Brief information about globalization
Question 1. If the movement of people, food, and manufactured goods can have such a negative impact on public health, should steps be taken to reduce these flows? What other options are there for lowering the spread of global diseases? How does increased trade in food lead to the spread of food-borne illnesses? What measures can be taken to reduce the incidence of these diseases?
Although the movement of people, manufactured goods and food leads to certain negative consequences, such as the spread of infectious diseases and viruses, and creates threats for public health, it is not reasonable to stop these flows, because the advantages of globalization largely outweigh the disadvantages. Due to the movement of people, both developed and developing economies can be better off as they can cover the gaps between available employment and opportunities of the existing workforce. Due to international trade, countries can develop trade specializations and increase overall well-being. International trade allows people from northern hemisphere eat fresh fruit and vegetables throughout the year. Therefore, it is reasonable to support the global movement of people, food and manufactured goods.
Increased trade in food leads to the spread of food-borne illnesses: since food items are often exported worldwide, the lack of safety or sanitary issues in the process of food processing in one country might lead to the spread of the disease over the whole world. Immigrants who have to earn their living often have to work being sick, thus also increasing the opportunities of food-borne diseases. Additional threat comes from mass food processing and distribution centers where a sole violation of safety rules might lead to disease outbreaks in many countries at once.
Therefore, measures should be taken to reduce the spread of global diseases and viruses. It is necessary to develop international trade regulations and international standards of safety for food processing and production. These standards should ensure that food items are safe to import to other countries, and should also ensure that safety requirements are not overstated as a result of protectionist policies. Special regulations and standards should be developed for mass food processing centers. Vaccination and medical protection are also issues which should be regulated by an international committee, because people carrying domestic infections might spread the disease to foreign countries. It is also necessary to ensure that labor standards for companies engaged in food manufacturing and processing are unified, so that employees do not have to work when they are sick. There is a need for a whole set of international regulations related to food trade, processing and distribution.
Question 2. One of the biggest battlegrounds over GMOs is in Africa. While U.S. companies have supported the introduction of GM crops to increase crop yield and the nutritional content of food, European companies and governments have opposed these measures. How would you weigh the trade-off between the possibility for increased food production and the potential these crops might harm the environment and health?
The issue of GM production is very complicated because it is associated with significant benefits and even more significant potential losses. In Africa, there are millions of people who do not have enough food and combating malnutrition there is a very important problem. At the same time, GM crops indeed can have an unexpected effect on the nature and on people: the long-term effect of GM organisms have not been tested because GM products have only been introduced recently. If these crops have a slight change of increasing human predisposition to cancer, allergy or other diseases, wide use of these crops will be a disaster. Furthermore, GM crops can affect biodiversity and may transfer their pest-resistant properties to normal, non-modified crops, due to cross-breeding. If there are chances that GM crops can be dangerous for human health, such cross-breeding and “conversion” of all crops into GM crops will lead to a much worse situation compared to the current malnutrition and hunger in Africa.
The mechanisms of interaction of GM crops and other GMOs with natural ecosystems are also not studied (and it is hardly possible to study these consequences in laboratory conditions). Wide use of GM crops might lead to the decrease of the number of insects and pests; this decrease, in its turn, might destroy the whole environmental ecosystem in the neighboring regions. There were numerous examples of ecological imbalance in the modern world, starting with changes of ecosystem of Everglades and ending with the excess population of rabbits in Australia. Unpredictable results of using GM crops significantly outweigh potential benefits of the use of these crops.
There are numerous alternatives for helping African people reduce hunger and malnutrition. The developed countries can provide assistance in helping them develop more sustainable agriculture, educate people and train them how to make the production of food more efficient, help African people with medicines, vaccines and vitamins, etc. It is better not to use GM crops because the consequences of their use can be destructive.
Question 3. What advantages would a government have from controlling the press? Disadvantages? If you were opposed to a government and that government prevented you from using the media to convey your opinions, what would you do? What risks could this involve?
The government can gain numerous advantages from controlling the press and the media in general. These advantages include: formation of the “appropriate” public opinion, hiding controversies and problems, masking existing social and economic issues by focusing on fabricated problems or on real achievements of the government, reducing the protest among people by entertaining them or by focusing their attention on international issues, etc. However, the press is only one form of the media, and the disadvantages of controlling the press by government are more far-reaching.
The disadvantages of controlling the press include the lack of public trust and support, increase of opposition and anti-government movements, evolution of other forms of media and protest expressed in these forms of media, hidden political activity, conflicts with international laws and regulations regarding the freedom of speech, and the general deterioration of political situation in the country. The citizens will likely express their dissatisfaction and anger in the web, and the political image of the country will be damaged. Educated people might start leaving the country, because the lack of freedom of speech is often combined with other characteristics of authoritarian regime – oppression, lack of economic freedom, etc.
If I were opposed to the government and the government prevented me from conveying own opinion, I would look for other ways of letting the public know the truth: anonymous posts in the web, public conversations, spreading the leaflets with the opinion posted there, etc. It would be reasonable to look for support among other people opposed to the government. However, these activities would be rather risk-bearing; the risks will vary, depending on which measures and punishments the government provides for persons breaking the regulations.
Question 4. In the middle of a war, did the American public have the right to know the contents of the Pentagon Papers? Why or why not? Was there room for compromise between the issues of security and the right to know?
The fundamental right of American citizens (and of all citizens living in democratic countries) is the right to know about the actions and the direction chosen by the government, to be aware of governmental decisions and to receive true and honest information about the situation in the country and in the world. This right might conflict with the issues of national security, and there might be situations when revealing confidential information and disclosing it to the public will lead to negative consequences for the country. However, the balance between the right to know and security issues is not black-and-white: there is a blend of security and openness which is chosen by every government. In most cases, it is possible to outline the situation and mention it in the media without disclosing confidential details. Therefore, the government should protect critical information and at the same time disclose the information which can be shared without damaging the security.
In the case of the Pentagon Papers, the American public had the right to know the content of these papers, at least in a very generic form. The fact that the government lied to the citizens and proclaimed certain values while pursuing different values is very unsettling. It is a significant violation of democracy when the government is actually making decisions and performing actions which would be opposed by a large part of citizens (if they were informed). This situation is an example of an anti-democratic situation, and public right to know what is going on in the government represents a constraint preventing the system from such distortions. Therefore, the citizens should actively pursue their right to know.
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