Sunday, July 22, 2012

The infant formula industry merges with the human milk industry

"Contemporary patents on life seem to be of a similar quality. They are pieces of paper issued by patent offices of the world that basically are telling corporations that if there's knowledge or living material, plants, seeds, medicines which the white man has not known about before, claim it on our behalf, and make profits out of it.
That then has become the basis of phenomena that we call biopiracy, where seeds such as the Basmati seed, the aromatic rice from India, which we have grown for centuries, right in my valley is being claimed as novel invention by RiceTec.
Neem, which we have used for millennia for pest control, for medicine, which is documented in every one of our texts, which my grandmother and mother have used for everyday functions in the home, for protecting grain, for protecting silks and woolens, for pest control, is treated as invention held by Grace, the chemical company."
                                                        Interview of Dr. Vandana Shiva of India

Human milk components (lactoferrin, lysozyme, bile salt-stimulated lipase, HMFG, the oligosaccharides) , like the Basmati seed and Neem, are being patented.  We are witnessing the merger of interests between the infant formula industry and the milk banking industry.  Biopiracy of human milk is entering a new era.  The interests of two companies, Abbott Nutrition and Prolacta Bioscience merged 2-3 years ago with a co-promotion arrangement.  Abbott would help Prolacta advertise their NICU products made from human milk.  But was there more to this deal then was publicly stated?

Why has Abbott applied for 7 patents for infant formula that contain human milk oligosaccharides to be used for preterm and term infants, toddlers and children?  All 7 patent applications (there could be more) are dated December  22, 2011.  Those applications are: Human Milk Oligosaccarides to promote growth of beneficial bacteria (application # 20120171165), Methods for reducing the incidence of oxidative stress using human milk oligosaccharides, vitamin C and anit-inflammatory agents (application # 2012172307), Methods for decreasing the incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis in infants, toddlers, or children using human milk oligosaccharides (application # 20120172319), Nutritional formulations including human milk oligosaccharides and antioxidants and uses thereof (application # 20120172327), Human milk oligosaccharides for modulating inflammation (application # 20120172330), Methods of using human milk oligosaccharides for improving airway respiratory health (application # 20120172331), and Nutritional compositions comprising human milk oligosaccharides and nucleotides and uses thereof for treating and/or preventing enteric viral infection (application 20120184503).  These patents are about adding the real component not that which is genetically engineered.  

Glycom in Denmark is one company that is using its experience in carbohydate technology to develop HMOs (human milk oligosaccharides).  They are synthetically producing the HMOs, probably genetically engineering them. This company states, "HMOs are the 3rd largest component of mother's milk and are attributed with many of its wonderful health effects.  Until now study of these natural biopharmaceuticals has been limited and commercialization has been blocked by lack of available material and high costs..."

In January 2010 in Dairy  the headline reads, "Danes unite to mine infant formula prebiotics."   Two  European formula companies, "Danisco and Arla were taking part  in a C2.5m+ business/academia research project to isolate and develop some of the oligosaccharides naturally present in human breast milk for use in infant formulas."

The infant formula industry is working on obtaining a synthetic (GMO) human milk oligosaccharides to improve infant formula.  But it seems that Abbott is interested in the real thing. And through their "partnership with Prolacta," they may have access to the real thing.

In December 2009 Prolacta filed for a patent called, "Human milk permeate compositions and methods of making and using same," patent application # 20110256233.  The abstract says, "This disclosure features human milk permeates and compositions containing the same obtained from fractionated whole milk.  The oligosaccharide rich permeate and permeate compositions of the present invention are useful as nutritional supplements for pre-term and full term infants, for establishing or maintaining gut flora and for treating the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease,"

I find myself wondering when will the breastfeeding community wake up.  The world has changed.  The merger of interests between the infant formula industry and the human milk industry should be a very late wake up call to breastfeeding advocates around the world.  Should we wonder why the WHO Code does not work in the USA?  This is biopiracy.  The tradition of breastfeeding (not human milk feeding) is being spirited away by corporate values of ownership.

Like our seeds, freely flowing clean water, our earth;  breastfeeding is about the survival of humanity.  Corporations are about ownership, monopolies, and profit.  Our society has chosen profit over survival.  It's another sad day for Mother Earth.
Copyright 2012 Valerie W. McClain

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