Trump Administration Bullied Countries To Make Them Reject The Science On Breastfeeding

Blanche Robertson
July 10, 2018

Officials at the assembly this spring were shocked by the Trump administration's reaction to the resolution and support for infant formula manufacturers, but perhaps they shouldn't have been.

When the Trump administration failed to convince member states to water down the language about breastfeeding and formulas, it resorted to threats, according to The New York Times.

The measure was expected to be introduced by Ecuador.

American officials told Ecuador - which was planning to adopt the measure - that if it didn't drop it, Washington would rope it into the trade war and cut back on military aid.

An Ecuadorian official said that his government did not anticipate the harshness of America's response. Other nations didn't want to take it up afterwards, fearing "retaliation".

Somehow things escalated from there into the US threatening Ecuador--the nation that was introducing the resolution--with "punishing trade measures".

"We were astonished, appalled, and also saddened", Patti Rundall, the policy director of the British advocacy group Baby Milk Action, told the Times.

Hundreds of government delegates had gathered at the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly in Geneva in May. The Department of Health and Human Services, however, defended its decision to reword the resolution.

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"We recognize not all women are able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons".

The State Department declined to respond to questions, saying it could not discuss private diplomatic conversations. The WHO has long said that breastfeeding is the optimal feeding method for infants and recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child's life and continued feeding with introduction of other foods up to two years of age. The US said last month that it was leaving the UN Human Rights Council, citing anti-Israel bias, and President Donald Trump has made critiquing the status quo of major worldwide compacts a hallmark of his approach, from trade agreements to military and security partnerships. "At what point do they start laughing at us as a country?"

Russian Federation sponsored a compromised version of it after two days of negotiation.

In the end, the United States was largely unsuccessful.

The resolution ultimately passed in a compromised form, removing language that called on the World Health Organization to support countries trying to stop "inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children".

A 2016 Lancet study found that universal breastfeeding would prevent 800,000 child deaths a year across the globe and yield US$300 billion in savings from reduced health care costs and improved economic outcomes for those reared on breast milk. "This kind of "evidence-based" research would be ethically and morally unacceptable", Sterken said.

The move reflected the United States government's championing of the $US70 billion ($94 billion) baby formula industry - mainly based in the USA and Europe.

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