Star Trek Offers Insights That Illuminate Actor Engagement in Global Nutrition Governance; Comment on “Towards Preventing and Managing Conflict of Interest in Nutrition Policy? An Analysis of Submissions to a Consultation on a Draft WHO Tool”

Document Type : Commentary


Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA, USA


This commentary describes insights from Star Trek’s fictional television series to understand how state and nonstate actors address conflicts of interest (COIs) through global nutrition governance. I examine the findings of Ralston and colleagues for 44 state and non-state actors who responded to the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) consultation for a COI risk-assessment tool, developed for member states to engage effectively with non-state actors to address malnutrition in all forms. Star Trek reveals that actor engagement is inevitable in a shared universe. The Prime Directive is a non interference principle reflecting a moral commitment to reduce harm, respect autonomy and protect rights. Engagement principles are relevant to all actors who influence nutrition policies and programs, and must be held accountable when their actions undermine healthy and sustainable food systems. Certain actors use COI to justify non-engagement with commercial actors yet competing interests, biases, corruption and regulatory capture are distinct challenges to manage. Finally, Star Trek’s characters serve as allegories to understand actors’ motives and actions to promote healthy and sustainable food systems. Unlike non-state actors, states are legally required to achieve their commitments and targets in the United Nations’ (UN) Decade of Action on Nutrition (2016-2025) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 Agenda.


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Volume 11, Issue 2
February 2022
Pages 233-238
  • Receive Date: 02 July 2020
  • Revise Date: 11 August 2020
  • Accept Date: 11 August 2020
  • First Publish Date: 01 February 2022