colchester Council, for example, were unable to track down the identity of the “human shrub”, a mysterious eco-activist who restored the flowers in the city’s abandoned plant containers in 2009. The shrub returned again in 2015 and sent a gift of seeds to a local councillor.
In other areas of the UK, the work of guerilla gardeners has been cautiously welcomed by local councils. In Salford, a city in Greater Manchester, there is a formal requirement to submit an application and obtain permission to grow on vacant spots in the city. But the local authority tends not to interfere with illegal grow sites.
There seems to be an unwritten acceptance that people can garden wherever they want, given the abundance of available space and the lack of active maintenance. This also offers the additional advantage of saving both time and money for the local council.
You should still be careful about where you trespass though. In some areas, guerrilla gardening can lead to unwelcome attention. During the May Day riots of 2000, for example, guerrilla gardeners were accused of planting cannabis seeds in central London’s Parliament Square.
Gardening at night may draw the wrong attention too, particularly if you are carrying gardening tools that might be misunderstood by the police as threatening weapons.
How can you start?
There are many different types of guerrilla gardening that you could get involved in, from planting native plant species that benefit pollinators and other wildlife to tidying derelict land to create safer places for the local community.
One of the simplest forms of guerilla gardening is planting seeds. Some environmental projects circulate “seed bombs” and others use biodegradable “seed balloons” that are filled with helium and deflate after a day, distributing seeds by air.
Whatever you try, as a guerrilla gardener you shouldn’t harm the environment or spoil other people’s enjoyment of the space around you. Remember that weeds and wilderness have an environmental value too. And think carefully about the species you are going to plant so that you can protect local plants and wildlife.
The most attractive species to humans might not provide the best home or food for wildlife. Some can even outcompete native plants and drive them towards extinction. Planting certain harmful, invasive or poisonous species like ragwort, knotweed or Himalayan balsam is even prohibited by law.
That said, some guerrilla gardeners have used social media to organise “balsam bashing” events, where people come together to pull up this harmful invasive plant.
Guerrilla gardening takes many forms and can bring great benefits for people and the environment. You’re unlikely to be arrested for planting and growing trees and other greenery in public spaces. But remember that these spaces should be shared with everyone, including your local wildlife.
Ben Mayfield does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.uk
Fractyl Health’s GLP-1 gene therapy spurs 25% weight loss in obese mice, clinical trials slated for 2024
One of the biggest problems facing the burgeoning class of weight loss drugs is that people must take them day after day, week after week. When the injections…
One of the biggest problems facing the burgeoning class of weight loss drugs is that people must take them day after day, week after week. When the injections of semaglutide — the ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy — stop coming, so do the benefits. Lost weight is regained.
But researchers at Fractyl Health, a Lexington, MA-based biotech, believe they have a solution to that problem: a one-time gene therapy injected into the pancreas that lets the body make its own GLP-1 agonists in perpetuity.
New data slated to be presented today at a diabetes conference in Germany suggest that obese mice injected with the therapy lost nearly 25% of their body weight after just two weeks, according to a copy of the company’s presentation obtained by Endpoints News.
The results leave many questions unanswered, including how safe and effective the approach will be beyond the first two weeks, although the presentation indicated that such studies are ongoing. Fractyl declined requests for an interview.
The company previously announced plans to begin testing the treatment in people with diabetes and obesity in 2024. It’s a bold step towards moving gene therapy beyond the rare diseases typically pursued by biotech companies.
“It’s hard to get people to take injections once a week, and if we can figure out how to do something closer to one and done, that would be a big step for patients,” Randy Seeley, who directs an obesity research center at the University of Michigan School of Medicine, told Endpoints in an interview.
“But how permanent this will be can’t really be answered in a mouse,” he added. Seeley is a consultant to Fractyl, and the company supports research in his lab.
Fractyl was originally just developing the GLP-1 gene therapy for type 2 diabetes. In a diabetic mouse model, human pancreatic islets and human beta cell lines, the treatment significantly enhanced glucose-stimulated insulin secretion, improving blood sugar levels.
GLP-1 needs to act on receptors in the brain for its weight loss effects, and since the therapy is injected directly into the pancreas, the company didn’t expect the diabetic mice would lose weight, Seeley said. But surprisingly, they did, shedding 23% of their mass after four weeks compared to a control group.
Those results spurred the company to test its gene therapy in a diet-induced obesity mouse model. Twenty mice were fed a high fat diet for 25 weeks before half of them got a single injection of the gene therapy while the other half received daily injections of semaglutide.
Both groups of mice began losing weight a day after the injections. Within five days, the mice who got the gene therapy were losing weight faster and shed 24.8% of their body weight after just two weeks, even as they maintained their high fat diet. The mice on semaglutide lost 18.4% of their weight, according to the data presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes Scientific Congress.
“The most surprising part of the data is how much weight these animals lose,” Seeley said. “it’s better than semaglutide, and it’s not exactly clear how that occurs.”
Given the uncertain long-term effects of taking GLP-1 drugs for weight loss, a potentially permanent gene therapy approach is sure to raise many questions.
“If you’re taking your once-a-week version, if something goes wrong, we can turn it off and we just take it away,” Seeley said. “But with gene therapy, there’s no way to turn it off. It’s unknown what happens, and so it is going to take both some careful thought.”fed congress treatment testing clinical trials therapy european germany
Sweden’s Deadly Gun Violence
Sweden’s Deadly Gun Violence
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson is calling on the military to assist the police with tackling the rise…
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson is calling on the military to assist the police with tackling the rise in gang-related violence in the country, as fatal shootings and bombings claimed the lives of 12 people last month.
As Statista's Anna Fleck reports, in the latest move, the Swedish government said on Friday that it would authorize future military assistance to the police, following a meeting between Krisstersson and the heads of both forces on how to reduce violence from organized criminal gangs. It is not yet clear exactly which duties the military will take on.
"The wave of violence is unprecedented in Sweden, but it is also unprecedented in Europe, no other country has a situation like the one we have," Kristersson commented in a televised speech.
"The police cannot do all the work themselves."
According to the Swedish Police Authority's annual reports, last year a total of 62 people were killed by gunfire, marking the deadliest year for shootings since the authorities started publishing data in late 2016.
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A total of 11 people were fatally shot last month alone, in addition to one person who died in a bomb blast. These 11 bring the death toll by firearms to 42 in 2023, a figure that may rise further yet with three months left until the end of the year.
September marks the second deadliest month on record for gun crime in Sweden, following only after December 2019 when 12 people were shot and killed.
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