PRI Review

From the Countries

Rising Asian population to boost wheat trade

Asia’s rising population is expected to “inject new life into the world’s wheat trade” according to the International Wheat Council (IWC) based in London. The IWC predicts the world wheat trade will reach 96 million tons, which is five million tons above their estimate for 1993/94 but below last season’s 102.4 million tons.

Senior IWC economist Bill de Maria said that the “Far East could account for more than a third of global trade in 1994/95” due to “growing populations and rapid economic growth.” He also warned that rising incomes can create a shift from grains to more fruit and vegetables.

The IWC estimates were conditioned on weather trends and other “unforeseeable factors.” Even though the IWC’s estimate for last year was “trimmed” to 559 million from a previous estimate of 561 million, it was still “the third largest ever after 1992’s harvest of 560 million tons and 1990’s record 592 million” (Reuter, 24 March 1994).

From Peru — did anyone hear, did anyone care?

A woman from Peru wrote a poignant letter to the New York Times in 1989. She said:

“I am a Peruvian health worker in one of the poor areas of Lima. Thanks to an American friend, I had the opportunity to read “Poor, Pregnant — and Dead” (N. Y. Times editorial, 15 Dec. 1989) on abortion and birth control in Latin American countries. The reality of the women of my country is very different from that portrayed in your editorial.

“Here in Peru we women greatly value the family and love our children, but economic conditions make it very difficult to raise and nurture our family in even a minimal way. The deplorable economic condition is our real problem. We don’t need birth control. We need to end our poverty.

“I witness daily that the intrauterine devices and pills that the United States floods our country with only creates more frustrations for women, and many times, serious harm to their health, which worsens their financial condition even more. At times, I view with sadness [the fact] that many women bring their children with an injury or a burn to health centers that don’t even have gauze or antiseptics, but shelves filled with birth-control pills.

“I think that if the United States or any other economically developed country wants to help us, before offering birth control it should think about what we want and need. Our country needs technical and economic assistance to make progress.

“I hope that the situation and needs of Latin American women are known and understood.” Signed, “Marcia Cocollo, Lima, Peru, 3 Jan. 1989”

(New York Times, letter to the Editor, 4 Feb. 1989).

American Enterprise Institute challenges the ‘numbers game’

Ben Wattenberg, population expert at the American Enterprise Institute, challenges U.N. population conclusions. He describes the “central thesis” of the U.N. Conference on Population and Development as “too many people” and “people spoil the environment.”

Basing his comments on an article in Scientific American, Wattenberg points to a worldwide drop in fertility rates. In subSaharan Africa, Kenya had a total fertility rate of 8.3 children per woman in 1977 but dropped to 5.4 in 1993. In Latin America, Brazil and Mexico experienced a drop of 50 percent in fertility. In Egypt, fertility dropped 42 percent; Thailand dropped by 64 percent; and Indonesia decreased by 43 percent. The total fertility rate in Russia “collapsed,” in Wattenberg’s description, from 2.1 to 1.4; while in the former East Germany, fertility fell below 0.8 children. In the developed world, Spain is now 1.3 while Japan is 1.5 “and sinking.”

With all of this one would think that forthcoming U.N. population projections would lower fertility assumptions, at least slightly,” Wattenberg wrote. Although new population projections will be issued in Cairo, the assumptions are not expected to change, according to Larry Heligman, chief of U.N.’s Estimates and Projections. “The recent data is too new to go with,” said Heligman.

As Mr. Wattenberg reminds us, that decision “bolsters the U.N.’s case that more money is needed for family planning services.” Further, the decision also leaves unchallenged, the claims that population growth creates food shortages, reduces natural resources and leads to environmental degradation. These views, Wattenberg concludes, provide a “potent lever for power hungry global regulators” and has “major economic and economic consequences” (“Unexploding population?,” Washington Times, 17 March, 1994).

Well — Donald Duck! What’s a nice guy like you doing in a place like this?

The Population Council’s Studies in Family Planning in 1968 had a very interesting tale to tell. Working in collaboration with the Population Council, Disney studios prepared a “short color cartoon” featuring Donald Duck titled, “Family Planning.”

The Disney studio was chosen as the maker of the film because “the Disney style is familiar throughout the world” and because of its identification with “wholesome family life.” According to the article, “The Population Council indicated what the film should say and the Disney organization determined how to say it.” The film was intended to “develop attitudes favorable to the small family norm” and “legitimate the very concept and practice, of family planning throughout the developing world” but the Council expected that it would be “utilized in the United States as well.”

The approach “was deliberately constructed to appeal to a variety of societies” through the image of the “common man.” The common man was presented as a “composite of men from the major regions of the world,” such as the men and women of “reproductive age” in “Asia, Africa, and Latin America.” The Council authorized its production in 19 languages in addition to English (Studies in Family Planning, no. 26, Jan. 1968, emphasis in the original).

Eminent Persons meeting in Tokyo

Nafis Sadik told the Eminent Persons meeting, “The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) is the last opportunity for the international community in this century to consider progress so far and to decide what needs to be done in the area to achieve sustained economic growth and sustainable development.”

Prime Minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland, forwarded a keynote speech to the conference in which claimed that the journey to sustainable societies is a “transition from quantity to quality.”

Japanese Prime Minister, Morihiro Hosokawa expressed his appreciation for the efforts of UNFPA and IPPF in population efforts. He promised, “Japan is determined to further strengthen its efforts in the field of population in continuous cooperation with other countries by taking a comprehensive approach that includes…basic health and medical for mothers and children, and for the empowerment of women.”

The use of women to bring about change was exemplified by the formation of a U.N.-associated NGO, “Japan’s Network for Women and Health.” At a Network meeting, Akiko Domoto, member of the House of Councilors, called for women to find solutions to population problems. She reminded the audience that “people need to change their value systems to embrace the notion of a borderless world.” The twin goals of “revival of humanity” and reproductive health and rights should be the axis of change,” she said (JOICFP News, no. 237, March 1994, 1–3).

The second ‘killing field’ in Cambodia

Health Ministry officials in Cambodia claim that 200 people in that nation have been diagnosed with AIDS. The real figure is closer to 1,000 to 2,000, according to estimates of the World Health Organization. “I think this is the second killing field in Cambodia, but it [may take] another ten years,” said Dr. Kruy Sunlay, director of the Phnom Penh Pasteur Institute.

United Nations forces serving in Cambodia have also been diagnosed with the disease. One hundred and fifty men serving with the U.N. Transnational Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) “will probably die of AIDS,” according to U.N. authorities. Although 47 U.N. military and civilian personnel have been diagnosed as HIV-positive, UNTAC’s chief medical officer, Dr. Peter Fraps, says, “The real number of cases could ultimately be three times that number” (World Press Review, Jan. 1994, 40).

Adieu to you and you and you!

Oh Quebec, whither thou goest? Joining the fraternal order of cities with disappearing populations, Quebec is fighting a demographic decline in which the fertility rate is expected to drop by 4,500 births.

The reduction in fertility is seen as linked to a drop in the number of women of child-bearing age resulting from a reduced birthrate between 1960 and 1970. Although the government has offered bonuses to parents who give birth to children, the effort is not expected to be sufficient to reverse the decline.

Difficulties in finding adequate housing contributes to the problem. “Young couples think twice before increasing the size of their family. For many men and women becoming parents today means being losers for several years, in housing, work, finances and recreation,” reports the Ottawa Citizen (Jean Martel, “Fertility: a jolt of reality,” Ottawa Citizen, 29 Nov. 1993).

British consider minimum control of biogenetics

A British debate on bioethics was cast against a background discussion of possible live births from ovarian tissue collected from cadavers or aborted human fetuses. The successful transfer of ovarian tissue from mouse fetuses into recipient mice was reported to have been accomplished 50 years ago and resulted in live offspring. In the case of humans, it is not known whether the early female eggs could develop into mature eggs or be capable of developing as a baby after fertilization.

While the Department of Health has established guidance for the use of fetuses and fetal tissue in the Polkinghorne report, the guidelines do not cover the use of ovarian tissue. That report recommends that the consent of the woman should be obtained for the use of tissue from an aborted fetus but also states that the consent should be separated from the decision on abortion. In other words, the woman should not be informed on how the tissue would be used.

Intergenerational consent was discussed in the case of parents who would decide if they wanted to donate the ovarian tissue of their dead daughter. The report warned, “A donor’s parent’s might consent in the hope that, although they have lost a daughter, they might gain access to a genetic grandchild.”

Since the father’s genetic tissue would be involved in use of fetal ovarian tissue, the document says an argument exists for seeking the consent of the father. The report also inquires about the psychological consequences for a child who is born from cadaveric or fetal tissue. “The particular implications of finding out that their genetic mother had died before they were conceived, or was an aborted fetus, are unknown,” states the document (“British public will rule on fertility advances,” British Medical Journal, vol. 308, 15 Jan. 1994).

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