Today comes news about how the US has attempted to thwart moves to encourage breastfeeding of children around the world. The benefits of breastfeeding are so obvious and well established that pretty much everyone expected this to be a no-brainer that would pass easily. But they did not anticipate that the US does not behave like a civilized nation.
A resolution to encourage breast-feeding was expected to be approved quickly and easily by the hundreds of government delegates who gathered this spring in Geneva for the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly.
Based on decades of research, the resolution says that mother’s milk is healthiest for children and countries should strive to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes.
Then the United States delegation, embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers, upended the deliberations.
First the US tried to water down the resolution but when that failed, they resorted to outright threats of retaliation against any nation that sponsored the resolution. Those threats resulted in the original sponsor Ecuador withdrawing and at least another dozen countries, most of them developing nations in Africa and Latin America, also declined for fear of retaliation.
“We were astonished, appalled and also saddened,” said Patti Rundall, the policy director of the British advocacy group Baby Milk Action, who has attended meetings of the assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, since the late 1980s.
“What happened was tantamount to blackmail, with the U.S. holding the world hostage and trying to overturn nearly 40 years of consensus on best way to protect infant and young child health,” she said.
The intensity of the administration’s opposition to the breast-feeding resolution stunned public health officials and foreign diplomats, who described it as a marked contrast to the Obama administration, which largely supported W.H.O.’s longstanding policy of encouraging breast-feeding.
During the deliberations, some American delegates even suggested the United States might cut its contribution the W.H.O., several negotiators said. Washington is the single largest contributor to the health organization, providing $845 million, or roughly 15 percent of its budget, last year.
The confrontation was the latest example of the Trump administration siding with corporate interests on numerous public health and environmental issues.
Ultimately Russia sponsored the resolution and the US did not threaten it, because the US is a classic bully that only punches down.
[A Russian delegate] said the United States did not directly pressure Moscow to back away from the measure. Nevertheless, the American delegation sought to wear down the other participants through procedural maneuvers in a series of meetings that stretched on for two days, an unexpectedly long period.
In the end, the United States was largely unsuccessful. The final resolution preserved most of the original wording, though American negotiators did get language removed that called on the W.H.O. to provide technical support to member states seeking to halt “inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children.”
That was not the only jerk move the US made at the meeting.
During the same Geneva meeting where the breast-feeding resolution was debated, the United States succeeded in removing statements supporting soda taxes from a document that advises countries grappling with soaring rates of obesity.
The Americans also sought, unsuccessfully, to thwart a W.H.O. effort aimed at helping poor countries obtain access to lifesaving medicines. Washington, supporting the pharmaceutical industry, has long resisted calls to modify patent laws as a way of increasing drug availability in the developing world, but health advocates say the Trump administration has ratcheted up its opposition to such efforts.
So why does the US act this way? Because US policy is made by business lobbyists who put their profits first and the US government is only happy to oblige them.
I am not one who signs on to all boycotts of companies. But I have long tried to avoid any product made by Nestle, which I consider to be one of the most evil companies. This was because of their despicable marketing practices in Africa and Asia where they put on big advertising campaigns that encouraged poor women to use formula instead of breast milk, promoting it as a better and more sophisticated way of feeding children. But since infant formula is expensive, mothers ended up diluting it, leaving their infants malnourished. Furthermore, the lack of access to clean water to make the formula resulted in all manner of diseases being transmitted to children. The amount of misery and the number of deaths caused by Nestle’s greed is immeasurable. Nestle is a truly unethical company. It would not surprise me in the least of they were one of the prime forces behind that US’s opposition to this proposal.