The Enduring Problem of Overcriminalization

“Overcriminalization” is a term increasingly used to describe the growing tendency in America—by federal lawmakers and bureaucrats in particular—to turn to the criminal law as the solution for every problem.  As a result of overcriminalization, trivial conduct is now often punished as a crime.  The drive to criminalize business conduct continues unabated, with federal officials even deploying the specter of jail time for a company’s negligent behavior, often as a tactical diversion away from the government’s own regulatory incompetence.

Of course, criminal law is supposed to be used only as a last resort to redress severe conduct that society deems deserving of the greatest punishment and legal sanction.  And many criminal laws make it possible for the government to convict a person lacking any criminal intent whatsoever.  What we desperately need is criminal laws that punish actual criminal acts and that don’t seek to criminalize conduct that is better dealt with through civil and regulatory processes. Continue reading

Federal Court Wages Scorched Earth Policy on Genetically Modified Sugar Beets

A single federal judge is wreaking havoc on the availability and price of sugar.  I’ve written at length before about the rising price of sugar following an earlier ruling by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White that effectively outlaws the nation’s supply of genetically modified beet sugar, which accounts for some 95% of all planted beet sugar in the United States.

That case, Center for Food Safety v. Vilsak, centered on the USDA’s decision to deregulate the sale and distribution of a strain of genetically modified sugar beets developed and marketed by Monsanto Co.  Known as Roundup Ready beets, this new variety of sugar beet is resistant to Monsanto’s widely used agricultural herbicide Roundup. The use of Roundup Ready beets allows farmers to apply Roundup to their entire field of beet crops, rather than more expensive and less environmentally friendly herbicides that must be applied more frequently. Continue reading