issue 181 - March 1988
Patents for Frankenstein
The US Patent Office now has a policy of patenting all the newly invented animals emerging from the genetic engineering in laboratories. Such concern for the inventor's rights at the expense of the nightmares created has not received universal acclaim. Foremost in the opposition has been a coalition of farm organizations, animal welfare groups and environmentalists.
The opposition is lobbying the US House of Representatives to join the Senate in cutting off funding for animal patenting.
Environmentalist Jeremy Rifkin, of the Foundation on Economic Trends believes: 'The American public will not tolerate the idea of reducing the entire animal kingdom to the status of a commercial commodity indistinguishable from electric toasters, automobiles or compact disc players'.
Unfortunately this might not be so. A recent quick 'a' dirty survey of 1,273 respondents on their attitudes towards biotechnology and genetic engineering found two-thirds believing this will enhance life for all (presumably not the lives of all creatures great and small). But then there was a smidgen of confusion around. For three-quarters of respondents agreed that 'the potential danger from genetically altered cells and microbes is so great that strict regulations are necessary.
From Science for the People, Vol. 19 No. 4.
The logic of the free market
Commodities - which together with oil account for about 25 per cent of total world exports but nearly all the underdeveloped world's exports - have been on the skids throughout much of the 1980s. In real terms they have fallen to their lowest level since the great depression of the 1930s. The recent weak economic recovery in the North after the recession of the early 1980s has done little to arrest the downward trend. Allowing for inflation, commodity prices have fallen by 40 per cent since 1980.
While non-fuel commodities were five per cent higher year on year up to September 1987 (according to the World Bank Index), prices of food items were down 16 per cent. The international stock market crash of October 1987 is likely to lead to less business activity this year, with yet more uncomfortable consequences for primary commodity producers.
From South. January 1988.
South Korea is driving the poor out of Seoul in anticipation of the Olympics this year. More than 190 areas in and around the 1988 Olympic site have been earmarked for redevelopment. The city has declared that 81,000 houses and 800,000 people will have to be moved. Church officials believe the real number will be over a million.
Though Seoul built 70,000 new apartments last year to improve living space, a characteristic inner-city redevelopment phenomenon has surfaced. Original inhabitants are excluded from the new buildings, as speculation and competition from young wealthy professionals drives up rents and property prices.
The inhabitants, many of whom originally moved to these areas as squatters over the last 30 years, had achieved legal status. That was until the Olympics. Now, because of the Games, they have had to confront demolition bulldozers - occasionally with fatal results. Six residents of Sanggyedong township were killed recently in efforts to stop their homes being destroyed.
From Die Zeit, West Germany. reported in World Press Review, Vol. 34/12.
Last year the typical South Korean work week was 57 hours - an average of more than eight hours a day, seven days a week. In 1984, the last year for which complete data are available, South Korean manufacturing workers had a 54.3 hour work week, the longest in the world. According to the International Labour Organization, their counterparts in Japan worked 41.7 hours, while Americans clocked in 40.7 hours.
The country also has the most dangerous factories in the world, with 1,660 killed on the job last year and another 141,809 reported injuries. This is with a total workforce of 16.1 million.
Finally there are about 6.5 million women in the workforce; they earn on average $1.07 an hour. And the men? They average $2.26.
Information from Far Eastern Economic Review. 27 August 1987
Adjustment with an inhuman face
Latin American nations used to be among the most prosperous of the nations of the South. But that was before the economic cutbacks forced on their govern-meats by international banks. The continent owed nearly $400,000 million in 1985 - about $1,000 for every person living there. It has been difficult to establish the impact and cumulative effects of the global recession and foreign indebtedness, but an International Labour Office report gives some idea.
First the good news: government measures have reduced the overall current account deficit from$41,l00millionin 1982 to $3,600 million in 1985. Now the bad: the strategy of reducing government deficits - devaluation and a squeeze on credit and wages - has its casualties. In 14 countries income per head declined by 10 per cent over 1980-85, while in seven others the reduction was worse, .at 15 per cent. Open unemployment rose from seven per cent to 11.5 percent between 1980 and 1984. Real wages fell by 28 per cent in Mexico, 35 per cent in Peru with similar significant decreases in Brazil, Chile and Venezuela. The result: a 38 per cent increase in people subsisting below the poverty line - from 47 million in 1980 to 65 million in 1985.
From a background document for the High-Level Meeting on Employment and Structural Adjustment.
Geneva, 23-25 November 1987, ILO
Last year a group of foreign volunteer workers in the Philippines took issue with the USNS Mercy - that floating battleship-size American naval hospital which conducted medical missions in several areas of the south Philippines, particularly where the insurgency is strong.
Except for a protest picket mounted by doctors in Davao City against the hospital ship, which they charged was actually involved in counter-insurgency, nothing more was reported. Now the volunteer workers have something more to tell about the Mercy mission. They claim in places where the ship docked, the piers have been strengthened and the berths deepened in order to receive it. Now unhappily - or happily, depending on your viewpoint - these piers can accommodate any type of American battleship.
Looking after Filipino health can be a complicated business.
Information but not comment from Tribal Forum, Vol. VIII, No. 3.
Published by Episcopal Commission on Tribal Filipinos, Rm 15, CAP Bldg,
372 Cabildo St., Intramuros, Metro Manila, Philippines.
'An eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind.'