Thursday, March 18, 2021


“The head of the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) visited Yemen and described the conditions he saw in the country as “hell.”  His visit comes as the UN is warning 400,000 Yemeni children will starve to death in 2021 if conditions do not change.”


Across the world many countries are faced with the growing threat of food insecurity* and in some countries malnutrition and starvation of their children because of the covid-19 pandemic.   The situation in Yemen has been made worse because of their 6-year war with Saudi Arabia (bombs bought from the USA) and the US-backed Saudi blockade creating food and fuel shortages.

*food insecurity defined by the United States Department of Agriculture as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.”

While the situation in the US in no way compares to developing countries facing famines, US food insecurity doubled (some studies state US food insecurity tripled) during the covid-19 pandemic.  The Brooking Institute found that 27.5% of US households with children were food insecure.

“In 2018, an estimated 1 in 9 Americans were food insecure, equaling to over 37 million Americans, including more than 11 million children.”



Infants and children who are malnourished are more prone to infectious diseases.  One of the best prevention's against infectious disease for infants and young children is breastfeeding.

In a Mead Johnson patent #8137718 entitled, “Probiotic infant products,” filed in 2008 they state,

“Consumption of human milk is one of the most cost effective strategies known to medicine for protecting infants against morbidity and mortality due to infectious disease.”

And, “Significantly enhanced immunological protection by breastfeeding has been demonstrated for diarrheal diseases, respiratory tract illnesses, bacteremia, meningitis, and necrotizing enterocolitis. Protection by breastfeeding is especially efficacious against diarrheal disease.”

Mead Johnson in this patent  may use Bifidobacteria longum AH1205 obtained from the feces of a 3-day old male breastfed infant to create an infant formula “closer” to human milk. Or they may genetically engineer the bacteria.

For many years diarrheal disease has been and is the leading cause of death in children under 5.  It is a vicious cycle of diarrhea that leads to malnutrition that leads back to diarrhea with deadly consequences.

“Among children who survive severe diarrhea, chronic infections can contribute to malnutrition.  In turn malnutrition makes children vulnerable to diarrhea infections.”

Patent #5505955 entitled, “Anti-diarrheic product and method of treating rotavirus-associated infection, filed in 1995 and owned by Senomed Inc., Cancer Research Fund of Contra Costa. And John Hopkins Univ. School of Medicine, they state,

“In the developing countries, infectious gastrointestinal diseases are estimated to cause up to 12,000 deaths per day.  Diarrheal disease is also an important health problem in the developed countries.  In the U.S. over 200,000 children under 5 years of age are hospitalized each year with acute diarrheal disease.  This results in nearly 880,000 in-patient hospital days, over 500 deaths, and almost one billion dollars of in-patient costs per year.”

This patent had US government funding from the National Institute of Health and its invention was to use defatted human milk fat globules to prevent and treat rotavirus/diarrheal disease infections.

In a more recent (filed in 2017) infant formula patent #10813940 owned by Abbott Labs, manufacturer of Similac infant formula,  states,

“Breastfeeding has been associated with enhanced development and balanced growth .and maturation of the infant’s respiratory, gastrointestinal and immune systems, thereby providing protection of the infant to infectious and inflammatory diseases.”

Abbott Labs will be using Human Milk Oligosaccharides and nucleotides to treat or prevent viral infections.  HMOs may be “isolated or enriched from milk(s) secreted by mammals including but not limited to human, bovine, ovine, porcine, or caprine species.”  Or HMOs may be manufactured thru use of other processes:  enzymes, fermentation, etc.


Infant formula is a costly product that has many risks in countries where poverty is prevalent.  The product is expensive which sometimes means that parents will water-down the product to save money. This can cause serious health consequences such as electrolyte and sodium imbalances that lead to water intoxication or even death for infants younger than a year.  Bottle-feeding breast milk that has been watered down can also be dangerous for infants.  A US couple was charged with murder of their infant daughter for watering down breast milk in a bottle.

The use of infant formula, bottles, and bottle nipples carries risks during emergency situations in which there is no electricity or fuel to boil water to clean and inactivate pathogens that may reside in formula, bottles, bottle nipples, and on breast pump equipment.  No electricity or fuel also means that there is no refrigeration to store formula or human milk.  No electricity means that electric breast pumps will not work.

While free infant formula is often donated to countries during emergencies, it does not guarantee that there will be enough of it to last during a major crisis.  And often the introduction of free infant formula sabotages those mothers who are breastfeeding by lowering a mother’s milk supply.  Too often the instructions on making infant formula that are on the can/plastic container are in a different language than the mother.  If the mother quits breastfeeding and the free formula becomes unavailable the baby will be fed inappropriate drinks/food.  Babies will become malnourished or die.  In some emergency situations if the baby is malnourished and/or sick; it may be impossible to get medical help or get to a hospital, because roads are impassable or gasoline is unavailable (pumping gasoline requires electricity).


In a press release Nestle announced that they have partnered with the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies with CHF 10 million to the British and Irish Red Cross during the pandemic.  In the US Nestle donated $1 million to the American Red Cross for Covid Relief.  Nestle donated to the Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies of numerous countries.  The donations were sometimes cash donations and/or food, medical nutrition products, and bottled water.  The list of countries besides USA, UK, Ireland are Kenya Red Cross, Ghana Red Cross, Australia with Food Bank Australia given $2million in products, Grenada Red Cross, Jamaica, Fiji, Philippines Red Cross Php 10 million in medical supplies, vaccines, etc., Ethiopian Red Cross, Honduras, Pakistan, Peru, Poland.  In the mid-east:  Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Oman, Yemen-Yemeni Food Bank 380,000 servings. Iraq received 280,000 servings of NIDO, Palestine was given contributions to the Ministry of Health Fund, Bethlehem Governorate, Caritas Baby Hospital.  Other mid-eastern countries given various donations were Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia.

In a Bloomberg article Nestle will be helping distribute Covid-19 vaccines, particularly to developing countries.

This massive gift-giving of cash and products is astounding to me.  It will certainly create good will towards the company.   And it is highly likely that other infant formula companies are gift-giving as well as Nestle.  Governments will be particularly grateful, since this pandemic has created a global recession with much unrest among those who lost jobs, businesses, and lost so many family members and friends to covid-19.   Yet this gift-giving also comes with a price.  Infant formula and its risks to the health and well-being of infants and children is the price that will be paid by families globally.  Copyright 2021 Valerie W. McClain

Additionally references:

Walker, M.  “A Fresh Look at the Risks of Artificial Infant Formula,  JHL 1993.

Carothers, C. and Gribble, K. “Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies,”  JHL 2014.







Wednesday, March 3, 2021


“The kind of capitalism we are seeing today under this expansion of property into living resources is a whole, new, different phase of capitalism.  It is totally inconsistent with democracy as well as with sustainability.  What we have is capital working on a global scale, totally uprooted, with accountability nowhere, with responsibility nowhere, and with rights everywhere.  This new capital, with absolute freedom and no accountability, is structurally anti-life, anti-freedom.”  Vandana Shiva

Vandana Shiva, well-known environmentalist from India, describes how ownership of property now not only includes land, but also living resources.    Living resources may include human, animal, plant, bacteria, fungi, and yeast cells and tissues.  These living cells and tissues are part of the genetic engineer’s tool kit for creating novel foods and other marketable products.  My focus will be on foods, particularly infant formula, and its relationship to human milk research. The genetic engineers call their creations inventions, and legally state their ownership through patents.  Patents establish a monopoly on an invention for a set period of time (in the US it is usually 20 years).

Biotech start-up companies developing these novel foods made from splicing and dicing DNA from one species into another species need funding, particularly when creating a new infant formula component.  Funding comes from venture capitalists, and in some cases hedge funds.  Many of these biotech companies are connected to universities and/or reside next to them.  Founders and employees are often professors from these universities.  Many of these biotech companies have a short life-span with no product actually on the market; and some eventually get bought out by multi-national corporations who have the money to buy them out.



For example in 2019 UC Davis News announced that that the University of California Regents and Evolve Biosytems were jointly filing a patent infringement complaint against Abbott Labs.  According to the article, the founders of Evolve Biosystems and the University of California had invested millions on a probiotic organism called Bifidobacteria infantis (EVC001) and commercialized it in 2017.  They believe that Abbott’s Similac Probiotic Tri-Blend was a patent infringement on their product.

Evolve BioSystems, a spin-off company from the Foods for Health Institute at the University of California at Davis, was founded by the following PhDs:  David Mills, Bruce German, Samara Freeman, Carlito Lebrilla, and Daniela Barile.  The Evolve website states, “The founding scientists continue to advise the company, sharing their wealth of experience from more than a decade of research into the infant gut microbiome and its critical interaction with human breast milk.”

The Director of UC Davis Foods for Health Institute is Bruce German, who is also on the scientific advisory board of a new infant formula company called ByHeart.  ByHeart states on their website, “Breastfeeding doesn’t work for all parents, or not all the time.  Thankfully, advances in breastmilk research are allowing us to raise the bar on baby’s first foods…”

UC Davis Foods for Health Institute partners with a variety of companies and institutions: Nestle, Prolacta Bioscience, Abbott, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Teagasic (Irish Agriculture & Food Development Authority), International Milk Genomics Consortium,  USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and others.

It is not surprising that human milk research in universities has become the inspiration for creating new biotech companies, patents, and collaborations with the infant formula industry.  In a Facebook discussion, one young human milk researcher stated to me that that was the purpose of science, to create companies, create patents, obtain profits.  Maybe the desire for science as a money-making endeavor is about paying off those huge college loans to prestigious universities; or maybe it’s just the strong-held belief that capitalism is the answer to the organization of civilization?  Did the young researcher think I was this quaint, out-of-touch, oldster that believed in the ridiculous notion that science should be a search for truth or a curiosity about life on earth?  

David Kyle, PhD, is currently the Chairman of the Board of Evolve Biosystems.  Previously he was the co-founder of Martek Bioscience, the maker of DHA and ARA oils that were specifically manufactured for infant formula and supplements.

Martek Bioscience needs to be briefly discussed because there appears to me to be many similarities between how Martek marketed its new ingredient to the public and Evolve Biosystems marketing of its new probiotic ingredient.


Martek Bioscience was a spin-off company from Martin Marietta that had developed an algae to be used in the US space program.  Research showed that breastmilk had the polyunsaturated fatty acids, DHA and ARA, but infant formula did not have those omega 3 & 6 fatty acids.  Studies showed that most US breastfeeding mothers seemed to be deficient in DHA/ARA because of their modern diets.  Overwhelming evidence pointed to including DHA and ARA in baby formulas as well as supplementation of these oils for breastfeeding mothers.  Much of the evidence appeared to be from Martek and/or scientists funded by infant formula industries that would benefit from the addition of these oils.  DHA/ARA supplements were created for breastfeeding mothers and most US infant formulas eventually included Martek oils.  According to the Martek patents, these oils were created through wild (naturally occurring algae and fungi) and/or recombinant processes (genetic engineering). Martek Bioscience was sold in December of 2010 to DSM (Dutch State Mines) for $1.1 billion.

Interestingly Dutch State Mines is a partner to UC Davis Foods for Health Institute.  As the saying goes, “It’s a small world!”


DSM had collaborations with Martek Bioscience for a number of years before the sale, providing the “key base material” for their ARA oil. It bought Roche Vitamins in 2003, and has a global partnership with the UN World Food Program.

Dutch State Mines was originally a petro-chemical company.  DSM sold the petro-chemical company in 2002 and “became a manufacturer of life science product materials, and industrial chemicals that are used in the pharmaceutical, food & feed, automotive, and electronics industry.”

It seems that Evolve BioSystems is following a similar marketing path as Martek Biosciences did years ago.  According to an article describing Evolve-funded research; the research showed that antibiotic use in pregnancy, for example Group B strep creates antibiotic resistance in newborns.  Supplementing breastfeeding newborns with Evolve’s bifidobacteria infantis for 3 weeks lowered antibiotic resistance in those babies by 90%.  Martek used similar marketing of their research to the public.  Modern diets caused DHA/ARA deficiencies in breast milk, impacting the health of breastfed infants. Supplementing breastfeeding mothers with their product fixed the deficiency.  Evolve’s marketing is about modern day breastfeeding mothers over-usage of antibiotics causing a problem of antibiotic resistance in newborns.  Their product solves the problem of antibiotic resistance.  One might argue that in both situations there are simpler fixes in which products to counter modern day problems like poor diets and over-use of antibiotics, could be helping pregnant moms have better diets and curtailing the over-use of antibiotics.  But by using the breastfeeding or human milk feeding mothers as examples for the necessity of their products, the rationale for its inclusion in infant formula becomes a foregone conclusion. 


Evolve Biosystems is collaborating with RB (Reckitt Benckiser Group), which now owns Mead Johnson.  In 2019 the VP and General Manager of RB, Pat Sly stated, “Joining forces with Evolve Biosystems allows RB’s infant formula business (Mead Johnson Nutrition) to strengthen its expertise in the science of the infant gut microbiome and offers hospitals the only infant probiotic clinically shown to reduce potential gut pathogens in infants consuming breast milk.”

In 2020 Reckitt Benckiser Group became a international emergency partner with the British Red Cross and has joined their Disaster Relief Alliance.  RB will provide, “proactive product donations for emergency preparedness.”  RB states their commitment to “making vulnerable communities strong and resilient.” I always thought that breastfeeding created strong and resilient communities; and that infant formula was a real risk in times of emergency (due to a lack of clean water, electricity, and expense and difficulty of obtaining infant formula).

The Fortune business website states that the global infant formula industry is valued at US $50.46 billion in 2019 and expected to reach $109 billion by 2027.

So profits will double by 2027 or at least that is what is expected by the industry.  Is human milk research responsible for the growth and marketing of the infant formula industry? 

Human milk researchers do not claim that what they have genetically engineered is equivalent to human milk components.  But their research is used by the infant formula industry to advertise a newer, better, safer infant formula.  The AAP (American Academy of Pediatricians) appears to believe this messaging by its discussion of probiotics in infant formula by their website, in which they discuss probiotics in baby formulas; while advertising the infant formula company Perrigo, manufacturer of store brand infant formula, on the very same page.  And if you click on sponsors, you see the companies Perrigo and Nestle Waters among 2 other companies.  

Initial research on Bifidobacteria was funded by federal (US government) and private grants.  Patent #8361756 entitled, “Bifidobacteria gene sequences and their use,” filed in 2007, owned by the Regents of the University of California (with inventors: David Mills, Carlito Lebrilla, Bruce German, and David Sela) under description of the patent says, “Statements as to rights to inventions made under Federally sponsored research and development not applicable.”  Not applicable? I have never seen this before on a patent, usually the statements are about the rights of US government to the patent because it was funded by tax-paid government funding.  I would like to know how this got negotiated between the University of California and the Federal government.  Must be nice to create companies at universities using federal funding and not let the government have any financial interest in the patenting and licensing of the invention. Hell it’s not government money, it’s just US taxpayers’ money. And too bad the “invention” will be used by the infant formula industry to compete against breastfeeding and sell more infant formula.

In 2001 I wrote a position paper for AnotherLook in which I quoted the US NICHD (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, “Although it is commonly stated that human milk is the optimal food for newborn humans, it might be possible to develop artificial formulae which enhance infant development and health even more than does human milk…”

Rereading that position paper, I believe that what I wrote 20 years ago was and still is relevant today.  People still refuse to educate themselves on genetic engineering and have no understanding that most foods in USA are gmo products.  They refuse to see the connections between human milk research and the infant formula industry.  And they believe that patents on human milk components are great and promote breastfeeding.  When making money is the prime motivator in our society, it is near impossible to question the power and influence of infant formula.

Copyright 2021 Valerie W. McClain










Wednesday, June 24, 2020


“The inconvenient truth about breastfeeding is that breasts are, invariably, attached to a person.”                    A Bold and Controversial Idea for Making Breast Milk:  The obsession with breastfeeding has inspired a start-up to make human milk outside the human body.” by Sarah Zhang, The Atlantic, 2/27/2020.

How inconvenient that breasts are attached to people, that mammary glands aren’t hanging from trees; to be plucked and harvested by our trusty scientists.  Culturing mammary cells outside the body, requires that women donate their excess milk producing cells.  Scientists have gotten these cells, Human Milk Epithelial Cells (HMEC), from women who have undergone reduction mammoplasty or biopsy.  Research scientists can buy HMEC from various companies.  ThermoFisher Scientific cells a vial of HMEC for $806.  But BIOMILQ states that they are using the company, American Type Culture Collection (ATCC) for their HMEC right now (price $623).

They are accepting donations of HMEC.  Do women who have reduction surgeries or biopsies know that their mammary cells have monetary value?  Or do they assume that all that excess tissue is thrown in the local landfill? 

The Atlantic article describes the start-up biotech company, BIOMILQ, as “a bioreactor of lactating human breast cells.”  We now have lab-grown meat (cultured meat), so why not lab-grown human milk (cultured human milk)?  Lab-grown meat is described as environmentally clean food.  So I suppose that the lab-grown human milk will be billed as environmentally clean food.

The article states the reasons for needing this new biotech company are: a person might get sick and not be able to breastfeed, many women have to return to work at 2 weeks postpartum because the US does not have guaranteed paid leave, and there is no place to pump at work.  The reasoning seems quite irrational.  In most cases being sick is no reason to stop breastfeeding.  In fact, the mother will transfer antibodies to the infant, if she has contracted a pathogenic illness.  One of the solutions to the problem of having to go back to work at 2 weeks postpartum or not having a place to pump is in changing laws so that people are paid to stay home to take care of their baby.  Particularly now that so many people in the US are unemployed, it would make sense to help families with new babies by paying them to stay home.  This would certainly help the breastfeeding mother.  But instead of finding a solution to help mothers breastfeed longer or exclusively, companies are forming to exploit the vulnerability of the breastfeeding mother. 

The website of BIOMILQ makes the following statements,
“Breastfeeding is hard for most and impossible for many.”
“We’re women-owned, science-led and mother centered.”
“Exclusive breastfeeding is unrealistic for some and impossible for many…”

Why is breastfeeding/exclusive breastfeeding hard and impossible?  I would suggest it is hard and impossible because our society is institutionally structured to make it hard and impossible.  We need to examine how mothers are treated during pregnancy and birth.  How society’s cavalier approach to separating mothers and babies creates enormous difficulties for mothers and babies.  Employment in our society is a judgment of a person’s worth.  There is no recognition for the importance of care-giving for infants and elders, or the sick and disabled.  Instead our society believes in warehousing the “inconvenient” children, elders, and disabled into institutions.  Institutions have to organize the group rather than caring for the individual.  That so many individuals in our society feel untouched, unhappy, and lonely is not surprising. 

Is the solution to manufacture a substitute for breastfeeding? At present the company is working on producing just 2 components, casein and lactose. Human milk has hundreds of components.  For example there are over 200 Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs).  Some infant formula companies are just now including 2 HMOs into their products.  Most of the patents on the manufacture of HMOs are about genetically engineering them through a fermentation process using the bacteria, e.coli.

I certainly like the idea of a women-owned, science-led, and mother-centered company.  But just because women are involved doesn’t mean that the ultimate purpose of such a company is in the best interest of women and families globally.  Just because they “say” they are a mother-centered company doesn’t mean much.  What is more important is what they “do.”  Their product displaces breastfeeding. The ultimate purpose in our capitalist society is for companies to make a profit.  The use of human cells taken from women to create a profit reminds me of a kind of biological slavery.  Do women know that their mammary tissue/cells will be the source of profit for a company?  BIOMILQ’s website states that breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding is hard and impossible for most women reminds me of infant formula advertising.  Actually the infant formula industry is much more subtle in their advertising.  BIOMILQ is much bolder about their views on breastfeeding.

The founders of this start-up company are Leila Strickland, PhD, CMPP, and Michelle Egger.  According to several articles on the company and about the founders of the company, Leila Strickland has 2 children and breastfed them.  She had trouble breastfeeding.  Both babies were premature and premature babies often have difficulties feeding and not just with breastfeeding.  Her troubles led her to think about a better complementary milk product for breastfeeding mothers than is currently available.  She has a PhD in cell biology from Stanford University, and so she began to experiment with cell cultures. One of the problems with cell culture’s manufacturing substances is that cells are kept alive by media and mammary cells would secrete their milk into the media.  Finding a way to keep the milk from mixing with the media would be a first step in creating a cultured milk.  Yet I have to wonder; if one is feeding the mammary cells with media, then isn’t the milk cells contaminated with media? Do cells throw up a barrier against the media?  Keeping cells immortal in a lab, would seem to mean that one is feeding them the media.  In my opinion feeding is ingestion.

Leila Strickland has several other companies that she has co-founded: 108 Labs- a cellular agriculture incubator, NeutraSiga-creation of antibodies to neutralize pathogens and cancer.

Strickland is also a Certified Medical Publication Professional (CMPP).  She has edited and written articles for medical publications.
Michelle Eggers is a food scientist with an MBA from Duke University.  She has worked/interned for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

BIOMILQ just received $3.5 million in Series A funding from Breakthrough Energy Ventures which was co-founded by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Sir Richard Branson, and Mark Zuckerberg.  It is an investment firm focused on environmental-friendly alternatives to combat climate change.  Fascinating that billionaires would think that manufacturing a breast milk substitute would be more environmentally-friendly than breastfeeding.  Yet lab-grown breast milk will require the use of bottles and pacifiers.  This would mean more plastic and more environmental degradation.  Infant milk products require packaging.  So we create more trash in our landfills. The premise of breast milk substitutes is that mothers and babies will be separated.  Instead of encouraging breastfeeding and minimal separation of mothers and babies, our capitalist system supports the opposite.  The more a breastfeeding mother uses breast milk substitutes, the less breast milk she produces resulting in early, eventual weaning.   Do billionaires really want to combat climate change or is the talisman of profit over people the real end game?

In April 2020. Dr. Robert M. McLean wrote an article for the ACP Internist called, “Battling the hydra of the medical-industrial complex. 
“The Medical-industrial complex has become a monster.  It is devastating to our patients, and it is devouring physicians at every level, physically, emotionally, and even intellectually.  Smart minds have taken business models to the extreme in health care-related corporations.  Decisions on resource allocation or new initiatives are driven by the critical concept of return on investment (ROI).”

The commodification of human milk and now human mammary cells is creating an illusion that what is lab-made is cleaner, an easier reality than breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding is slandered and libeled by breast milk substitute companies.  Who will defend breastfeeding, when science backed by billionaires attacks the value of breastfeeding?
Copyright 2020 Valerie W. McClain