While Donald Trump is set to take to the skies over London in the form of an angry baby blimp, his administration has caused multilateral alarm by threatening to launch yet another trade war in Geneva, over breast milk. A WHO meet which was expected to pass smoothly a resolution to support breast-feeding, turned nasty when the US attempted to block it. Tiny Ecuador, which had moved it, was threatened by trade measures and the withdrawal of military aid, and it was left to Russia to step into the breach to hold off the bully. US officials also threatened to cut WHO funding.
Breast milk is better than formula and reduces infant mortality and morbidity. For decades, there has been an international consensus about this, and the need to curb tall claims in formula advertising. So when US representatives launched their surprise attack, the world could only read it as open support for the $70 billion formula industry, whose sales have been tapering off. With more first world mothers opting for Mother Nature’s way, most of the industry’s modest growth comes from developing countries.
The assault on the baby, the bathwater and everything else was so savage that the US Department of Health and Human Services, which had sought to edit down the resolution, clarified that it did not use threats. They clarified anonymously, since no one could possibly take responsibility for the enormity. Of course, it is in line with the general attitude of the US, which has earlier opposed taxes on sugared drinks and attacked changes in licensing law proposed to deliver life-saving medicines in poor countries. But this time, it has surpassed itself. The violence of its attack in Geneva has turned the Russians, who are no less aggressive, into the saviours of the world.