August 28, 2009- INFACT Canada
ACTION ALERT - Nestlé Co-chairs food security conference at McGill University
McGill University in Montréal is hosting a conference on global food security this October. The co-chair of the conference is Marilyn Knox, President of Nestlé Nutrition Canada. The idea that Nestlé would co-chair a conference on how to make food sustainable and safe for the global community is ironic to say the least. The company’s aggressive promotion of infant formula, an unsafe, expensive, and unstable source of food for infants and young children has been undermining the food security provided by breastfeeding for decades. Add to this their production of extremely non-nutritive junk foods and their extensive efforts to privatize the world’s water supply, and it’s tough to see how any credible academic institution could take Nestlé’s supposed desire to contribute to food security seriously. Please write to Heather Munroe-Blum, principal of McGill and conference co-chair, and ask her to rescind this partnership with the corporation.
Write your own letter or copy INFACT’s below.
Send your email to:
Principal Heather Munroe-Blum: firstname.lastname@example.org
Diedre McCabe, Administrative Coordinator: email@example.com
Dear Principal Munroe-Blum,
As the directors of INFACT (Infant Feeding Action Coalition) Quebec and INFACT Canada, two non-governmental organizations that work to protect infant and young child health as well as maternal well-being through the promotion and support of breastfeeding and optimal infant feeding practices, we are writing to you with respect to the upcoming McGill Conference on Global Food Security being held from October 5-7.
We were very happy to see McGill supporting and involving itself with such an important issue as Global Food Security. What has shocked and disappointed us is to learn that you, as Principal of such an esteemed university, and with a background in the field of epidemiology, would co-chair this event with the President of Nestlé Nutrition Canada. We would like to have a better understanding of why this decision was made as Nestlé has an extensive record of engaging in irresponsible social and environmental practices:
· Unethical marketing of infant formulas and repeated, systematic violations of the UNICEF/WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk substitutes and subsequent resolutions;
· The use of forced child labour in their cocoa supply chain West Africa
· The marketing of unlabelled genetically modified foods;
· Controversial water pricing and the privatization of public water resources;
· Lobbying against vaccination of livestock during the British Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in 2001;
· Environmental destruction in Brazil;
· Intimidation of trade unionists in Colombia;
· Demanding millions in compensation from hunger-stricken Ethiopia;
Because of these actions Nestlé has gained a reputation around the world of putting profits before the wellbeing of the global community, and is the target of the world’s largest consumer boycott. To counter its well-deserved negative reputation, Nestlé makes public shows of support for social causes such as food security; despite the fact that any independent examination of their actions shows that the company actively undermines such causes. Consider the fact that Nestlé is the largest promoter of infant formula in the world, a product which is neither affordable nor safe in many communities and erodes the food security of infants and young children, the most vulnerable members of society.
The mission statement of your University states that
The mission of McGill University is the advancement of learning through teaching, scholarship, and service to society by offering to outstanding undergraduate and graduate students the best education available, by carrying out scholarly activities judged to be excellent when measured against the highest international standards, and by providing service to society in those ways for which we are well suited by virtue of our academic strengths.
Your affiliation with the President of Nestlé Nutrition Canada, as Co-Chair of a conference that addresses global food security, is inconsistent with both the mission and reputation of McGill. Any discussion about food security has built-in bias when the co-chair is affiliated with one of the largest food distributors in the world. Large corporations with a monopoly on food preparation and distribution are detrimental to our food security.
Because of the participation of Nestlé Nutrition Canada, the upcoming conference does not afford participants the freedom to independently analyze the issues. If there is no financial support or engagement between Nestlé and McGill then we question what is the rational behind this decision. Perhaps a representative from the World Health Organisation or another International University would be more appropriate.
We respectfully request that you immediately and publicly disengage yourself and McGill University from this and any other affiliation with Nestlé Canada.
Carole Dobrich RN, IBCLC Elisabeth Sterken Bsc, Msc, Dt
INFACT Quebec President INFACT Canada President
And on behalf of the INFACT board of directors and members.