Sustainable Development

From Sept. 4 to 5, heads of state and government from nineteen countries and the European Union will gather in Hangzhou, China for the 11th G20 summit. The theme of this year’s conference is “Towards an Innovative, Invigorated, Interconnected and Inclusive World Economy”, a motto which many officials and experts find encouraging.

In an interview with the Xinhua News Agency, China’s state-owned media outlet, Atsushi Sunami, the vice president of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Tokyo, explained that the G20 summit could forge consensus on implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Adopted by the U.N. last fall, the 2030 Agenda includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and aims to end poverty and hunger by the end of the third decade in the 21st century.

Sunami also called on countries to work together and build innovation across borders. The conference in Hangzhou, in his view, could jump-start the dialogue on open innovation and inclusive development.

Also speaking with Xinhua, Peter Thompson, who will be the president of the upcoming 71st Session of the U.N. General Assembly, voiced his support for the summit’s theme as well as the U.N.’s desire to work with the G20 organizers. “We will certainly be doing our part here at the United Nations in terms of the G20 outcome to make sure it’s built into the international implementation plans,” he said.

Likewise, Daniel Funes de Rioja, President of the International Organization of Employers (IOE), expressed his hope that the G20 summit will be a step in the direction of inclusive development. “Prosperity requires growth, investment, technology and innovation, with employment and social coverage for all,” according to de Rioja.

Indeed, while the G20 is primarily a forum for leaders of the developed world, developing countries are also starting to make their voices heard.

Senegal, which will be present at the summit in Hangzhou, sees the G20 as a platform to call attention to African issues as well as an opportunity to explore solutions. Alioune Sarr, the country’s commerce minister, told China Central Television (CCTV) that the conference will highlight the necessity of poverty eradication and inclusive development on the continent.

The G20 has consistently underscored the importance of international cooperation when it comes to solving the world’s problems, and the renewed emphasis on inclusive development and shared prosperity is certainly a welcome change.

Philip Katz

Photo: Flickr

The debate over genetically modified organisms has been on the rise for quite some time, but lately the American Academy of Environmental Medicine has issued a warning encouraging physicians to tell their patients to remove GMO foods from their diets.

GMOs are created in a laboratory and then injected into a food source. The injection contains a gene that carries a desirable trait, and is used to give that trait to another food source. This way, farmers are able to give their plants and animals characteristics that are more appealing to consumers.

At first biotechnology companies, such as Monsanto, promoted their biotech foods as a means to feeding those that are living in poverty and not receiving proper nutrients. The GMO food known as “golden rice” was thought to be the answer to malnutrition because it contained the vitamin beta-carotene needed for vitamin A production. Time Magazine stated that golden rice could help end blindness and death in countries that suffer heavily from vitamin A deficiencies.

On the contrary though, golden rice is not the golden ticket to ending world hunger. In fact, GMO foods have been found to do more harm than good.

Firstly, producing golden rice requires expensive amounts of pesticides and fertilizers, an expense that would not be affordable in developing countries.

Secondly, water is a major contributor to golden rice thriving, and in countries where vitamin A deficiency is prominent clean water is also usually scarce.

Thirdly, the amount of golden rice needed to properly nourish a healthy young boy is 27 bowls a day, but for a malnourished person the nutrients in golden rice may not even be properly digested in the body. One of Monsanto’s developments was a system known as the Terminator Technology, which genetically forms plant seeds that are sterile. Farmers in developing countries usually save seeds from fertile crops in order to produce their next batch of crops, with this Monsanto system farmers would suffer and potentially starve.

The Institute for Responsible Technology has found that GMOs are huge contributors to health problems, such as immune and gastrointestinal system problems, infertility, trouble with insulin balance and failing organs. The best possible method is to stay away from genetically modified foods. CNN offered a list of ways to keep your diet free of GMOs, some examples included:

  1.  Eating fresh produce, usually they are GMO free.
  2.  Buy foods with the non-GMO-verified seal, as food companies are not required to label that their foods contain GMO.
  3. Always buy wild seafood in order to avoid farm-raised and potentially GMO fish.

As for GMO foods’ relation to poverty, fresh is always healthier, cheaper, and more beneficial in terms of nutrients. GMO has been proven to not yield any higher amount of crops than organic and chemical free crops.

Becka Felcon

Sources: The Food Revolution, CNN, International Business Times, GMO Awareness
Photo: LA Times

NPR Makes a T-Shirt
Take a look at the shirt you’re wearing. Odds are it’s better traveled than you are.

National Public Radio’s (NPR) Planet Money recently published a multimedia series on the making of a T-shirt and its extraordinary journey through the world economy.

Believe it or not, your shirt and others like it are a wonder of the modern world.

The five part series follows a T-shirt from cottonseed to ink print. It would seem like a simple process, but the Planet Money special reveals the hidden complexity of a global enterprise.

Behind each of these cheaply produced shirts are multinational corporations and complex trade deals between nations — but, most of all, people’s lives. While the series takes a look at the entire process, it is the human connection that it seems most poised to drive home.

Although the chapters are mostly delivered through a dispassionate reportage, the deleterious effects of the garment industry in the developing world are likely to ignite the passions of most viewers.

Perhaps the most illuminating of these stories is that of Jasmine in Bangladesh.

More than 4 million people like Jasmine work in the garment industry in Bangladesh. Many of these people work for less than 35 cents an hour.

Cramped living and working environments, the absence of electricity and running water as well as disease make life extremely difficult. Jasmine, herself, lives in a small group home without running water and sends most of her earnings to her parents.

However, these hardships pale in comparison to the risk many of these workers face.

For instance, while the Planet Money team was filming, a major garment building in Bangladesh collapsed killing over one thousand workers. The online series shows difficult images of bodies tangled in the framework of the building.

Tragically, without the garment industry, NPR argues, Bangladesh would be worse off still.

In the end, the shirt they made traveled thousands of miles by air, by land and by sea. Even so, it’s total production cost just over 12 dollars. The cost in time, travel and human toil, however, is something a bit larger.

It is a complicated process with complicated results but for people in developing nations that make the goods that the developed world buys, the garment industry’s work is a double bind.

On the one hand, it sustains their entire nation and on the other, it does not sufficiently provide for, or protect, its workers. If nothing else, NPR has created a series that does not shy away from presenting a complex image of an industry, its products and its people.

Chase Colton

Sources: NPR, Al Jazeera