Caving in to the corporations?

“Health” Secretary Andrew Lansley seems to be in process of abandoning every health initiative taken by the previous Labour government, often based on a pretty near consensus of health professionals and social commentators and vigorously opposed by the food industry. Under the ConDems the corporations have won by the look of it, providing more evidence that pro business and private sector policies is all too often anti people and society policies. Mr Lansley, junk food and idiocy.

PerhapsĀ a clue to why pro business is so often anti-people and society can be found in Pavan Sukhdev, head of the UN’s investigation into how to stop the destruction of the natural world, recent claim that modern businesses are “soulless corporations” that are in danger of becoming a “cancer” on society. He claims companies usually take a short-term view of the importance of the environment, and this short-term thinking is seen in their lobbying against new policies that could slow environmental devastation, he said.

This short-termism and unrelenting profit and growth orientation applies underpins a relentless and powerful resistance to all forms of regulation that create obstacles to ‘share holder value’. Things seem to have moved on very little since Friedman’s statement in the 1970s that in a “free-enterprise system” business’s only concern is with profit and has no responsibility for achieving desirable social ends (The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits).

Lansley has killed off traffic-light labelling, which exposes hidden salt, fat and sugar against the advice of the British Medical Association, the British Dietetic Association, the British Heart Foundation and dozens of other health and consumer groups. He has rejected a plan by National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence to prevent 40,000 deaths from heart disease, calling for a ban on trans fats, no TV junk-food advertising before 9pm and restrictions on takeaways close to schools. He plans to close the Food Standards Agency (although there is evidence this was already heavily influenced by the food industry and agribusiness).

His answer to all of this is that the food producers are in the best position to educate the public about healthy eating and diet. This is about as useful as saying casino financial interests are in the best positon to advise people on savingsĀ  and pension schemes.

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