The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) is a global network of individuals
& organisations concerned with the protection, promotion & support of breastfeeding worldwide.
WABA action is based on the Innocenti Declaration, the Ten Links for Nurturing the Future and the
Global Strategy for Infant & Young Child Feeding. WABA is in consultative status with UNICEF & an NGO
in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC)

Discussion Paper 

Risks, Rights and Regulation
Communicating about Risks 
and Infant Feeding


The great issues of the day transcend disciplines. To understand them you need the best of science and the arts and you need the best of ethics and action. You need information and from this, distill knowledge and then apply it with wisdom.

It is bringing together all these elements that will enable us to make a transformative change - the kind needed in a world wrecked by manipulation, waste and most of all, by the business of violence. Rachel Carson in her classic book Silent Spring , captured the horrendous impact of DDT in the chapter title - And No Bird Sings .

More recently, Sandra Steingraber, ecologist, poet, mother, activist wrote two stunning books: Living Downstream and Having Faith , reminding us how the violence of chemical contamination is impacting on a very special, natural, life supporting, caring link between mother and child - breastfeeding.

Sadly, the world over, careless people, hungry for profits, uncaring of the consequences, are poisoning our planet its people, and life itself. A new challenge as significant as what the Jelliffes called 'commericogenic malnutrition' is awaiting us and this time, it comes not from the artificial infant milk industry but from huge industrial complex whose residues become 'externalities' borne by the environment and people, and the future.

Shall we call it 'commerciogenic contamination', perhaps?

Our challenge is also getting down to work with the environment movement. These groups are at the forefront of exposing industry excesses and lackadaisical government response. How can we work together constructively, consistently and cooperatively to root out the chemical poisoning of Mother Earth?

Such a synergy has been struck between the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) and together, we have developed a campaign on Working Together for a Toxic-Free Future (visit webpage <>).

It is going to be a long and important struggle and this is why this book by Penny Van Esterik is so important. One of the world's leading breastfeeding advocates and feminist anthropologists, she takes us step by step through the gamut of issues and landmines related to breastfeeding and the environment - through the science, the politics and the vocabulary of action in the public domain, especially the media. A resource like this is both welcome and timely, and it will certainly strengthen the work we all need to do for a better world and a toxic-free world. Thank you, Penny.

I want to also especially thank Susan Siew, Co-Director of WABA, and Liew Mun Tip, WABA project officer, who helped bring energy and skills to this work and to the movement. A special thanks is due also to Sharyle Patton and the IPEN folks. Not only have they inspired us to join a larger battle that all of us who care for the ecology and the security of our planet must join, but they also worked with us step by step, competently, patiently and caringly - the stuff that makes social movements succeed and transformation possible.

Anwar Fazal
World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action
Penang, Malaysia
23 July 2002

Risks, Rights and Regulation: Communicating about Risks 
and Infant Feeding

World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action
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