n an editorial last week, the Daily Mirror exposed some of the subtle ways in which the rich world is continuing to plunder the resources of the poor third world through sophisticated economic neo-colonialism, with some transnational corporations (TNCs) carrying out the air attacks or chemical warfare.
According to world analysts, the biggest profit making TNCs are those involved in the multi-billion dollar arms and ammunition business. Pope Francis, during his extensive talk with President Maithripala Sirisena in the Vatican last week, again repeated his prophetic call that the world arms industry must be gradually dismantled or disarmed, if wars or mass killings by maniacs or lone wolf terrorists are to be stopped.
But the United States, known to be the command centre for some of the biggest arms manufacturing companies, obviously cannot and will not do this because most of its revenue comes from this deadly racket. However the US this year faced the horror of seeing the largest number of mass killings or lone-wolf terrorist attacks in its history. Yet we see the arch-conservative Republican party’s main presidential candidates -- led by multi-billionaire Donald Trump whom most analysts see as a glorified buffoon -- calling for measures which could spark off a self-destructive third world war. In addition, the National Rifle Association remains like a cowboy with blazing bullets, with backing from a Republican party dominated Congress, though President Barack Obama has vowed that in his final year he would take executive action to bring about gun control.
The second biggest profit making TNCs are known to be those involved in the agro-chemical business. In September this year, California dealt one of these companies, a blow as the state’s Environmental Protection Agency decided to list glyphosate -- the toxic main ingredient in the U.S.’ best-selling weed-killer, Roundup -- as known to cause cancer. Under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 -- usually referred to as Proposition 65, its original name -- chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm are required to be listed and published by the State. Chemicals also end up on the list if found to be carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). However the agro-chemical giant has denied the claim and said it would challenge the move.
During the past few months, we have seen similar action by the agro-chemical giants, though eco-friendly activists last Wednesday thwarted what they saw as a back-door deal to get the ban on glyphosate lifted. The ban was imposed by President Sirisena in the aftermath of a kidney disease epidemic mainly in the North Central province where tens of thousands of farmers have been afflicted and were undergoing painful dialysis.
The world’s third biggest profit making TNCs are those involved in the pharmaceutical business which analysts describe as a big-pharma mafia. After a delay of about 40 years, the government in May this year approved legislation for the setting up of a National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) to implement Professor Senaka Bibile’s Essential medicines concept intended to provide quality drugs at affordable prices. But big Pharma is known to be diagnosing subtle ways of trying to dilute the law or derail the work of the NMRA.
In recent weeks an email message has been going viral worldwide with some bitter sweet food for thought about diabetes. The report says that before 1997, the fasting sugar limit for diabetes was 140. The World Health Organisation set up a panel to decrease it and the rate was fixed at 126. Then, all of a sudden 14% of world population became diabetics overnight. Later in 2003, American Diabetic Association again decreased the limit to 100 and about 60% of the Indian population -- that means nearly 700 million -- people became diabetic. The message also makes the shocking claim that members of the panel deciding the fasting sugar limit include consultants of seven big pharmaceutical companies in the world. No wonder analysts say that many big Pharma TNCs often manufacture a disease first and then manufacture a pill for the disease. In most cases the pills are made more for the market than for preventive or curative purposes.
We hope that the national unity government, while pursuing a new midterm economic strategy which it refers to as a social market economy, will not allow giant TNCs to run or ruin our beloved Sri Lanka.