From the Desk of Coordinator, Bioinformatics Centre

Benchmarks of Globalization


Whether we like it or not, we have entered the era of globalization, which will be commandered by 63000 MNCs accounting for 80 percent of all world investments and 70 percent of all world trade without accountability to National sovereignties,  sensibilities and interests according to Lord Bill Jordan, Global Trade Union Leader, UK. (Disha, Jan 2003).  While globalization is seen as a boon by those frequenting multinational hotel chains and flaunting their imported cars , a vast majority sees it as a threat to their jobs and livelihood. Time only tell whether we achieve the cherished aim of well being of one and all.

It is  said that Globalization will not be stopped, much less reversed. But it can and must be changed to suit national interests. Then the question raised in my mind. What are the benchmarks of globalization? From the trend setters, the weekend news media, I gather that the proliferation of motor vehicles, expansion of colas and junk foods to village level, mobile phone in each pocket with aggressive advertising and marketing by MNCs whether they are need based or not, are the symbols of globalization. Indiscriminate proliferation by MNCs will only affect national health and dignity.

The commercial beverages Coca-Cola and Pepsi with the World’s yearly consumption in the order of 200 billion liters, are chemical cocktails without nutritive value. Andhra farmers are using cola drinks as more economic  pesticides for their cotton and chilli crops. Still they are sold as modern soft drinks, without anyone raising a finger. Fast food preservatives and additives have a lot to do with triggering off  allergies. Americans are beginning to recognise the disastrous effect of their junk foods and cola mania after realising that their obesity epidemic is adding to the national health bill. Lawsuits were filed against McDonald’s chain by obese children blaming the fast foods for their obesity problem. New Zealand government has proposed to ban junk food advertising aimed at children. WHO is working on diet norms and education to restrict excess use of sugar, salt and fat in junk foods and change dietary habits for better health.

The mobile phone has become a fashion than necessity, thanks to the aggressive marketing.  Electromagnetic radiation emitted by mobile phones carrying in trouser pockets, found to cause male infertility, by decreasing sperm count. Mobile phone radiation can damage DNA within the brain cells and has been linked to brain tumour. Significantly UK’s Radiological board advised the parents not to give cell phone to children below the age of 8 years. By 2009, India would be the second largest cell phone market in the world. A lot of scientific reports and research indicate the health hazards of using cell phones, though not conclusive. More and more government bodies and official agencies are issuing warnings against heavy use of cell phones. There could be a tobacco-style deluge of lawsuits facing mobile phone companies.

Another symbol of globalization is motor vehicle. There is a phenomenal increase in the number of vehicles on the road, thanks to the banks for easy loans. One can buy easily, but can a middle class family afford to maintain a car with white money, with increasing price of petrol? The population clogged towns and cities are already facing traffic jams and parking problems. Our priority should have been on mass transportation and affordable private transport. We just emulate the affluent countries and go through the same problems they faced. Can we not learn from their experience? Already there are suggestions of importing second hand costly brand cars from abroad, encouraging vulgar consumerism. The difference between the rich and poor widens, a good cause for increase in crime. Is there a place for self-dependent and sustaining Gandhiji’s village model in the process of globalization for arresting mass migration from rural areas to cities?

Once we are hooked to modern gadgets and utilities, without developing self-reliance, we get into trap and become second hand users and recyclers. The UK exports more than a third of its waste paper and plastic to China for recycling: government puts the annual figure at 2 lakh tonnes of plastic rubbish and 5 lakh tonnes of waste paper and card board, causing considerable pollution to the environment. In 2002 – 2003, India imported 6700 tonnes of explosive scrap and 79000 tonnes of plastic waste and imports nearly 2.5 million tonnes of steel scrap annually (Down to Earth, Oct 2004). Recyclers claim that metal scrap is imported into India due to shortage. We import the waste from the backyards of the rich countries and recycle here. Possibly this is what we bargained from globalization.



Prof. B.  C.  Harinath

   April 1, 2005