A resolution to encourage breastfeeding was expected to be approved quickly and easily by the hundreds of government delegates who gathered this (northern) spring in Geneva for the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly.
Based on decades of medical research, the resolution says that mother’s milk is healthiest for children and countries should strive to limit spreading false information or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes.
Then the US delegation, embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers, upended the deliberations.
American officials sought to rubbish the resolution by jettisoning clauses that called on governments to “protect, promote and support breastfeeding” and another passage that called on policymakers to restrict the promotion of food products that many experts say can have injurious effects on young children.
When that failed, they resorted 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.
The showdown over the issue was recounted by more than a dozen participants from several countries, many of whom requested anonymity because they feared US could retaliate.
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.
The New York Times