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Free Minds & Free Markets

The State of Food Freedom Around the Globe

Authoritarian cruelty in Hungary, civil disobedience in Ukraine, and booze reform in Canada

If you've read more than a handful of my six-plus years of weekly columns here, you know that food freedom does not happen in a linear fashion. Laws and regulations get better in some parts of America, while worsening in others. It will likely come as no surprise that international food laws reflect this same frustrating dichotomy.

There's the good, which oftentimes takes the form of deregulation. In Poland, for example, a bill would let local farmers sell their produce directly to grocers, restaurants, and other food businesses. And in Quebec, lawmakers recently passed a law that will legalize the service of alcohol by restaurants to customers who don't order food. (That may leave another law still on the books in Canada—British Columbia's ban on hamburgers that aren't well done, which I wrote about earlier this year—as the nation's dumbest.)

Then there's the bad. In France, for example, lawmakers are pushing for mandatory GMO labeling of animal feed.

And there's the truly awful. Perhaps the most unsettling recent international food-law news comes out of Hungary, where the country's anti-immigrant government is threatening to imprison people who provide food to refugees.

"If approved in its current form criminal penalties could be imposed on groups accused of supporting or financing illegal immigration," The Independent reported recently.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban sits before addressing parliament in Budapest, Hungary, May 18, 2018. Photo credit: BERNADETT SZABO/REUTERS/NewscomHungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban sits before addressing parliament in Budapest, Hungary, May 18, 2018. Photo credit: BERNADETT SZABO/REUTERS/NewscomThe proposal is being pushed by fascistic Prime Minister Viktor Orban as part of his bizarre, longstanding campaign against billionaire American financier and philanthropist George Soros. Orban accuses Soros, who was born in Hungary and survived the country's occupation by Nazi Germany and its collaborationist government, of funding nonprofit groups in Hungary as part "of a plot to undermine Hungary's Christian culture by flooding it with immigrants." The appalling "Stop Soros" measure is expected to become law soon.

Some elements of this repugnant policy might feel right at home today here in the United States—and not just because America's own despicable president took a page from Hungary's Orban this week when he tweeted that those who oppose his immigration policies simply "want illegal immigrants... to pour into and infest" America.

Consider that, as I discuss at length in my recent book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us, for years now cities around the country have jailed people for nothing more than sharing food with the homeless and others in need. And, as I noted in a tweet last week, the USDA's awful National School Lunch Program may have been put in charge of feeding undocumented children who've been separated from their families and locked up in prison-like facilities.

Awful as these laws are, sometimes we're lucky enough to see someone willing to fight back by sticking their thumb in the eye of dumb lawmakers. For example, I wrote last week about a grocer's successful protest against a dumb food law in France. Now something similar is going on in the Ukraine, where a poultry producer is skirting European Union (E.U.) regulations to hilarious effect.

MHP, the Ukrainian poultry producer, has been avoiding idiotic E.U. tariffs dictated under a Ukraine-E.U. trade deal "by exporting an esoteric bony cut of chicken to the bloc tariff-free," reports Britain's Express.

"Under E.U. rules, higher tariffs and restricted import quotas are used to protect [E.U.] farmers from too much competition from imported chicken breasts," the paper reports. The trade deal allows Ukrainian companies to make tariff-free exports of less desirable bone-in chicken. But MHP has been avoiding the tariffs by exporting bone-in chicken to the E.U. and then having the breasts undergo further processing—namely, deboning—once in the E.U. Poultry exports from Ukraine to the E.U. have risen from none at all three years ago to nearly 30,000 tons last year.

This is as side-splitting as it is upsetting to E.U. regulators and farmers. It's also a good reminder that the struggle to improve America's oftentimes lousy food laws is part of a larger effort to fight back against bad laws worldwide.

Photo Credit: BERNADETT SZABO/REUTERS/Newscom

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  • SQRLSY One||

    "...avoiding the tariffs by exporting bone-in chicken ..."

    WHO sticks their bones in these chickens?!?!? EEEEWWWW!!!!

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    More to the point, who buys these chickens and what do they do with the boners?

  • damikesc||

    Soros is an evil shit and good on Hungary for turfing him.

    And Trump is correct that the critics of his policies do want open borders. Their behavior since the EO was issued show that.

  • damikesc||

    I'd prefer Orban to most other abysmal European leaders. He isn't perfect or even terribly good...but he also isn't Merkel.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

  • JoeBlow123||

    Right wing parties feast on the visceral dislike of foreigners. I would be lying if the continual moralizing and hectoring by the open borders crowd is not starting to really wear on me too. Yet progressives and their left-libertarian allies here continue to push open borders. It is almost like there is some attraction to the suicide of classical liberalism just so some people can feel fantastic about their superb morality and their ideological purity.

    Angela Merkel's horn call and hundreds of thousands of SW Asians trudging across Central Europe was probably the best thing that ever happened to Orban. How this seemingly escapes the open borders fanatics is amusing.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    I agree that Orban is a demagogue who uses xenophobia against migrants to increase his power. So in order to stop dangerous men like Orban, other parties should.... co-opt his agenda?

  • JoeBlow123||

    How about go for something people can agree to? I cannot speak for Hungary but in America that is enforce borders and make legal immigration more streamlined. Seems not extreme to me.

  • Don't look at me.||

    Any and all opportunities to say something/anything about Trump don't go unused here.

  • SQRLSY One||

    OK then, thanks for the invocation!

    All Hail to THE Pussy Grabber in Chief!!!

    I fundamentally think that a huge percentage of Trump voters (who bothered to study up in the slightest) voted for a Pussy-Grabber in Chief who would pussy-grab for them, on behalf of them and theirs! If PGC (Pussy-Grabber in Chief) could pussy-grab the people whose loans he defaulted on, people who'd been ripped off by his "school", and illegal humans who'd worked on building his buildings, and on and on, then SURELY the PGC can grab some pussy for us selfish, short-sighted voters! We can pussy-grab our international trade partners, and other nations, races, and creeds in general!

    These voters simply cannot or will not recognize the central illusion of politics… You can pussy-grab all of the people some of the time, and you can pussy-grab some of the people all of the time, but you cannot pussy-grab all of the people all of the time! Sooner or later, karma catches up, and the others will pussy-grab you right back!

  • damikesc||

    I still love this line of thinking given who the alternative.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Yes the Clintons suck as well! The clincher on that one is the Clintons bitching about how "poor" they were, and then spending like $6 or $7 million for Chelsea's wedding! This is NOT the mark of humble people who want to serve others!!!!

  • SQRLSY One||

    Well as I think about it yet again, I can't fault Trump voters at the final election... We had a choice between 2 shit sandwiches, as some commentator here once wrote.

    I can fault the GOP primary voters big-time, exactly for the reasons listed above! GOP voters knew or should have known about the greed, power hunger, and narcissism of Trump already; the facts were already known!

    I threw my vote away to "low energy" Jeb Bush, even though his chances were very low at that point, and then I threw my vote away again for the Libertarians at the main election...

  • damikesc||

    And, while a dick, Trump never said that HE grabbed anything.

    He said, factually, that as a star, women will let you do whatever you want.

    This isn't exactly news. It is very common knowledge. If you're rich and/or famous, you will have no problem finding women who will do anything you want,

  • sharmota4zeb||

    These days, anyone infamous online for being a slut can't even travel internationally without some random guy sucking him off on the dance floor of a bar. Oye, those Ecuadorian men.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Orban accuses Soros, who was born in Hungary and survived the country's occupation by Nazi Germany and its collaborationist government, of funding nonprofit groups in Hungary as part "of a plot to undermine Hungary's Christian culture by flooding it with immigrants." The appalling "Stop Soros" measure is expected to become law soon.

    Wait a second. I thought Hungary was a Judeo-Christian nation. How did Hungary become a Christian nation? Did a bunch of anti-Semites move into Hungary without the government's permission and get rid of Hungarian Jews?

  • fdog50||

    I think many of the U. S. bans on people giving prepared food to the homeless or hungry is based on preventing lawsuits. Most lawyers are not averse to some quick money or publicity by suing some samaritan on behalf of a homeless guy who got sick from a bad tuna sandwich.

  • jm15xy||

    As for indigents, there's also the "if you feed them they will come" factor.

  • Mark22||

    Perhaps the most unsettling recent international food-law news comes out of Hungary, where the country's anti-immigrant government is threatening to imprison people who provide food to refugees. "If approved in its current form criminal penalties could be imposed on groups accused of supporting or financing illegal immigration," The Independent reported recently.

    You mean just like the US?

    Alien Smuggling ...

    Domestic Transporting -- ...

    Harboring -- Subsection 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii) makes it an offense for any person who -- knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in violation of law, conceals harbors, or shields from detection, or attempts to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection, such alien in any place, including any building or any means of transportation.

    Encouraging/Inducing -- Subsection 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) makes it an offense for any person who -- encourages or induces an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be in violation of law.

    Conspiracy/Aiding or Abetting -- Subsection 1324(a)(1)(A)(v) expressly makes it an offense to engage in a conspiracy to commit or aid or abet the commission of the foregoing offenses.

  • Mark22||

    Leave it to the faux libertarians at Reason to misrepresent an immigration-related law as a "food law".

  • buybuydandavis||

    "And there's the truly awful. Perhaps the most unsettling recent international food-law news comes out of Hungary, where the country's anti-immigrant government is threatening to imprison people who provide food to refugees."

    "Food freedom" is now aiding and abetting invasion.

    Did Reason put out a memo this week? Bailey got on the bandwagon too.

    Even the Science and Food articles have to be about immigration now.

    Open Borders Uber Alles!

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    "invasion"

    lol

  • buybuydandavis||

    Orban accuses Soros, who was born in Hungary and survived the country's occupation by Nazi Germany and its collaborationist government, of funding nonprofit groups in Hungary as part "of a plot to undermine Hungary's Christian culture by flooding it with immigrants."
    ####

    The accusation is entirely true.

    Funny how you left out the part about Soros surviving the Nazi occupation by collaborating with them. Here's a little Narrative rewrite for you.

    "Orban accuses Soros, a Hungarian who collaborated with the Nazi's during their occupration of Hungary, of funding groups aiding another invasion of Hungary as part "of a plot to undermine Hungary's Christian culture by flooding it with immigrants." "

    Now that's a Narrative!

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Oh good heavens. You don't buy this George Soros nonsense do you?

    Viktor Orban is a demagogue. He stokes fear and anxiety by creating a convenient bogeyman against whom only Orban is supposedly brave enough to confront and take down.

    And you fall for this nonsense.

  • Nardz||

    "Muh overlord!"

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    "Muh non-sequitur!"

  • Mark22||

    Oh good heavens. You don't buy this George Soros nonsense do you?

    Soros himself admitted to doing work for the Nazis; it probably wasn't deliberate.

    Nevertheless, the political ideology that Soros pushes overlaps strongly with that of 20th century European fascism; regardless of his history, the man is evil.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    If there was a law that made it illegal for a person to provide food to his neighbor, every single person here would be outraged and demand that this law should be repealed.

    But if there is a national boundary separating the two neighbors, then the 'libertarians' come out of the woodwork to defend such a law.

  • buybuydandavis||

    We're perfectly fine with it as long as the foreign neighbor over the national fence stays on his side of the fence.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Even if I invite him onto my property?

  • Mark22||

    Yes, even then. We don't live in a libertarian society, and under our current system of government, your property rights are limited, just like everybody else's. You are not aristocracy and you don't get special rights.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    under our current system of government, your property rights are limited, just like everybody else's

    I'll remember that next time you start complaining about some government regulation.

    "You have no business complaining! Why, your property rights are limited, just like everyone else's. You don't get special rights! Now shut up and accept your Obamacare!"

  • Mark22||

    I never denied your right to complain, what I deny is that your complaints are rooted in reason, evidence, or libertarianism.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "muh anarchy"

    National borders are for the nation, not just you.

    I understand that you're an anarchist.
    Do you not understand that almost everyone else is not?

    For those who realize that, the answer to your question is obvious.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    I'm actually not an anarchist. I believe in a very limited government.

    You always come back to the "but anarchy" crap. One doesn't have to be an anarchist to argue in favor of robust property rights.

    Evidently, you favor restricting my property rights so as to disallow invitation of foreigners onto my property without the permission of the state. Okay, fine. If that is your position, perhaps you could expound upon your general rule for when you believe my property rights should be overridden by the state. How about growing marijuana on my property? Owning guns? Burning flags? Polluting my own soil? Do I have an unfettered right to do these things? If so, why? Because plenty of people could make decent arguments as to why any of those things should be prohibited by the state, "for the good of the nation" just like you wish to restrict my property rights to invite foreigners, "for the good of the nation". And if you agree with all of these expressions of property rights, would I still have an unfettered right to do these things if my weed/guns/flags/poison were imported from outside the country? Does that change anything? If so, why?

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Who knew that my rights stopped at the border.

  • Mark22||

    Your rights definitely stop at the border; just try entering illegally into Mexico.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    So the rights that I am born with change once I cross an imaginary line on a map. Really?

  • buybuydandavis||

    I suggest that instead of just debating it, you *test* your theory against reality.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Do you believe in the concept of inherent natural rights?

  • Mark22||

    Do you believe in the concept of inherent natural rights?

    I do believe in the concept of inherent natural rights. I also believe in the concept of equality under the law, and the latter is more important to me than the former.

    Meaning, given an inherent natural right X that is limited by the state, I prefer that right to be limited equally for everybody; I do not consider granting exemptions to those limitations to be progress towards libertarianism.

  • Mark22||

    So the rights that I am born with change once I cross an imaginary line on a map. Really?

    Yes, really! Take it from an immigrant.

  • Stevecsd||

    Yes, just cross from South Korea into North Korea and see how many rights you have.

  • buybuydandavis||

    The Mexican Government knows
    They'll be more than happy to explain it to you

  • JoeBlow123||

    Yes, shocker, some people believe in borders and controlling them.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    So human liberty stops at the border. Got it.

  • Mark22||

    So human liberty stops at the border. Got it.

    Took you long enough to figure out that when you go to Mexico, you don't have the same rights as a Mexican.

    (Perhaps your ignorance has something to do with being dependent on chemicals and living in your mother's basement?)

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Do you even understand the difference between natural rights - something that we are all born with, and have by virtue of existing - and governments that choose to, or choose not to, recognize those rights?

    Americans and Mexicans both have the same natural rights. We all do. Some governments choose to recognize and protect them better than others. That neither government chooses to fully recognize my rights does not mean those rights do not exist and should not be asserted.

  • Mark22||

    Do you even understand the difference between natural rights - something that we are all born with, and have by virtue of existing - and governments that choose to, or choose not to, recognize those rights?

    I do. But you are equivocating and trying to mislead people by confusing the two when it is convenient. So, I agree that you do have a natural right to associate with Mexicans on your private property. But you clearly do not have that legal right. It's the same with my property rights and my right to freedom of association: they are natural rights that I cannot legally realize in the US. Welcome to the club.

    That neither government chooses to fully recognize my rights does not mean those rights do not exist and should not be asserted.

    You can pretend that your natural rights are your legal rights, and the US government will hopefully throw your ass in jail over it.

    The way to bring natural rights and legal rights into better agreement in the US is via the democratic process. And people (including me) will require that equality under the law is scrupulously observed as part of that process.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Human liberty in societies is made possible by organized protection of it. That organization involves borders.

    When Anarchotopia successfully protects the liberty of a society in the 100s of millions, I'll be glad to visit. Let me know when you've got that working.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Human liberty in societies is made possible by organized protection of it.

    I agree with you.

    That organization involves borders.

    I also agree with you.

    Now please explain how your version of border enforcement, which limits people's liberties, constitutes an organized protection of liberty.

  • Sevo||

    "Yes, shocker, some people believe in borders and controlling them."

    And some believe those borders are the constructs of political organizations meant to limit the free exchange of economic goods, including my labor, to advance the power of those political organizations.
    Just guessing that from a libertarian POV, limiting that free exchange is not the preferred option.

  • Mark22||

    Just guessing that from a libertarian POV, limiting that free exchange is not the preferred option.

    From a libertarian POV, unequal treatment under the law is also bad. And granting special exemptions to draconian laws to some groups but not others is arguably worse than treating everybody equally.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Some people are infants and want the freedoms achieved by governments by wishing for them.

    When you get that wishing working in Anarchotopia, let us all know, and we'll be right over.

  • JoeBlow123||

    NEWSFLASH: All countries still require documentation to enter legally. Borders still exist. Anarchists most surprised.

  • Sevo||

    NEWSFLASH: All countries have borders defined and protected by those who prefer to retain power; those who constitute the government. Libertarians not pleased.

  • JoeBlow123||

    In a democracy are not the people essentially "the government?"

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    "Democracy" is special interest lobby groups imposing pernicious agendas "by any means necessary".

  • Sevo||

    "In a democracy are not the people essentially "the government?""

    That's the same, lame, defense you get from pun-of-the-mill lefties, claiming any and all taxation is just fine.

  • Mark22||

    Libertarians not pleased.

    Libertarians should be even less pleased if select groups get special exemptions from draconian government laws, which is what "open borders for Mexicans" amounts to.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    "Because Mexico infringes on the rights of Americans, therefore America should infringe upon the rights of Mexicans."

    How does this type of tit-for-tat thinking advance the cause of human liberty at all?

  • Mark22||

    How does this type of tit-for-tat thinking advance the cause of human liberty at all?

    Because equality under the law is the most basic freedom in any democratic society, libertarian or otherwise. Any progress towards libertarianism needs to strictly observe equality under the law or it isn't progress at all.

  • hive of scum||

    What is wrong with stopping illegal immigration and labeling GMO ingredients? Why should immigrants be forced on a country that does not want them? Why shouldn't I be able to check the ingredients of a food product?

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