Saturday, November 22, 2008

ownership of human milk stem cells

photo by Jessie McClain
While the breastfeeding community mulls over the patent application of a human milk fortifier by Medela, they might also be interested in another patent application. (Although it is not assigned to any company) This patent application is called "Method for isolating cells from mammary secretion." Inventors are Mark Derek Cregan and Peter Edwin Hartmann (filed in December 2004, published March 2007) application #20070059822
When I first glanced upon this document I thought that it was a basic "methods" patent and of course the title is called "Method for...." But curiosity encouraged me to look at the claims in this patent application. Smack dab in the middle of the claims (claim # 18) is the following, "Progenitor cells, preferentially pluripotent or multipotent progenitor cells, derived using a method according to any of the preceding claims 1 through 17." Thus, it would appear to me that one of their claims is to certain stem cells in human milk. Of course I am not a lawyer but it would make sense in this biotechnological/patent world that a claim would be placed on stem cells in human milk.
I am amazed that so few people question the right of claim and monopolization of components of human milk. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. No white person really questioned the claims of ownership of land made in the New World (royal patents of claim). The American Indians who lived on that land, saw, felt, and endured the unfairness of the ownership. How could land be owned? The concept was alien to native Americans. But now we have entered a new frontier and we have been conditioned to accept that corporations can own and monopolize cells in our body. During the 1700 and 1800's, the Indians were told by the White Man/the government that they really didn't need all that land. The Indians were forced from the their lands, often without payment. Thus their ability to live freely was restrained and their lives forever changed. Who owned the land? If you were a native American, no one owned the land. If you were white, you owned and fenced it and kept out everyone else. It is individualism versus a communal view of life. It is view that nature must be conquered, owned, and fought for versus the belief that we are the guardians of nature that is free for all. How little the White Man Culture changes. Instead of land to fight over, we now have the new molecular frontier. We can own your cells because we need it. You don't need it. We will take it from you (or you will be talked into giving it to us) and we will mine it/process it, alter it, and then sell it back to you. Everything has a price. Ethics? Just a game we play with dice because to think too deeply in this corporate culture would be to go mad indeed.
Copyright 2008 Valerie W. McClain

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