Sunday, March 6, 2011

Got Breastmilk, part 3

Through 12 years of trying to bring my research on human milk component patenting to the attention of breastfeeding organizations, I have met with silence, criticism, but mostly just silence. Sometimes there was interest but the doors would slam shut at some point in time. I never quite understood the reaction I got from organizations that I thought would want to have this information. There was the possibilities of speaking, of books; but only on someone else's terms. Organizations desire information but they want to control the perspective. Not that I believe my perspective is the only way to look at reality. But, all perspectives should be heard, read, and discussed; if one believes in democratic ideals. Where goes an organization, when it refuses to look inside itself, to be open to other points of view? It withers because everyone is too afraid to speak up for fear of ostracism. And that is what I have faced for some years now. It hasn't been pleasant. And I realize that many people in these organizations believe it was justly deserved. How dare someone be critical of human milk research or human milk banks. At one point in time, I called for a moratorium on donating human milk because of my fear about what industry (particularly the infant formula industry) was doing with donor milk. The earth trembled and I was swallowed into the void of no return. Can't say that, because there is professional hell to pay for stating your concerns. They were based on human milk component patents. But no one wanted to hear about it, unless they could use the information to benefit themselves or their organizations. Bitter, yeah, maybe....I am over it. So frankly it isn't too shocking that LLLI decided to enter a licensing agreement with the California Milk Processor Board. They weren't interested in the information on human milk component patenting and its association with the infant formula industry, so why be shocked about a financial deal with the top dairy processors in California? Let me take that back. Some people in breastfeeding organizations were interested in human milk component patenting. In fact a person on the US Breastfeeding Committe convinced me in the year 2000, to send her a notebook of the information I had on human milk component patenting. I compiled some of what I had into a three-ring binder and sent it to her ( cost me money, not her). The reason I sent it was this person told me that it would be presented to the Committee. I was very excited about breastfeeding advocates having this information and thought it might keep them up-to-date on what was going on with human milk component patenting and the new industries developing. Months passed and I never heard what happened in regard to her presentation. After many upsetting emails, with my demanding the minutes of the US Breastfeeding Committee meeting, I was finally told that there never was a presentation. She had given the 3-ring binder to a government official at this meeting and it had never been given back to her. She wouldn't divulge the name of the government official. I threatened to go to a US Breastfeeeding Committee meeting (they don't have that many meetings and its in Washington, DC). She told me that I would not be allowed to attend any meeting of the US Breastfeeding Committee. She couldn't understand my anger. It wasn't her fault. In reflection, I have to laugh, I was so naive back then, so very naive. I really thought that the breastfeeding people were the good guys and the infant formula industry was the bad guys. Life ain't that way. Ethics or lack of ethics exists on both sides. Life is not good versus evil, except in fiction or in organizations that want you to think a certain way. It is one way to recognize propaganda, when what is being stated is put into terms of we are the good, and over there is the evil. Although I do recognize that psychopathy exists in people and in organizations.

Some years after the fiasco with the US Breastfeeding Committee, I was booted off Lactnet (although some years later I was told I could resubscribe but that any post I made to Lactnet would be monitored by the listmothers). The topic of patenting of human milk components was considered off-topic on Lactnet, not to be brought up and discussed. I realized that speaking the truth as you see it (even with references) is not acceptable to people who control organizations...unless it agrees with what those in power are saying. Some people understand this early on in their youth, I guess I never learned that lesson. Of course there is more to this than what I have written, but it's been a long lonely road. And many other people walk that long, lonely road because no two human being are the same or think the same. We are an infinite variety of thoughts, ideas, and personalities. Yet our technological society requires that we meld our individuality for the betterment of the society. But for who's betterment? Society? Or for those in power who try to control society? Am I surprised about the direction, breastfeeding advocacy is going? No. Just surprised about the silence. But god that is funny, why should I be surprised about the silence? This could be an opportunity to change direction but the silence tells me that it isn't going to happen.

Of interest is the PR from the California Milk Processors Board (CMPB) on various market wires.

"We applaud and support the efforts of La Leche League," says Steve James, CMPB executive director. "Got Milk?" and La Leche League care for the health and wellbeing of moms and babies alike. Both organizations believe that breastfeeding is the most natural and effective way of satisfying the needs of the baby. As as the baby gets older, cow's milk is the other best natural source of of food for children. It provides calcium and many essential nutrients growing kids need for strong bones, muscles, teeth, hair, and nails."

"The CMPB will give 50 percent of royalties from the sale [buttons, postcards, baby onsies, toddler shirts] to the La Leche League ."

The CMPB is funded by all California milk processors (like Dean, Nestle, etc) and administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Rather interesting how government and big business combine to run a marketing campaign for the dairy industry. The lack of concern over this licensing deal between LLLI and CMPB means that somehow in the USA we do not associate the dairy industry with the infant formula industry. And yet I would suggest to readers there is a big connection and cow's milk has been and is used around the world as a breastmilk substitute.
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain

1 comment:

  1. This is an enormous, and critical issue. Thank you for writing about it.