Tuesday, May 26, 2015
"You cannot insert a gene you took from a bacteria into a seed and call it life. You haven't created life, instead you have polluted it."--Vandana Shiva
"In the beginning there was breast milk," says the sweet voice of the narrator as she describes the history of breastfeeding. As I watched the 4-minute video by the WK Kellogg Foundation, I was rather taken aback by their version of the history of breastfeeding, particularly since the first sentence is, "in the beginning there was breast milk." I am fascinated by that statement and that point of view. I always imagined that in the beginning there was breastfeeding not breast milk. But maybe I am caught up in the game of who came first the chicken or the egg? As I watch the historic timeline presented by this video, I was struck by what this video considered important. The only infant formula mentioned was Nestle and their Lactogen. Why didn't they mention Mead Johnson or Abbot, more common infant formulas in the USA? Why did they mention the Innocenti Declaration but no mention of the WHO Code in their timeline. Show Nestle formula but not talk about Nestle as a violator of the WHO Code? History or hiding history? Why did the soothing voice of the narrator state, "Enough this isn't natural (regarding formula feeding), yet the visual focus is of the breastfeeding mother with the statement, "Enough this isn't natural?" Subliminal messages? Do we remember more of what we see than what we hear? Why did this timeline state that infant formula improved over the years and visually we see the #1 improved quality? Why did they state that nurseries in hospitals, the separation of mothers and babies, was because of the need to protect babies from bacteria/germs; without bringing up that infant formula companies often funded and designed hospital nurseries to increase mother-baby separation? One of the last signs to read on this history timeline is a home made poster that says, "Mother's Milk Fresh, Local, Sustainable." Kinda makes one wonder what is this video promoting? Breastfeeding? Or Breast Milk?
The video by WF Kellogg Foundation is entitled, "Growing a first food movement," appears to me to be rather slanted. It shouldn't be, should it? Afterall, thanks was provided to the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, Best for Babes, Black Mother's Breastfeeding Association, US Breastfeeding Committee, among other organizations that should know alot about breastfeeding history. Both the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine and the US Breastfeeding Committe have been either supported or funded by the WK Kellogg Foundation.
"The foundation receives its income primarily from the WK Kellogg Foundation Trust, which was set up by WK Kellogg. In addition to its diversified portfolio, the trust continues to own substantive equity in the Kellogg company."
Celeste A. Clark who was previously employed by Kellogg as a nutritonist and later became involved in Kellogg's worldwide communications, nutrition and regulatory programs, active in the Institute of Medicine Food Forum as well as WHO Industry Group. She is on the BOD of Mead Johnson as well as the food company, Diamond. Another Board member of Mead Johnson, Anna C. Catalano is on the Global Advisory Board for the Kellogg Innovation Network.
A few years ago in a previous post to this blog, I have written about Kellogg's being considered a stakeholder in the infant formula industry.
So should we be particularly surprised that this video has a slant to it? Should we be surprised that there is no mention of the WHO Code? Should we be surprised about some of the visual points on the timeline don't match with the narrative? The surprise is that breastfeeding organizations are financially involved with this company's foundation.
Copyright 2015 Valerie W. McClain
Kellogg and the National WIC Association, business partners
National WIC Association, voting member of US Breastfeeding Committee
Companies fighting GMO labeling and monies spent on stopping labeling
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
"Cultivating and conserving diversity is no luxury in our times: it is a survival imperative."--Vandana Shiva
Breastfeeding is the sacred and timeless dance of love between a mother and her baby. It is at its basic level; a gift of food and water, warmth and safety. Mothers and babies have been dancing to this melody of love and communion for centuries. It is a dance that is truly unique and specific between a mother and her baby. A mother must surrender her own needs for the survival of her infant. In societies, like the USA, where this mother-baby dance is of little or no value, it is very difficult for a woman to sustain this kind of relationship.
The commercialization of human milk and growth of milk banking (both for-profit and non-profit) is the marketing of the antithesis of the sacred dance of breastfeeding. It is the isolation of mothering into being a producer of a product for consumption. It is about the separation of a mother and her baby and the presumption by society that the product, the milk, is equivalent to breastfeeding. Preserving the milk takes priority over preserving the breastfeeding.
But is breast-milk-feeding equivalent to breastfeeding? The loss of breastfeeding goes unrecognized. Mothers recognize the loss. But in a society that places value on things and products not relationships, the preservation of breastfeeding is not often considered of prime importance. Instead our society believes that the milk is the priority. But mothers feel the loss. How much of the postpartum depression epidemic is related to mothers feeling this loss? How much is about a society that believes that mothers should "man-up" and go back to being a "productive" member of society? How much of our rising preterm births and c-section rate in the USA are the result of pregnant women having to work up until they give birth? Our society creates an enormous economic stress on women. Instead of protecting future generations, our society seems hell-bent on destroying it.
Breastfeeding preserves diversity in a society. The milk that is produced by one mother is never identical to another mother's milk. The milk carries the genetic blueprint, the mother's DNA, as well as protective antibodies against all the pathogens and toxins in the mother's environment. The milk varies from hour to hour but from day to day, month to month. Preterm milk is very different from term milk and seems specifically geared to the premature infant. This individualization is the basis of human survival on this earth. We jettison this individualization at great risk to the survival of the human species.
Yet we now have an industry willing to create human milk-based infant formulas derived from heat-treated and pooled donor milks. The pooling and pasteurization of donor milks is similar in principle to the vast development of monocultures in agriculture. Instead of preserving breastfeeding, valued because of its diversity; our corporations and institutions are creating the need for greater and greater use of a manufactured breast milk. By destroying its uniqueness, the product, breast milk no longer has many of the genetic and biological properties that make it a life-protecting substance.
What fascinates me is that the companies that will profit from creating human milk-based formulas, believe that they have a scientific understanding of human milk. The patents describe the uniqueness of human milk and then go on to describe their various heat treatments to make their pooled donor milks"sterile" (safe for many consumers), freezing and refreezing the product, as well as extraction methods to filter out various components of the milk and then putting it all back together again only in different combinations. Depending on the product the addition of fortification is also part of this picture. Will this product create the same health benefits that are derived from a baby breastfeeding? Will all this handling create better health for infants? Isn't there a much more cost effective and simpler way to feed and protect our infants? How about preserving and protecting breastfeeding?
One of the most interesting aspects of the creation of a large network of milk banking systems is the relationship between milk banking and human milk researchers who are often funded by the infant formula industry. Over the years that I have looked at patents on human milk components, I have noted how often human milk researchers seem associated with various milk banks. And surprisingly enough it isn't just Prolacta or Medolac, the for-profit "milk banks." But in many cases human milk researchers seem very involved in the non-profit milk banks-HMBANA (Human Milk Banking Association of North America). For instance human milk researcher, David Newburg, is new board member/director of HMBANA.
He owns a variety of patents on human milk components (to be genetically engineered)and is the co-founder of a company called Glycosyn.
Products that his company are working on are oligosaccharides to be used as supplements in infant formulas. Probiotics/prebiotics for use in infant formulas. Anti-obesity agents (human milk adiponectin--patent) for use in formulas. And a diagnostic derived from a human milk component that identifies the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm infants.
He has over the years received funding from Mead Johnson and Wyeth (which became Pfizer and is now Nestle). Helped edit an article of prebiotics in infant formula for Mead Johnson
It is highly understandable why human milk researchers want to be involved with milk banks. But why do milk banks want to have human milk researchers involved with their organization? Particularly when most human milk researchers receive funding from the infant formula industry. It is also must peculiar in that HMBANA wants the FDA to regulate internet milk sharing/selling. But it sees no problem in giving access to and/or influence to their organizations to human milk researchers who have ties to the infant formula industry?
Are non- profit milk banks like HMBANA protecting breastfeeding from commercialization, protecting the genetic and biological diversity of breastfeeding? Or are they part of the problem? Where are we going as a society, when the answer to feeding infants is more about a culture of breast-milk feeding rather than breastfeeding? Where are we going when milk banks believe the same mantra as the infant formula industry that there is the need for more and more supplies of milk because "some" women can't or won't breastfed? Is that the truth or just a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Copyright 2015 Valerie W. McClain
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
"Hunger and malnutrition are man-made. They are hardwired in the design of the industrial, chemical model of agriculture." --Vandana Shiva
Yesterday morning was just like any other morning. I cruise the web, looking for news. Scanning the headlines I feel a sense of deja vu, a memory of being a pre-teen in the 60's sneaking a peak at a supermarket tabloid story in which a woman gives birth to an alien or finds out her husband is the Alien. Well, I found some news yesterday that wasn't tabloid news. But it sure had an alien feel. It was Medolac Labs launching of "the first ever direct-to-consumer offering of human donor milk." According to the article the product is, "commercially sterile, shelf-stable human donor milk, and easy-to-use as formula."
So now it will be possible for, "more babies to receive 100% human milk protein instead of bovine or soy protein formula." Should we be calling this "human donor milk" or might the correct term be "human milk-based infant formula?" Prolacta uses the term for its human milk-based infant formula and its products are registered at the FDA as Exempt Infant Formulas.
While Medolac Labs are using human milk, can we call it "donor milk?" Like Prolacta, they pay for it, at a $1/ounce. So it isn't donated. And it has to be a highly processed product in order to be shelf-stable for 3 years! The press statement says that "it is as easy to use as formula." Huh? I have never believed that infant formula is easy to use. Since this is a ready-to-feed product, the presumption is that it is quite simple. Well, let's see, even with ready-to-feed formulas, bottles and nipples have to be cleaned/sterilized. After opening, one has to know how long it can be kept in a refrigerator or whether it should be tossed after sitting out at room temperature. There is time that must be devoted to this kind of feeding as well as knowledge of how to use the product safely. There is often a time delay in bottlefeeding, babies may be hungry but mom has to prepare the bottle or at least go get the bottle. Breastfeeding, on the other hand, is quite simple in comparison (once a mother gets over the early weeks, when difficulties are the most prevalent). There are no need for bottles or pacifiers. A breastfed baby gets an immediate response for its hunger cues. There is no need for storage space for a product because a breastfeeding mother makes milk depending on infant demand (the more the baby nurses, the more milk is made). There is no need for money for a product (making a mother independent of market forces). And breastfeeding, gives the mother a number of physical gifts: less breast and ovarian cancers, child spacing, no period for months, sometimes stretching into several years. Infants receive the benefit of suckling at the breast: appropriate jaw development and with that better dental health, less airway restrictions lowering the possible SIDs risk and actual physical contact with the mother (a biological norm--why we are called mammals).
Will our society buy into human milk-based products rather than the human commitment of breastfeeding? We live in a technological money-driven world in which human commitment is into acquiring things. Our importance in this world is dependent upon the house we live in, the car we drive, the jobs we have, our degrees/titles we accumulate and the clothes we wear. Watching any TV ads or internet ads, creates the illusion that life without these things, these products isn't worth living. We are judged and found wanting, if we don't have the latest cell phone or newest techno-gadget available.
How do we collect all these worldly goods? We either have top-of-the-line jobs or we get ourselves into debt. Look at the university student who graduates into the workforce with thousands of dollars of debt for their education. Will their new job (if they get one) help them quickly pay off that debt? Or will they find themselves in ever increasing debt and servitude with the need for a place to live and a car to drive? Women get paid less than men for the same kinds of jobs. Yet women who have college/university debt have the same amount of debt as men who have educational debt. So paying off debt is far more difficult for women. How many women nowadays can afford to stay home with their babies? Between educational debt and medical debt (having a baby in the US can be a huge medical debt despite insurance), women are caught in a lose-lose situation.
There is the belief that the next best thing to breastfeeding is breast-milk feeding. It is understood that when a mom pumps and gives that to her infant that it is better than infant formula. But are human milk-based products equivalent to fresh, expressed milk? Or as they claim, equivalent to pasteurized donor milks? Do we have the research that these products that have become sterile due to industrial processing are equivalent to the donor milk that is just simply pasteurized? Obviously the product cannot be the same as the milk that is created in a woman's breast. Yet we are to believe that a sterile, 3-year shelf stable human milk is a necessity? Isn't breastfeeding the necessity?
Will this human milk industry be satisfied with just a few customers? Or will this industry have a need for more and more customers? Will this industry find more and more ways to curtail private milk sharing? Will this industry eventual sabotage breastfeeding, in its need for profits? And will the current economic and political climate that has made women second class citizens, create the need for these products?
Women feel that their self-worth is tied to being employed, to making money. Self-worth is not tied to mothering our babies. Our society has created a world in which most of us are indentured to our employers because of our accumulated debts. I am not sure how human milk-based products will play out in the years to come but I am pretty darn sure that breastfeeding will become lost in the sea of need for profits.
"The disclosure provides sterile human milk protein compositions. In one embodiment the sterile human milk protein composition is prepared by a method comprising sterile filtering skim human milk through at least two successively smaller submicron filters to obtain a human milk protein composition, lyophilizing* the human milk composition, and applying a viral inactivation step and/or sterilizing process to the lyophilized human milk composition."
--WIPO** patent application WO/2012/030764, owned by Neolac, Inc. USA, inventor: Elena Medo, entitled: HUMAN MILK PREPARATION
*lyophilized-"freeze drying, the creation of a stable preparation of a biological substance by rapid freezing and dehydration of the frozen product under high vacuum." from Medical Dictionary
**WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization)-agency of the United Nations.
Will these patented products safeguard breastfeeding or become a waste of resources in which breastfeeding is sabotaged?
Copyright 2015 Valerie W. McClain