Thursday, May 21, 2009
We all start out as babies. Babies are future humans – the hatchlings we feed, nurture, educate, and eventually kick out of the nest to fend for themselves. They are completely dependent upon us. Babies all come out looking rather like Winston Churchill, but turn into little images of genetic memory. “She has her father’s nose” or “He has his mother’s eyes” are the kinds of comments made while staring into the face of the future, and trying to identify whom he or she most looks like. It’s hard to imagine wanting to hurt babies, or cynically wanting to profit from their existence, but sadly, there are those who do, who have.
In 1974, a group called War on Want published a treatise called, “The Baby Killer.” It was a report on the use of infant formulas and infant malnutrition in Third World countries. That same year, a Swiss group published the same report, calling it, “Nestle Kills Babies.” Nestle filed a libel suit against the group. In 1976, the group was found guilty of libel. They were fined a nominal 300 Swiss francs, and the judge warned Nestle about its marketing practices.
What infant formula companies were doing was giving their products to nursing mothers in hospitals, and touting their superiority over breast milk. The mothers used the free samples, their milk dried up, and they left the hospital, having to buy infant formula, and mix it with water that was often contaminated. They would stretch the formula, trying to save money, resulting in poor nutrition. Nestle wasn’t the only company that was doing it – but it was (and still is) the largest.
In 1977 a group called INFACT (Infant Formula Action Coalition) launched the Nestle boycott, in Minnesota. In 1978, hearings were held in the US concerning the marketing of baby formula. A year later, UNICEF and the WHO held an international meeting, and called for an international code of marketing for such products. A code was developed ad adopted by 1981. In 1984 Nestle agreed to implement the code, after meeting with boycott organizers. The boycott was suspended. It was re-launched in 1989, after the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) claimed that health care facilities in the developing world were awash in free samples from infant food companies. Nothing had changed. Again, Nestle wasn’t the only company profiting on the misery and poverty of the third world, but they were the largest.
Time and time again, Nestle has refused to change their behavior. They have been found guilty of the same actions, over and over. And so, the boycott continues. It has spread across the globe. Nestle is currently under fire for their aggressive marketing techniques in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Nestlé’s lack of moral compass extends to their dealings with the small US towns they divide and conquer whilst buying up the water supply. The same scenarios have played out in small towns across the country. The residents of Fryeburg voted against Nestle building the pumping and trucking station. Nestle sued the town 5 times. They just weren’t willing to take no for an answer. Nestle told the Maine State Supreme Court that the town was interfering with Nestlé’s RIGHT to grow their market share. It seems they feel they are entitled to the water.
In McCloud,CA, Nestle negotiated a secret deal (no public input) that would have granted them control of the water for 100 years, for next to nothing. Nestle got involved in local elections – and funded the pro-Nestle candidates. The private financial records of Nestle opponents were subpoenaed – in an attempt to intimidate.
Sound familiar? It’s pretty much the same thing that they did in Fryeburg. Threats were made about IRS audits and investigations into the finances of opponents. Meanwhile, the Maine legislators turn a blind eye. Governor Baldacci was Nestle/Poland Spring’s lawyer at one time. Senators Collins and Snowe don’t seem to answer the calls they get from constituents opposing Nestle.
Divide and conquer. It’s easy to play in small towns that are in desperate need of jobs and revenue. It’s easy to bring out the pettiness that lurks below the surface of our (barely) civilized veneers. In Fryeburg the backlash against those who oppose Nestle continues. The award for most petty and venal goes to those who are trying hard to get the Fryeburg librarian fired. Emily Fletcher opposed Nestle. She didn’t back down, or shut up, and now a small group of pitchfork wielding yokels are trying to suggest that Mrs. Fletcher is somehow lining her own pockets through the tiny Fryeburg Library budget. These are people would besmirch a neighbor on behalf of a corporation who has made a fortune profiteering in the Third World. They would betray a neighbor for a few Judas jobs
Nestle doesn’t seem to understand yet is that global communication is making it easier for communities to fight them. Global communication makes it easier to keep an eye on them, and to tell the truth about them.
The whole world is watching.
“When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.” Benjamin Franklin, in “Poor Richard’s Almanac.”
Resources: www.ibfan.org and stopnestlewaters.org
© S. Bruce 2009
June 8 Update:
One of the pitchfork wielding yokels who was calling for Emily Fletcher's blood (while said yokel's blood had approximately a .15 alcohol level) is apparently on Poland Spring's payroll.
Posted by susanthe at 10:33 PM