For those who relegate the issue of corporate control to the sidelines of public debate, a new article published in the international, peer-reviewed British Medical Journal last month issued a surprising invitation to think again.
Professor Gerard Hastings at the University of Stirling points out the devastating impact on public health of the deceptive and virtually unregulated marketing campaigns of multinational corporations, connecting the dots between corporate takeover of the public mic and public health crises such as cancer, obesity and heart disease.
As study authors note, "Marketing by multinational corporations presents a major threat to public health." And there's a lot more to this issue than bad ads. "We have to lift our eyes above the quotidian: to remember that public health is not just about pump handles but also water resources," says Hastings, pointing to the vast and complex ways in which corporate power has undermined democracy in general and public health in particular.
The various methods of gaming the regulatory system commonly employed by industry — direct and indirect lobbying, the infamous "revolving door", and corporate "science", to name a few — are part of what we at PAN call undue influence and that Hastings calls "the mess made by the big boys."
Marketing by multinational corporations presents a major threat to public health
Hastings "urges the public health movement to act" and clean up this mess, offering hopeful examples such as the successful regulation of the tobacco industry after broad-based public participation in the issue. PAN members might recall the recent example of methyl iodide as a public health movement victory over the largest privately held pesticide corporation in the world, won in no small part by naming the inappropriate influence exercised by the pesticide industry behind closed doors. GE food, you're next.