The World Health Organization got a big shock when the U.S. delegation reportedly tried to tank a fairly standard resolution to promote breastfeeding,
According to the New York Times, the U.S. delegation wanted to water down the resolution in a bid to protect the interests of infant formula manufacturers on a global scale. When that largely failed, the U.S. turned to threats—demanding that Ecuador’s delegation refrain from introducing the bill as planned or be targeted with trade measures and cuts to military aid, the Times reports. Ecuador backed down, and at least a dozen countries avoided the resolution out of fear of retaliation by the United States.
Russia eventually introduced the resolution. However, according to the Times, the U.S. did successfully strike some language that would have provided technical support for nations seeking to stop “inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children.”
A spokesman from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told the Times that the original resolution “placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children.” That may be, but the $70 billion infant formula industry, much of which is based in the United States, has seen stagnating sales lately, primarily in wealthy countries where more women are embracing breastfeeding. This is thanks in part to companies making it easier for women to do so.
Per the Times, the countries that still have rising formula sales are in the developing world, where the WHO’s work is most vital.