It is time once again for that touching annual ritual, in which the world’s most powerful people move themselves to tears. At Heiligendamm they will emote with the wretched of the earth. They will beat their breasts and say many worthy and necessary things – about climate change,
The leaders of the G8 nations present themselves as a force for unmitigated good. Sometimes they fail, but they seek only to make the world a kinder place. Bob Geldof and Bono give oxygen to this deception, speaking of the good works the leaders might perform, or of the good works they have failed to perform; but not mentioning the active harm. They refuse to acknowledge that what the rich nations give with one finger they take with both hands.
Look at what is happening, right now, in the
These are the deaths caused only by acute results of feeding children with substitutes for breastmilk. A summary of peer-reviewed studies compiled by the campaigning groups Infact and Ibfan suggests that breastfeeding also reduces the incidence of asthma, allergies, childhood cancers, diabetes, coeliac disease, Crohn’s, colitis, obesity, cardiovascular disease, poor cognitive development, ear infections and poor dentition(4). Switching from bottle to breast could prevent 13% of all childhood deaths(5): a greater impact than any other measure. Panaceas are rare in medicine, but the mammary gland is one.
Both the government of the
Since Ferdinand Marcos was deposed in 1986, the government of the
In February this year, the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), which represents multinational companies, ran a series of advertisements expressing concern for women unable to breastfeed their children. The campaign was described by the UN’s special rapporteur, Jean Ziegler, as “misleading, deceptive, and malicious in intent”. He claimed the adverts “manipulate data emanating from UN specialized agencies such as WHO and UNICEF … with the sole purpose to protect the milk companies’ huge profits, regardless of the best interest of Filipino mothers and children.”(12)
Last year, in the hope of arresting this public health disaster, the Philippines Department of Health drew up a new set of rules. It prohibited all advertising and promotion of infant formula for children of up to two years old. It forbade the formula companies from giving away gifts or samples or from providing assistance to health workers or classes to mothers(13). The new rules seem stiff, but they all come straight from the WHO’s code. PHAP, whose members include most of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies(14), went to the supreme court to try to obtain a restraining order. When it failed the big guns arrived.
So the Department of Health asked a senior government lawyer, Nestor Ballocillo, to contest the order. In December Ballocillo and his son were shot dead while walking from their home. The case remains unsolved: Ballocillo was working on several contentious issues. Last month the
The pressure to which the
The G8 demands action on climate change; the World Bank, controlled by the G8 nations, funds coal burning power stations and deforestation projects. The G8 requests better terms of trade for Africa; Europe and the
The question is no longer whether the undemocratic power the G8 nations exert over the rest of the world can be used for good or ill. The question is whether it will cease to be used.
George Monbiot is the author of the best selling books The Age of Consent: a manifesto for a new world order and Captive State: the corporate takeover of Britain. He writes a weekly column for the Guardian newspaper.
1. Baby Milk Action, 9th November 2006. International campaign aims to save
2. Connie Levett, 3rd February 2007. Formula for profit seen as recipe for disaster. Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/
3. Jean Marc OlivÃ¨, WHO country representative, cited by the Philippines Sunday Times, 5th November 2006.
5. Gareth Jones et al, 5th July 2003. How many child deaths can we prevent this year? The Lancet, Vol 362, pp 65-71.
6. AC Nielsen, cited by Maricel E Estevillo, 14th July 2006. Business
7. Connie Levett, ibid.
8. The current rules are contained in Executive Order 51, passed in 1986.
9. Alessandro Iellamo, WHO
10. Alessandro Iellamo, May 2007. Philippine Struggle for Child Survival: Call for International Solidarity.
11. World Health Organisation, 1981. The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/code_english.pdf
12. UNHCR, 26th February 2007. Un Special Rapporteur Appalled
with the Deceptive Tactics of Milk Companies in the
13. Department of Health, 15th May 2006. Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of Executive Order no 51. Administrative Order 2006 – 0012.
14. The members are listed here: http://www.phap.org.ph/directory.aspx
15. Thomas J Donohue, 11th August 2006. Letter to Gloria Arroyo.
16. Manila Standard Today, 9th May 2007. Report of visit of Barbara Weisel to Philippines Department of Trade and Industry.