Health, Government - US Stuns World, Opposes Breast Feeding
The US didn't just try to kill a simple World Health Assembly resolution on the benefits of breast feeding on behalf of big corporations that make baby formula, it also threatened smaller countries with economic sanctions for supporting it.
This stunner from a report in The New York Times occurred at the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly in Geneva earlier this year. More than a dozen sources corroborated the account, but didn't want to go on the record in order to avoid retaliation from Washington.
The resolution was simple enough: It said that mother's milk is healthiest for children and countries should strive to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes. This is not a baseless claim, it's backed up with decades of solid research. Delegates expected to pass it and move on, but the US delegation had other ideas.
The Americans tried to take out the part calling on governments to "protect, promote, and support breast-feeding". They also demanded to remove another passage that called on policymakers to restrict the promotion of food products that many experts say can have deleterious effects on young children.
With no support, the US quickly turned bully and threatened economic sanctions against Ecuador if it did not withdraw the resolution. Faced with the loss of military aid and trade restrictions, tiny Ecuador bent over. Healthcare groups tried to find another sponsor, no one wanted to cross the US until Russia reluctantly stepped up to introduce the Mother's Milk resolution. But strangely, the delegation from the Trump administration didn't want to defy Russia.
"What happened was tantamount to blackmail, with the US holding the world hostage and trying to overturn nearly 40 years of consensus on the best way to protect infant and young child health," said Patti Rundall, the policy director of the British advocacy group Baby Milk Action.
The US didn't get its way on Mother's Milk, and it was thwarted in its effort to kill a World Health Organization effort to help poor countries obtain access to lifesaving medicines.
But the Trump delegation did finally find a way to hurt children for the sake of profit. It was allowed to remove support for higher taxes on sugary soft drinks from a document intended to advise governments on how to combat obesity.