Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Markets in Everything: Wonky, Curvy Cucumbers

EU nations on Wednesday gave the green light Monday for bent cucumbers and other "wonky" fruit and vegetables to be sold in supermarkets and elsewhere, as part of a drive to cut red tape.

"This is a happy day indeed for the curvy cucumber and the knobbly carrot, and other amusingly shaped fruits and vegetables," said European Commission spokesman Michael Mann. "Rules governing the size and shape of fruit and vegetables will be consigned to history," the commission said in a statement.

The rules are to be scrapped for apricots, artichokes, asparagus, aubergines, avocados, beans, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflowers, cherries, courgettes, cucumbers, cultivated mushrooms, garlic, hazelnuts in shell, headed cabbage, leeks, melons, onions, peas, plums, ribbed celery, spinach, walnuts in shell, water melons, and chicory.

"This marks a new dawn for the curvy cucumber and the knobbly carrot," said EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel. "It's a concrete example of our drive to cut unnecessary red tape. We simply don't need to regulate this sort of thing at EU level. It is far better to leave it to market operators." She added that in the current climate of high food prices and economic woes "consumers should be able to choose from the widest range of products possible. It makes no sense to throw perfectly good products away, just because they are the 'wrong' shape."

Representatives of most EU countries voted against the rule change, but not by the overwhelming "qualified majority" required to stop it going through, a commission spokesman said.

MP: The last paragraph is the most amazing part of the story: most EU countries voted against the change! Below are examples of the absurd EU regulations that the Eurocrats wanted to keep, notice that cucumbers MUST be straight and bananas can NOT be straight!

1. Cucumbers must be practically straight and their maximum bend must be at a gradient of no more than 1/10.

2. Bananas must be bent: the thickness of a transverse section of the fruit between the lateral faces and the middle, perpendicular to the longitudinal axis must be at a minimum of 27mm. They must also be longer than 14 cm.

In the ideal world of the bureaucrat, everything has to either be prevented or required.


At 11/12/2008 11:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They probably voted against it in order to restrict supply so that prices stay high and therefore artifitially subsidize farmers. The demand for food is inelastic so restricting supply will have a relatively larger effect on the price. Its no different then US subsidies that pay farmers to leave fields fallow.

At 11/12/2008 11:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Its no different then (sic) US subsidies that pay farmers to leave fields fallow."

Yes, it is. Where I live, farmers are encouraged to leave the marginal lands uncultivated to promote wildlife habitat.

At 11/12/2008 11:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The persistence of the belief that producers are such scoundrels and consumers such fools that all transactions must be controlled by wise and benevolent government regulators is matched only by the persistence of the belief that we can spend our way to prosperity. Both beliefs are held with such tenacity in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary that they must surely qualify as two of the world's great faiths.

Even here in the U.S. today -- after the Bush administration has increased federal spending by over 1 trillion dollars a year and has added thousands of additional regulations to the tens of thousands that comprise the Code of Federal Regulations -- even in the face of that, as we face recession, politicians of both parties agree that the cure is more spending and more regulation!

Someone said, "Doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results is insanity". By that standard we are indeed insane.

But bravo to the EU Commission for at least having the sanity to let consumers decide how straight they want their fruit.

At 11/12/2008 3:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why did most EU countries oppose this? Well, what are all these bureaucrats with PhD's in "Vegetable Measurement" supposed to do for a living now? Do we really want Vegetables that
are not of pure Aryan descent into the market?

Seriously, my guess is that the veggies will still be sorted by the free market. The pretty ones will go to the high-end grocery stores, and the equally nutritious, but not Hollywood material ones, will feed the poor at less cost. The tax burden will be slightly lightened for all, vegetables will get to market faster, and a few trees will be saved at the expense of the bureaucracy.

At 11/13/2008 10:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even a scwewy wabbit wouldn't wegulate the size and shape of cawwots.


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