Will the Food Systems Summit protect human rights and breastfeeding – part of the first food system?


With every day yet more news of climate and food crises, loss of biodiversity, mass extinction of species, rising social inequalities, conflicts and hunger,  governments and the UN should surely by now be listening to and working with Civil society and Indigenous Peoples’ organizations to bring about real sustainable changes in food systems that put the health of the planet and the rights of human beings centre stage.  Instead, the UN Food Systems Summit (FSS),  Nutrition for Growth, the Voluntary Guidelines of Food Systems and Nutrition (VSFSyN) is taking us all in the opposite direction –  legitimizing a  technologically-driven,  crisis-ridden food system. Instead of being held to account for the harm they have knowingly caused over decades, the handful of global corporations and private philanthropies that have driven deforestation, land-grabbing, mono-cropping and export-oriented trade of ultra-processed foods, are being heralded as essential ‘partners’ in solving the world’s problems and the shaping of public policy setting at every level.

The Memorandum of Understanding signed by the UN Secretary General and the World Economic Forum (WEF) in January 2020, made things worse by granting transnational corporations preferential and deferential access to the UN System at the expense of states and public interest actors. For many years IBFAN has been raising concerns about multi-stakeholderism, especially the way it has been promoted by the Scaling up Initiative (SUN)and Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and other industry inspired initiatives.  SUN-GAIN-2014 SUN IBFAN 28.11.12   When the SUN Casts a Shadow.

IBFAN is urging policymakers to see through the clever packaging of the Summit, and call for a fundamental change in the direction of travel before the New York Summit in September.  IBFAN will meanwhile be joining the global counter-mobilization organised by the Civil society and Indigenous Peoples’ organizations, running parallel to the Pre-Summit from 25 to 28 July in Rome. We urge all who have a voice to speak out now – there is no time to waste on meaningless and deceptive words.

What the Summit could mean for breastfeeding child health

Breastfeeding and the marketing of foods for infants and young children is addressed in several of the FSS initiatives:

The Nutrition for Growth (N4G) global pledging initiative, massages the image of the food industry and allows commercial infiltration of policy setting and implementation spaces.
N4G is another industry inspired initiative that claims to have humanitarian motives while promoting increased involvement and influence of food and agri-business in national health policy setting. Its supporters claim it has accountability measures, however these are weak and industry-influenced. Although N4G mentions breastfeeding and the Code, beware, the devil is in the detail – so often overlooked. Click here  and Here for more.

Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition (VSFSyN) that undermine Code implementation These Guidelines cover an impossibly large range of issues, and while they include some good recommendations, for example on breastfeeding and maternity protection, most have been neutered to preserve the status quo. Click here for a CSM analysis of the main issues. Most importantly for us, key wording in a paragraph about the need for governments to strengthen regulations on marketing was stripped out by the USA in the final stage of the negotiations, despite the support for stronger text by Norway, Canada, Russia and WHO. Click here for more details of how this happened.

Do the claims of strong conflicts of interest safeguards stand up?

The UN Deputy Secretary General  and others supporting the FSS approach, claim that measures to address corporate accountability and conflict of interest have already been taken. This is because corporations are not being invited as individual companies but via trade associations and ‘not for for profit’ business front groups (BINGOS – Business Interest NGOs) who promote industry interests whenever public policies are set.

Scientists Boycott the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit

Meanwhile, WHO and UNICEF is rightly urging Member States  to recognise and highlight the need for the protection of breastfeeding – the first food system – and to ensure full implementation of the International Code and Resolutions. During the 40th Anniversary of the Code Celebration – both agencies stressed the need for policy-setting and implementation processes to be kept free from commercial interest. Not easy – when the baby food industry insists on getting its feet under every table.  WHO and UNICEF have prepared briefings to guide Member States of the key issues to include in legislation.

Other News

Global Trade: help ensure an end to misleading promotion of risky, ultra-processed baby drinks. We are reaching the final stages of the revision of the Codex standard on Follow-on Formulas and drinks for babies 6-36 months.  Sales of these totally unnecessary, ultra processed products are booming.  If they are to be allowed on the market (better they are not) it Is essential that the Codex standard states that they are covered by the marketing restrictions of the Code and Resolution – which state that ALL formulas 0-36months should not be promoted in any way.

Baby Food industry refuses to follow the Code –  Call to Action is concluded
Following the failure of the Breastmilk Substitutes Call to Action (CTA) WHO has informed us that: the CTA process has concluded and there are no plans to revisit or extend it.   We hope WHO will publicly disassociate itself from this initiative as we asked in IBFAN’s  Counter Call in June 2020.  Our Counter Call was endorsed and supported by senior UN officials and over 11,000 people on a petition launched by La Leche League International).

In its response to the CTA, Nestle – the worlds leading producer of unhealthy ultra-processed products, and consistently responsible for the most violations and the under-mining of the International Code, arrogantly offered its ” technical expertise on request to any BMS company who would like to learn from our many years of experience in creating a robust, WHO Code-aligned policy and governance system”.

New IBFAN Monitoring reports from around the world free to download

Missed the 40th anniversary of the Code? watch the recording HERE  along with other IBFAN films and materials.

Joint statement of WHO DG Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore

WHO WHO moves ‘almost far enough‘ on sun-setting of the Code – 10,000 support IBFAN’s call148th
WHO Executive Board Meeting
(EB148) (18 – 26th January 2021)

74th World Health Assembly – stifling the voice of Civil Society

Alarm over WHO Foundation ‘Thank you’ to Nestle

World Breastfeeding Week 1-7 August,2021 has the theme, Protect Breastfeeding – a shared responsibility. WBW is organised by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) – IBFAN and partners will be holding events in many countries Here is a picture from the Breastival Festival in Northern Ireland. WBW is celebrated in October in Europe.

Journal of Human Lactation Interviews

Help ensure the term  ECOCIDE is added to the list of International Crimes against humanity. https://www.stopecocide.earth/

BBC Radio 4 The Great Food Reset? The Food Programme
Dan Saladino finds out why a UN summit to transform the global food system has become so controversial. It has generated 2500 ideas for change but also a boycott by protesters.

Here is why we are boycotting the UN Food Systems Summit

Al Jazeera  Social movements and scientists are staying out of the UN summit because it represents big agribusiness interests.

Mexican CS Position on FSS (EN)

LAC Postura de organizaciones de sociedad civil frente a la Cumbre sobre Sistemas Alimentarios_20072021

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