Look at who the Niti Aayog is consulting

October 26, 2017, 6:31 PM IST in Staying Alive | India | Times of India
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed below are the author’s own.

International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) is globally known for being a front organisation for food companies, soft drink companies and agrochemical manufacturers. There have been several reports on how ILSI has funded studies to oppose or dilute public health measures involving regulation of the food industry to tackle obesity. ILSI’s dubious role in influencing policy both at the level of national governments and at the global level is nothing new.

WHO report as far back as 2000 had identified ILSI as an example of industry’s involvement and funding of “seemingly unbiased scientific groups” to manipulate political and scientific debate on health and tobacco control. In 2003, yet another report of an independent consultant of WHO on how the food industry had infiltrated the organisation pointed out: “One industry-led organisation, International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), has positioned its experts and expertise across the whole spectrum of food and tobacco policies: at conferences, on FAO/WHO food policy committees and within WHO, and with monographs, journals and technical briefs.”

Despite such publicly available details on the nature of ILSI, which claims to be an independent scientific body, it is being involved in evolving a policy on nutrition in India. One would have thought the government would do a background check on those it involved to safeguard against vested interests hijacking public policy.

At the first meeting of the Working Group on Nutrition constituted by the Niti Aayog, on October 16, participants were asked to introduce themselves and declare if they had any conflicts of interest (verbally, not in writing, which is a departure from the global norm). Interestingly, barring the founder of Healthkart, which sells nutritional supplements, the rest claimed they had no conflict of interest. Those making this claim included ILSI executive director Rekha Sinha and Dr B Sesikeran, former director of the National Institute of Nutrition, who is currently on ILSI’s board of trustees and is a member of the Nestle Nutrition Advisory Council.

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