Change France: A year of progressive laws

From food waste to green roofs, France's year of progressive laws

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In the same year France was rocked by horrific terrorists attacks, it passed progressive legislation that covers its people's health, environment and welfare.

Models' health

This week, the UK Guardian reported fashion models must have a doctor's note to prove they are not too thin while magazines have to label must label Photoshopped images.

The bill calls for a medical certificate stating that their health, “assessed in particular in terms of body mass index, is compatible with the practise of the [modelling] profession”. Non-compliance will be punishable by up to six months imprisonment and a fine of 75,000 euros (309,700 cedi).

The lawmakers also voted that images of models that are altered to “make the silhouette narrower or wider” should be labelled “touched up”.

Solar roofs

This year, France has also committed to working for a green future by passing legislation that new rooftops have to be partially covered in plants of solar panels.

In March the Guardian reported rooftops on new buildings built in commercial zones in France must either be partially covered in plants or solar panels, which will help reduce the amount of energy needed to heat a building in winter and cool it in summer, retain rainwater which helps to reduce runoff and give birds a place to nest, the paper reported.

No supermarket food to be wasted

As reported in the UK Telegraph in December, another coup for environmentalists and social activists was France's bill to ban supermarkets from throwing out unused food, instead to give them to charity.

It is estimated France wastes 7 million tons of food each year.

The law states French supermarkets with retail space of 400 sq m or more to donate food that is approaching its best-before date to charity or be turned into animal feed or compost, rather than simply discarding it.

They will no longer be allowed to make foodstuffs inedible by pouring water or bleach on them, which the Telegraph reported was a common practice.

Supermarkets will have to sign contracts with charities or face penalties, including fines of up to €75,000 (£53,000) or two years in jail.

Socialist MP Guillaume Garot said the law meant France was the leading country in Europe in combating food waste.

The Telegraph reported the law brings an end a system where food producers were legally obliged to destroy entire batches of products that carried a supermarket brand name, citing an example of a main supermarket chain finding a tiny fault with a crate of its branded yogurts, so sending the whole batch back to the dairy producer, which is legally obliged to destroy the lot even if it is all of excellent quality.

It is expected the law will be enacted in early 2016.

Business-friendly laws

In the business realm, France passed a law to boost competitiveness – aimed at making the country more competitive and business-friendly, website DW reported.

France is known to have strict labour laws that protect workers, but it also has a high unemployment rate at about ten percent.

Among other measures, the legislation will extend the number of Sundays and evening hours that shops can open, deregulate France's inter-city bus industry and make it easier to become a notary public, advertise alcohol and get a driver's license.

Wireless technology changes

This year France also passed a law to control exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) generated by wireless technologies like, cell phones, computer tablets and Wi-Fi, NaturalHealth365 reported.

The website also states wireless internet is prohibited in places dedicated to the welcome, rest, and activities of children under the age of 3 years old.

At primary school level WiFi must be disabled when not in use for teaching and any establishment offering public access to WiFi must put show a sign at the entrance indicating the presence of WiFi.

Anyone selling a cell phone to a child aged under 14 must be also able to provide an accessory, headset or other, designed to reduce exposure of radio frequency (RF) radiation to the head. Similarly any cell phone related advertising must recommend the use of such an accessory device, the website reported.

Cleaner energy

In July, a bill sought to cut nuclear to 50 percent of power mix, Reuters reported.

The energy transition bill wants to halve French energy consumption by 2050 (cutting it by a fifth by 2030) and a 30 per cent reduction in the overall consumption of fossil fuels by 2030, as well as aiming to reduce France's reliance on nuclear power from 75 per cent of total energy use to 50 per cent in 15 years' time.

The law will also target air pollution through a clean transport programme aiming to further incentivise the French to buy low-emission vehicles and requiring the State to prioritise electric cars in procurement.

Controversial spy laws

Not all of France's laws were considered progressive this year. In light of international terrorism threats, the Government also passed new surveillance laws earlier this year.

After the Charlie Hebdo massacre in January, France passed its controversial “Intelligence Bill,” allowing it to increase its surveillance powers, Vice reported.

The legislation, which was passed by the French parliament in May, drew strong opposition from the public but was enacted in July – before the deadly Paris attacks that rocked the world in November.

The law allows the government to monitor phone calls and emails of terrorism suspects without obtaining a warrant. It also requires internet service providers to collect metadata, which is then processed by an algorithm to detect strings of suspicious activity.

Critics have said the bill seriously threatens civil liberties, while Amnesty International has likened it to American surveillance laws.

Geneviève Garrigos, head of Amnesty International France, condemned the bill as being “in flagrant violation of the international human rights to privacy and free speech.”

The French bill also allows the government to use IMSI catchers, which impersonate cell towers and are capable of recording metadata from phones within the catcher’s range as well as tracking the phone’s (and its owner’s) location.

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