[Ip-health] New York Times: U.S. Opposition to Breast-Feeding Resolution Stuns World Health Officials

James Love james.love at keionline.org
Sun Jul 8 15:51:50 PDT 2018

What is disappointing is how meager and uninformed much of the US reporting
is regarding US policies pressuring other countries on drug prices,
patents, etc, over decades, including both political parties, and before
Trump, both Obama and Hillary.


On Sun, Jul 8, 2018 at 1:02 PM, Michael H Davis <m.davis at csuohio.edu> wrote:

> Ha! I just posted that on another blog saying we don't want them fleeing
> here because of violence and then we threaten to remove aid for violence
> control if they breast feed their kids!
> For me there is a meta story here. The Times posted this with the notion
> that it is shocking and I suspect surprising. Otherwise it shouldn't be
> "news." But those of us who work in the IP area know this is absolutely
> normal. We are not only the world's scold, to put it mildly, but we are
> also the evil stepmother. Quite a combination, but undeniably a hallmark of
> colonialism whether classical or neo.
> _________________________________________
> Prof. Mickey Davis
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> -------- Original message --------
> From: Thiru Balasubramaniam <thiru at keionline.org>
> Date: 7/8/18 12:39 PM (GMT-05:00)
> To: "ip-health at lists.keionline.org" <Ip-health at lists.keionline.org>
> Subject: [Ip-health] New York Times: U.S. Opposition to Breast-Feeding
> Resolution Stuns World Health Officials
> https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/08/health/world-health-
> breastfeeding-ecuador-trump.html
> U.S. Opposition to Breast-Feeding Resolution Stuns World Health Officials
> By Andrew Jacobs
> July 8, 2018
> 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.
> American officials sought to water down the resolution by removing language
> that called on governments to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding”
> and another passage that called on policymakers to restrict the promotion
> of food products that many experts say can have deleterious effects on
> young children.
> When that failed, they turned to threats, according to diplomats and
> government officials who took part in the discussions. Ecuador, which had
> planned to introduce the measure, was the first to find itself in the cross
> hairs.
> The Americans were blunt: If Ecuador refused to drop the resolution,
> Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial
> military aid. The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced.
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> newsletter.]
> The showdown over the issue was recounted by more than a dozen participants
> from several countries, many of whom requested anonymity because they
> feared retaliation from the United States.
> Health advocates scrambled to find another sponsor for the resolution, but
> at least a dozen countries, most of them poor nations in Africa and Latin
> America, backed off, citing fears of retaliation, according to officials
> from Uruguay, Mexico and the United States.
> “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.
> In the end, the Americans’ efforts were mostly unsuccessful. It was the
> Russians who ultimately stepped in to introduce the measure — and the
> Americans did not threaten them.
> Image
> The United States ambassador to Ecuador, Todd C. Chapman, left, in Quito’s
> historical center with a guide, center, and the undersecretary of state for
> political affairs, Thomas A. Shannon.CreditJose Jacome/EPA, via
> Shutterstock
> The State Department declined to respond to questions, saying it could not
> discuss private diplomatic conversations. The Department of Health and
> Human Services, the lead agency in the effort to modify the resolution,
> explained the decision to contest the resolution’s wording but said H.H.S.
> was not involved in threatening Ecuador.
> “The resolution as originally drafted placed unnecessary hurdles for
> mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children,” an H.H.S.
> spokesman said in an email. “We recognize not all women are able to
> breast-feed for a variety of reasons. These women should have the choice
> and access to alternatives for the health of their babies, and not be
> stigmatized for the ways in which they are able to do so.” The spokesman
> asked to remain anonymous in order to speak more freely.
> Although lobbyists from the baby food industry attended the meetings in
> Geneva, health advocates said they saw no direct evidence that they played
> a role in Washington’s strong-arm tactics. The $70 billion industry, which
> is dominated by a handful of American and European companies, has seen
> sales flatten in wealthy countries in recent years, as more women embrace
> breast-feeding. Overall, global sales are expected to rise by 4 percent in
> 2018, according to Euromonitor, with most of that growth occurring in
> developing nations.
> 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.
> In talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, the
> Americans have been pushing for language that would limit the ability of
> Canada, Mexico and the United States to put warning labels on junk food and
> sugary beverages, according to a draft of the proposal reviewed by The New
> York Times.
> 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. effortaimed
> 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.
> The delegation’s actions in Geneva are in keeping with the tactics of an
> administration that has been upending alliances and long-established
> practices across a range of multilateral organizations, from the Paris
> climate accord to the Iran nuclear deal to Nafta.
> Ilona Kickbusch, director of the Global Health Centre at the Graduate
> Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, said there
> was a growing fear that the Trump administration could cause lasting damage
> to international health institutions like the W.H.O. that have been vital
> in containing epidemics like Ebola and the rising death toll from diabetes
> and cardiovascular disease in the developing world.
> “It’s making everyone very nervous, because if you can’t agree on health
> multilateralism, what kind of multilateralism can you agree on?” Ms.
> Kickbusch asked.
> A Russian delegate said the decision to introduce the breast-feeding
> resolution was a matter of principle.
> “We’re not trying to be a hero here, but we feel that it is wrong when a
> big country tries to push around some very small countries, especially on
> an issue that is really important for the rest of the world,” said the
> delegate, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to
> speak to the media.
> He 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.”
> The United States also insisted that the words “evidence-based” accompany
> references to long-established initiatives that promote breast-feeding,
> which critics described as a ploy that could be used to undermine programs
> that provide parents with feeding advice and support.
> Elisabeth Sterken, director of the Infant Feeding Action Coalition in
> Canada, said four decades of research have established the importance of
> breast milk, which provides essential nutrients as well as hormones and
> antibodies that protect newborns against infectious disease.
> A 2016 Lancet study found that universal breast-feeding would prevent
> 800,000 child deaths a year across the globe and yield $300 billion in
> savings from reduced health care costs and improved economic outcomes for
> those reared on breast milk.
> Scientists are loath to carry out double-blind studies that would provide
> one group with breast milk and another with breast milk substitutes. “This
> kind of ‘evidence-based’ research would be ethically and morally
> unacceptable,” Ms. Sterken said.
> Abbott Laboratories, the Chicago-based company that is one of the biggest
> players in the $70 billion baby food market, declined to comment.
> Nestlé, the Switzerland-based food giant with significant operations in the
> United States, sought to distance itself from the threats against Ecuador
> and said the company would continue to support the international code on
> the marketing of breast milk substitutes, which calls on governments to
> regulate the inappropriate promotion of such products and to encourage
> breast-feeding.
> In addition to the trade threats, Todd C. Chapman, the United States
> ambassador to Ecuador, suggested in meetings with officials in Quito, the
> Ecuadorean capital, that the Trump administration might also retaliate by
> withdrawing the military assistance it has been providing in northern
> Ecuador, a region wracked by violence spilling across the border from
> Colombia, according to an Ecuadorean government official who took part in
> the meeting.
> The United States embassy in Quito declined to make Mr. Chapman available
> for an interview.
> “We were shocked because we didn’t understand how such a small matter like
> breast-feeding could provoke such a dramatic response,” said the Ecuadorean
> official, who asked not to be identified because she was afraid of losing
> her job.
> --
> Thiru Balasubramaniam
> Geneva Representative
> Knowledge Ecology International
> 41 22 791 6727
> thiru at keionline.org
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James Love.  Knowledge Ecology International
KEI DC tel: +1.202.332.2670, US Mobile: +1.202.361.3040, Geneva Mobile:
+41.76.413.6584, twitter.com/jamie_love

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