Brave New World of Zero Risk
By Martin J Walker
In 1997, New Labour in UK brought to power a strange brew of liberalism, anti-socialism, public relations and corporate lobby groups. While Thatcher had encouraged the pharmaceutical industry, Blair made it a partner in government. The National Health Service, set up originally to provide health care to the British people regardless of income, has been sold off bit by bit, mainly to pharmaceutical interests.
The most serious consequence of letting corporate interests look after science, medicine and health is that the independence of science and any possible independence of health care have been obliterated. Corporate lobby groups, in bed with Big Pharma, insurance companies and New Labour, now press for the least expensive and the most profitable solutions to health care. They attack alternative medicine, and campaign for animal testing and vivisection. They have politicised science and now control both its methodology and the results of its research. Using spin, lies and propaganda they harass and isolate anyone who comes to conclusions critical of new technology or pharmascience. They preach zero risk and claim that new technologies can cause no harm.
My book 'Brave New World of Zero Risk' (PDF download) examines the contemporary corporate politics of science in two areas, that of MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) vaccination and the illness ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis). It shows how those who have fought for independent science have been bullied, attacked and discredited, using political strategies that have nothing to do with science and everything to do with power and profit.
The structure of corporate science, which researches the adverse effects not just of cigarettes and chemicals but of mobile phone masts and pharmaceuticals, is completely controlled by the companies who produce these products. Dirty tricks, spin and corporate censorship have become the predominant norm.
No quick fix is going to change this situation. To get politics out of science will entail weeding the corporations out of government and returning politics to the service of the public, while introducing a public debate within local and national democratic structures.
The politicisation of science is also in large part the responsibility of scientists themselves, many of whom have perceived industry and corporations to be the saviours of science. Scientists need to find a new and separate autonomy; they have to design anew their own institutions, which must not be funded and peopled by corporate interests or dominated by manipulative government apparatchiks.