Breastfeeding and the Boycott

The Lone Cheerio post, which started as pure whimsy, is now nursing a discussion on the relative merits of the ongoing boycott against Nestle for their (alleged) practices of pushing formula over breast milk in the third world. The pro-boycott position says that Nestle’s corporate greed hurts — and possibly kills — mothers and babies, and that we should vote with our wallets until it stops. The anti-boycott position says that formula is probably healthier than breast milk if the mother has low immunity, that the World Health Organization is probably warped by uneven political pressures, and that the boycott is an example of political correctness run amok.

Personally, I think that Nestle, like all corporate giants, will get away with whatever it can if unchecked. If the allegations are true, its practices are foul, and definitely boycott-worthy (well-organized boycotts do work). On the other hand, I know that we can’t lift a finger in this world without some of our actions supporting bad karma on one front or another. That organic onion in your stir fry tonight? Maybe picked by an underpaid, exploited immigrant farm worker. Breast feeding is too important to play games with. Even if formula has some advantages (Amy and I use it as an occasional substitute), it’s not worth the risk to the child’s health or later intelligence (breastfeeding.com references seven separate studies showing a correlation between IQ and breastfeeding — in the range of 3-8 IQ points difference between breast- and formula-fed children).

If you have strong feelings about this, do the research — find out whether the allegations are true or whether Nestle’s practices have changed in the 20 years the boycott has been running, and think carefully about the counter-arguments — will not buying Cheerios really make a difference to the parent company? Are there health benefits to formula (in the 3rd world) that in part offset its downsides? Is Nestle’s behavior pure greed, or something else?

Amy and I are still trying to figure out what to do.

Music: The Linkers :: Bongo Man

2 Replies to “Breastfeeding and the Boycott”

  1. Scot,

    Talking of consequences…I couldn’t imagine that my comment on your Cheerio post would snowball like this!

    Thank you for your considered and rational thoughts about it all.

  2. just wanted to point out that i don’t represent the side that you mention in P1 of this post (which you present at its extremes). i only offered those sentiments to counter what i saw as a lopsided debate.

    i’m way too agnostic too take a side with any conviction on this (except the part about the *formula* being the actual problem, as opposed to circumstances of its use/misuse. and i stillthink you come down way too heavy on the side of *necessitating* the ideal)

    what you say about karma is interesting though. too much agnosticism leads to inaction. while i see this course as appropriate, i’m also trying to remember that it’s *my* path, and that the paths of those who DO take action is just as necessary (and the paths of those who take action that i see as harmful is as necessary as that of people whose actions i revere, which many will have trouble with). kinda throws a wrench in the whole categorical imperative thingy, but i never was a fan of kant…

    b

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