Infant formula! What is the conscientious citizen to do about it? More to the point, what is the United States of America going to do about it? Yes, here is the state to which our world-savers have brought us. Now a nation of almost 227 million souls with a budget of nearly $569 billion and all the interests that go with it must also adopt a position on the marketing and use of baby formula that ensures the "protection and promotion of breat-feeding" -- the "unique biological and emotional basis for the health of both mother and child." Let those Americans anxious over the clandestine powers of the worldwide conspiratorial doings of the CIA or the international bankers weigh this sudden development.
Last week the worldwide advocates of breast-feeding rose up and got the August World Health Organization to adopt a voluntary code that would ban the promotion of infant formula, a modern convenience inimical to serious breast-feeders all over the world. Moreover, the United States received a black eye in the process, for our government was on of a very few members of WHO to defy the breat-feeders. "There is no doubt," lamented John Tendrotti, secretary of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, that our dissenting vote "will isolate the United States in the international health community." Alas, there we will be, all alone, while the Soviet Union, Burundi, Bolivia and Vietnam forge ever ahead on the frontiers of world health. And to think that the community of nations had once held such shining hopes for us.
What has put infant formula into such low repute with the experts at WHO? Any student of this issue will remember that United Nations Protein Advisory Group Statement Number 23 made in 1972 and revised in 1973 strongly urged the use of infant formual as a supplement to breat-feeding in the Third World. Well, the problem is that some Third World mothers who use it occasionally mix it improperly, either out of ignorance or because such ingredients as clean water are not available. The infants occasionally get sick; some die. According to opponents of infant forumal. Third World mothers often use infant formual because its producers advertise so effectively. That is to say, the producers can effectively educate women to buy this stuff but not use it properly.
Several of the major producers of infant formula are American companies, and in the measured words of Dr. Stephen C. Joseph, an opponent of infant formula who quit our government in protest last Wednesday, these companies are turning "baby bottles into lethal weapons." Does this mean we can anticipate a drive from the world-savers for the registration of baby bottles? Those of us with a taste for satire have learned in recent years that what sounds like folly today may become a burning cause tomorrow and public policy thereafter.
The United States voted against this infant formula code last week because of concern over WHO's "involvement in commercial codes." Those are the words of Gerald B. Helman, the U.S. representative. After all, it is a very big world out there, complicated by a myriad of conditions -- political, economic, developmental and physical. According to Helman, the United States objects to a "rigid set of rules applicable to companies, health workers and health care systems in all parts of the world." Moreover, the passage of laws complying with WHO's code would conflict with domestic anti-trust laws. The United States of America stands foursquare for breast-feeding, Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams assures us, but he asks, "how can we vote for a code we have no intention of implementing and cannot recommend to others?"
Our government, of course, is absolutely correct, and to see it take a stand against the hot air dispensers of the United Nations and such specialized U.N. agencies as the World Health Organization is very refreshing. This preposterous code is but one more example of the world-savers' yen to reach deeper and deeper into the lives of free people in lieu of carrying out their original goal of promoting peace and freedom around the globe. We live in a world where people are evermore frequently being butchered by terrorists like the IRA, the PLO and other such international hooligans, and what do the world-savers get up on their hind legs about? Infant formula.
Undoubtedly, there are places on this earth where infant formula is a health menace. On the other hand, there are places where it is a blessing -- for instance, where starvation and other natural disasters have made breast-feeding impossible. Every nation on this earth is free to ban infant formula as it see fit. There is no reason for United Nations organizations to insinuate themselves into this realm. Let the U.N. content itself with bringing peace to the Middle East and other troubled areas.