Friday, December 10, 2010

Milksharing, milkbanking, the media, and what isn't part of the debate

"The story of Bangladesh
Is an ancient one again made fresh
By blind men who carry out commands
Which flow out of the laws upon which nation stands
Which is to sacrifice a people for a land."
-"Bangladesh" by Joan Baez

A powerful voice and lyrics that strike to the soul of the listener. Although in my mind it is no longer about lands but about sacrificing people for their blood, for their cells, for their milk. Patenting of life, our cells, animal cells, plant cells, is the new territory in which men and women of science can claim ownership. Our science believes it can play with genes and be the Creator. They will control nature by controlling, manipulating genes. They will own a piece of nature and sell it back to those who lost that bit of nature. Of course it won't be in the same condition as it was found. Kinda like the white man taking the lands of the indigenous peoples. We claim it, we own it, we can do with it what we want-pollute it, blow it up-and you can't have it or do anything about it

The patenting of human milk components is not part of the discussion of milksharing and milkbanking. Why? a) nobody has heard about it, b) it's not the issue, c) people are too ignorant to understand, d) information is being suppressed, e) it's not important, not relevant. Why are women interested in milksharing rather than milkbanking? Is the only reason the limited availability of donor milk through milkbanks? Would more women use milkbanks, if it were more readily available? Would they choose private milk sharing over milkbanks, if availability was not the problem?

Its rather fascinating that there is this level of silence regarding the patenting and commercialization of human milk components. Sh.......! Let's not make this public because women don't need to know about the Mammary Gold Mines. Instead lets keep talking about choice in infant feeding, and lets get women pumping, storing their milk, giving it away. We need alternatives to breastfeeding because we have a society that must separate its babies from their mothers (war-like cultures encourage separation--think of the Spartans of Greece). And well breastfeeding is very difficult, so we need alternatives. It has nothing to do with our medicalized birthing practices, or the drive to medicalize breastfeeding?

Ten years ago when I first read about two human milk component patents, I thought it was information that should be shared among breastfeeding advocates. As time went along. I realized there was a lot more patents than just those two patents. And now patents and applications on human milk components are some 2000 or more. (I am tired of counting). And I am still waiting for a public discussion of this issue because it has enormous repercussions politically, medically, and legally. But silence surrounds this issue.

Human milk research and its patenting is not creating a breastfeeding society. It is creating a milksharing and milkbanking society. Human milk research is the lifeblood of the infant formula industry. To dare to mention that human milk researchers are funded by this industry is to risk the wrath of breastfeeding organizations.

Sidetracked again. I wanted to share an interesting patent for those who are worried about the "infectious" nature of human milk.
It's called, "Antiviral and antibacterial activity of fatty acids and monoglycerides" patent #4997851. The inventors are Charles E. Isaacs, Halldor Thomar, Kwang S. Kim, William C. Heird. Filed in 1987 it states at one point,
"Human milk becomes antiviral not only upon storage but also in the stomach of infants within one hour of feeding."
The storage discussed in this patent was freezing not heating. Fascinating when considering hiv and the standard recommendation/enforcement of formula feeding in the USA. In this patent there is a discussion of the medium chain fatty acids in human milk. Remember 1987, yet standard medical thought (even now) is that human milk doesn't have medium chain fatty acids. Therefore, infants with such medical problems as Chylothorax are given skimmed human milk with added MCT oil or specialized infant formula. So you take the fat off human milk and add your genetically engineered MCT oil. Huh??? Mind-blowing.
Charles E Isaacs, one of the inventors to the above patent, has a more recent research paper presented at the 2005 Symposim on Innate Immunity and Human milk entitled, "Human Milk Inactivates Pathogens Individually, Additively, and Synergistically." "This Symposium was sponsored by the American Society for Nutritional Sciences and the International Society for Research on Human Milk and Lactation , and in part by the Baby Care Global Business Unit of The Proctor & Gamble Company, Mead-Johnson Nutritionals, Nestle, Ross Products Division of Abbott Laboratories Inc., and Wyeth Nutrition." He states, "The lipids in human milk do not initially have antimicrobial activity but become antiviral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal in vivo after digestion in the gastrointestinal tract."

Isaacs still believes in his research. Wonder what the sponsors of this symposium think of it? And what will they invent to duplicate what human milk can do? And women will heat their milk, skim it, add some genetically engineered oil to it to make it acceptable...."sacrificing a people for a land."
Copyright 2010 Valerie W. McClain

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