Before we analyze the consequence of this latest crisis, a word about the causes of financial crises in free market enterprises is pertinent.
The primary fact to note is that the main aim of a capitalist enterprise is to manufacture goods for their exchange value, for their sale in the market. If there is no market for the goods, there is no money for the entrepreneur. But we have seen that capitalism dispossesses the majority of the people - the buyers or consumers of the commodities generated by the enterprises.
Dispossession means diminished capacity to purchase the factory commodities and hence time comes when the entrepreneurs get stuck with their products and failure to repay credit from banks and other financial institutions becomes inevitable, and banks collapse.
Since nobody wants to buy shares in collapsing companies, the stock exchange implodes too. As the capitalist crisis matures - people go hungry, become homeless and social instability and other ills set in. It is for this reason that we have the Arab spring, instability in Southern Europe as people demand what governments cannot avail - medicare, shelter, social security and affordable education.
I suppose the Arab spring in which many governments fell, had to do with external attempts to control Arab resources, especially oil, so as to solve the constraints imposed by the 2008 crisis in the metropolitan countries.
The inadequacy of industrial production has led to searches in alternative avenues for investment so as to address the food crisis encompassing many countries globally. Unrest and sometimes food riots were experienced in Africa, then later in Latin America and the Middle East, while in developed economies prices soared high.
International giant corporations responded by developing genetic engineering by manipulating and altering the DNA of plant life as well as animals. Some of the consequences of genetic engineering are seeds that cannot be replanted after harvest. They have been aptly described as “terminator or suicide seeds” in some quarters.
Once this technology spreads, the peasant farmer who lacks the technology can only farm if he has the money to continue buying seeds from the big company suppliers. Consequently, the giants control what the peasant will grow.
The incapacity to raise seeds lies at the centre of the agrarian crisis, especially in the developing world. India is a good example if you take into account the cost of agro-chemicals and fertilizers as well.
The incapacity translates into failure by family heads to cater for their dear ones and so some estimates put the suicide rate at 12,000 annually since 2013. In one state alone, Tamil Nadu, in 2007 as many as 106 farmers were reported to have committed suicide in one month.
It is pertinent to emphasize that Uganda does not have a stronger socio-economic muscle than India. None of us would like to be a widow, widower or an orphan. The poor farmer’s plight does not end at his poverty.
The GMOs can affect the environment in the neighbourhood even if the farmer refrains from planting them, thus affecting the locality’s biodiversity and worse still the existing species can be destroyed by the new dominant species. This is at the core of the fear and apprehension by GMOs’ opponents and some scientists.
Of course if the GMOs were harmless and only beneficial to all humanity, there would be no need for any scientist or GMOs’ advocate to seek protection against criminal prosecution. The truth is that GMOs harm the environment, giving rise to liability both tortious and/or criminal due to injury or undesirable consequences in neighbourhoods.
The GMO proponents have adopted the logic of the school teacher who convinced his pupils that there are three ways of doing things; the right way, the wrong way and thirdly, his own way.
Evidently, if a person can neither be right nor wrong, then he cannot be judged. In ordinary logic, the GMOs can fetch some money for the promoters but prove detrimental to the average farmer and the environment.
If GMOs are innocuous, why fear or anticipate prosecution or tortious liability? From the 2008 Oxfam reports on inequality and Thomas Piketty’s book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, it is evident that inequality is on the increase with its attendant social ills – instability, poverty and delinquency.
At its inception, science and technology have always had a social dimension. For example, during fascism under Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) in Germany, its function was to falsify science into a pseudo biology (conveniently merged with sociology) to justify the classification of people into superior and inferior races.
The consequence was sterilization or genocide against black people (Africans and gypsies), genocide against Jews and genocide against Germans who were chronically sick.
I have found J.D. Bernal, Science in History 1985 reprint, [4 volumes] and the Social Function of Science 1939 very useful sources. Needless to emphasize the social function of technology in a democracy is to promote equality, social welfare in old age, shelter for all, health care, education, safe environment, etc.
We are all acquainted with Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, which is taught even in school biology and religious education. I have always wondered why Charles Darwin’s other important book; The Descent of Man is less common.
In The Descent of Man, Darwin argues that men have provisions for the vulnerable in society and law and religion play a decisive role and, therefore, the principle of survival for the fittest cannot apply to humanity, the way it applies to plants and animals. Hence, species, especially humans, survive better if and when they cooperate.
The way forward is pursuit of conservation/organic agriculture which guarantees integrity of the soil, plant and animal life, biodiversity and protection of the environment. After all, both large corporations and individual farmers can pursue this practice without harm to anyone.
The social problem under genetic engineering pursued by monopolies is to control food resources in developing countries. Finally, let us recall that banks and industrial corporations in 2008 were rescued not by free market forces but by intervention of governments through financial bailouts. Government can intervene to save the environment and organic conservation farming communities.
The author is a retired judge.