Monday, April 13, 2009

Warning messages on consumer goods.

Positive labeling, such as organic labeling and eco-labeling have had a good impact. It also has a certain appeal within the capitalism paradigm. It is about giving the consumer accurate information. So far so good. However, we also know that the impact of these kinds of labeling schemes is limited. In addition, they have the perverse mechanism that those that are doing a good thing, such as organic farmers, are penalized with costs and scrutiny for an labeling, inspection and certification system. Those costs are passed on to the consumers who then are also penalized for making a benign choice. For those who see these schemes solely as marketing gimmicks this is perhaps considered as being fair. But if you see them as delivering public goods it is hard to defend – and this is also the reason that some governments take on the costs.

However, negative labeling could also fulfill the same role, or even more forceful role. We have seen the labeling on tobacco with unsympathetic warning messages – in some countries such as Thailand also with very repulsive pictures. In Sweden there is also warning messages on alcohol advertisements – but not on the product. This kind of negative labeling should be considerably expanded in my opinion. The first step would be to have a competition on what kind of messages there should be for selected damaging products.

-1.2 million people die per year in car accidents, many more are maimed for life.
-Cars emit 200 dangerous chemical compounds to nature every time you drive it.
-The car infrastructure (roads, garages etc.) destroys ??? m2 of land per car sold. In total cars have occupied an area corresponding to two France.
-regardless of which fuel you use for this device it will always take away resources that could be better used by poor people.
-Driving a car make you lazy and fat.

A conventional chicken:
- This chicken is fed with antibiotics and the consumption of chicken may increase risks for antibiotic resistance in bacteria
- This chicken is fed with hormones, which may cause reproductive disturbance, development of breasts in males, increased deformities in infants
- These chicken have never seen the light of day and have not been given the possibility to exercise their natural behaviors

A CD player
- this item is not likely to make you a happier person.
- this CD player contains 162 different dangerous chemicals. Most of them will end up in nature, some of them in your body when this item is used and disposed of.
-use this device only in aerated room for the first five months to ensure that most of the flame retardants and other substances emitted from by this item will not cause you damage.

Personally I find that this kind of labeling is a lot more interesting than labeling of origin, or carbon labeling or other labeling ideas that flourish.

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