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

Saturday, May 2, 2020


“You’ll find pediatricians neglecting to inform mothers that infant formula can contain from 10 to 1000 times as much lead as breastmilk;  neglecting to tell a mother that breastfeeding protects her infant from all infectious diseases she has had or fought off through her immune system; neglecting to tell mothers that breastfeeding promotes better bone maturation and intellectual development and neglecting to tell them that breastfeeding will help protect mothers themselves from cancer of the breast.”—Dr. Robert Mendelsohn, ”Confessions of a Medical Heretic,” 1980

Just days before the COVID-19 panic hit the USA, I was walking down a sidewalk in New Smyrna Beach and for some unknown reason looked up at the sky and saw a murmuration of Starlings.  I became mesmerized by the geometric shapes the flock of birds were creating.  I watched at the artistry of not just the birds flying but the shapes they were creating.  It was exciting to see an actual murmuration.  I had seen them on YouTube videos but this was real life not screen life.  I felt like it was a sign; but I didn’t know what the sign meant, other than the excitement of feeling like the Starlings were performing just for me.  

The speaker of the above video says that what we are seeing is not biology but physics.  It is the critical transition of the flock to predator threats.  The speaker says, “A critical transition is an abrupt change that occurs when an external force pushes something to its tipping point.”  Maybe what we have witnessed in this COVID-19 panic is a world-wide mumuration of humans? The medical-industrial complex predicts a world-wide pandemic with a new, never-before-seen virus.  Like the flock of starlings, we humans feel threatened by a enemy.  We go to our shelters-in-place.  Amazingly this human mumuration became world-wide.  And then the world in a few months became transformed by the absence of human activity.  Nature is suddenly given an opportunity to breath.  

 I saw my first firefly. They had left my property some years ago.  I thought them extinct but I now know they are still around.  I notice the silence, no planes overhead, very little traffic.  I feel like I did when I was hiking in the Adirondacks.  The silence is at first frightening but gradually enjoyable.  It is the silence of human activity being quieted.  The sounds of nature are being sung in the trees by birds I have never seen before.  We share this planet with many animals and it is our human activity that creates our human deafness to the plight of our mother earth and all its creatures.

Of course, human activity will get back on its destructive track sooner or later depending on where you live.  But for one brief moment we get a glimpse of what our world could be.  I wonder about the human cost of this pandemic.  How much fear and panic has been spread around the world?  How many people died of this unknown virus?  How many died alone in fear without the people they love holding their hands, giving their loved ones care and comfort?  How many babies and children will grow up afraid of human touch, not knowing how to smile because faces only have eyes? 

Oh yes I know this new world of masks and gloves and 6 foot separation is about keeping everyone safe from an infectious disease.  But what is the science behind this new disease?  We see a lot of statistics on how many died of this disease and how many tested positive. What about the testing?  The media reports that there aren’t enough tests and only certain people (wealthy or famous) are able to get tests.  So how do we respond to the scary statistics that are printed in the media?  Why does the FDA pdf file of the CDC PCR test kit for this disease state, “This test cannot rule out diseases caused by other bacterial or viral pathogens.” (page 37)

If the test cannot rule out other diseases, someone please tell me how we have all these statistics on COVID-19?  What I have noticed in some media reports is that cases are based on presuming that someone has COVID-19 because they were in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.  But if the test cannot be specific, how can one presume anything about this new virus?  Is this science?  Presumption is not science. (I found 2 other COVID-19 test kits that stated the following, “This test cannot rule out diseases caused by other pathogens.” PrimerdesignTM used by the WHO, and Taq COVID-19 test kits)  I believe that all PCR COVID-19 test kits probably make the same or similar statements in their package inserts.   

Many years ago Kary Mullis, Nobel prize winner for his invention of the PCR, stated that PCR should not be used as a diagnostic test.  Yet here we are again using PCR as a testing device to presume disease.  PCR was used with hiv/aids, testing newborns to determine infection.  There has always been errors testing newborns for disease since infants carry maternal antibodies for 18 months or longer. 

The similarities between the so-called science of COVID-19 and hiv/aids is interesting:  same inexact “science,” some of the same researchers predicting disease and death, and the general population believing that medical science is Truth-no questions need be asked.   
Few people recognize the medical industrial-complex, its power and its focus on profit. defines the medical industrial complex, “The concept of the medical-industrial complex was first introduced in the 1971 book, The American Health Empire (Ehrenreich and Ehrenreich 1971) by Health-PAC. The medical-industrial complex (MIC) refers to the health industry, which is composed of the multibillion-dollar congeries of enterprises including doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, insurance companies, drug manufacturers, hospital supply and equipment companies, real estate and construction businesses, health systems consulting and accounting firms, and banks. As employed by the Ehrenreichs, the concept conveys the idea that an important (if not the primary) function of the health care system in the United States is business (that is, to make profits) with two other secondary functions, research and education.”

The medical industrial complex is similar to the military industrial complex, whose purpose is to make war but mostly designed for profits.  Their influence is ever-present in governmental policy.  With the medical industrial complex it is the same personnel flow of corporation positions to governmental positions, and back to the corporation.  But physicians and medical researchers have far greater influence because very few people question their physicians or medical researchers.  They are like the gods.  One does not question a god, the rich and famous, and/or the ivy league-educated. 

I honestly don’t see breastfeeding surviving under this ideology that human touch, physical contact is dangerous and to be avoided in this pandemic.  Breastfeeding is all about touching, physical contact between a mother and her baby. Breastfeeding is about building an immunity through mother-baby contact.  Babies are great imitators.  Smile at a baby, and they smile back.  I have seen newborn babies smile and it wasn’t gas.  Although the medical profession tends to believe that babies are just little lumps-empty slates.  It was just some 30 years ago that babies were operated on without anesthesia.  Why?  Because the medical community believed that babies didn’t feel pain.  But any mother can tell you that even a young baby feels pain and can smile back at you.  

The human milk industry on the other hand is patenting oligosaccharides that supposedly imitate breastfeeding.  They speak of human milk but it is research on breastfeeding that is the basis for the belief in its protective qualities against infectious disease.

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. Human milk may be considered a natural and efficacious "nutriceutical," i.e., a model food that conveys immunologic benefits. Protection against infectious diseases occurs through a variety of complementary mechanisms found in human milk, including oligosaccharides and their related glycoconjugates. Significantly enhanced immunologic 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.” --                                                                                       
Patent #7893041, “Oligosaccharide compositions and use thereof in the treatment of infection,”  inventors:  Ardythe L Morrow, David S Newburg, Guillermo M Ruiz-Palacios

What do we really know about health?  What do we really know about bacteria and viruses?  Assumptions have been made about a test that is the supposed magic bullet to prevent a pandemic.  Will this testing be used to presume infection and thus quarantine those testing positive?  Will it be used to decide who will be allowed to work?   A test as unspecific as the PCR may determine what we believe about ourselves, others, and our society.  One can only hope that we start questioning this test.
Copyright 2020 Valerie W. McClain

Sunday, March 29, 2020


“It is through body contact with the mother that the child makes its first contact with the world, through which he is enfolded in a new dimension of experience, the experience of the world of the other.  It is this bodily contact with the other that provides the essential source of comfort, security, warmth, and increasing aptitude for new experiences, the fountain of which begins with breastfeeding.."
Touching:  The Human Significance of the Skin by Ashley Montagu

I must have been in 5th or 6th grade, when the principal of our elementary school walked into our room.  He was very tall, a lanky elderly-looking man.  My child-mind thought he was ancient.  Now that I am older than he was back then, I must say he wasn’t ancient!  How our perspective changes, as we get older.   

This ancient man in his 3-piece suit scared me.  I believed that he could only be here, if our class or someone in our class was in trouble.  But for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what we had done wrong.  Instead of getting yelled at or threatened by this adult in charge of our elementary school.  He said he was going to recite one of his favorite poems from his childhood.  This man had been a child?  That boggled my child-mind.  But fear of this adult dissipated and all 40+ classmates of mine seemed to let go of our fear of this strange adult.

The ancient one leaned against the window sill near my seat and he began to recite a poem.  His voice was strong and the poem was long.  Even as a child, I was impressed by his ability to recite from memory a poem from his childhood.  I have always remembered the first 2 lines of the poem and mostly forgotten the rest of the poem. 

“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…” (If by Rudyard Kipling)  As a lactation consultant, I have done home visits where parents (and sometimes the grandparents) have been panicking about their newborn’s health and/or a mother’s ability to adequately breastfeed their little one.  Their panic has washed over me and I have had to force my mind to stay calm. Part of my job was to calm everyone down, so that everyone can figure out the best way to solve the situation.  In rare cases their panic was justified. But panic is never a useful reaction to real or imagined fears.  From another century Kipling’s poem speaks to our 21st century humanity.  We must take a breathe, be that calm in the center of the storm.

I thought of this poem when I was in the grocery store the other day.  It was 7am and people over 65 were given the opportunity to shop before the store actually opened. There was a crowded line outside the store, which was packed with some very sullen senior citizens.  I thought I was early because I got there at 7:02am.  Most seniors don’t get up at the crack of dawn and this was a mob scene.  Some seniors had obviously gotten to the store, hours before it was to open because they were now exiting the store with their prizes:  toilet paper and paper towels.  The look of triumph on their faces as they walked by those of us waiting in line was curious.  One might believe that grocery shopping had become part of a Senior Food Shopping Olympic Games—winner takes all-- the toilet paper and paper towels.  One senior winner said that he had got his necessities.  I am not sure that toilet paper and paper towels qualify as necessities.  How many trees do we cut down in order that people can wipe their butts or wipe spills off the floor?

There were long lines in the grocery store to pay for our prizes.  Some seniors didn’t understand that the lines snaked around the store and they cut ahead of others assuming the line could not possibly meander around the store.  At one point I thought there was going to be a fist-fight near me over cutting in line.  Memories or should I say nightmares of lining up in school flashed in my mind.  I remember asking my parents why the school made us line up in alphabetical order during nuclear bomb drills.   We went to the basement of that old school building to save us from a nuclear bomb.  Would that save us?  Was it so God would know who we were because we were in alphabetical order when we died from a nuclear holocaust?

Back to present day reality, tempers were definitely rising in the grocery store.  I could see the headlines, “Senior Citizens Riot in Grocery Store.”  The me-first generation believes that toilet paper and paper towels are worth fighting over. Isn’t the me- first generation bumper sticker, “He who dies with the most toys wins.”  Only the toys are toilet paper and paper towels!

There was some friendly faces in that senior crowd but not many.  To my surprise there were no actual brawls or fist-fights.  But I decided I am not going to any more Senior Food Shopping Olympics.  They are certainly not following the recommendation of social distancing.  And standing in lines for long periods of time surrounded by unhappy, possibly sick, and disgruntled people only accelerates my stress.

I was glad to go home wash my hands and practice some social isolation.  And maybe that isolation will give me the mental energy to do some research and writing.  I have been staying away from Facebook and away from writing in my blog.  My computer’s hard drive died and for 2 months I had limited access to a computer.  I realized how much I enjoyed the time away from the internet.  I felt peaceful and found myself writing with pen and paper.  I felt like I was doing something primitive in this day and age of computer technology.  Its simplicity was soothing to my brain.  I realized though that I depended on the computer for many things and after a few months decided I “needed” a computer.  I missed writing on my blog.  So I am back looking at patents.

But I was not looking at patents on human milk components.   I found myself doing a patent search on the corona virus.  I wanted to know a number of things, like what is the corona virus?  I found that some researchers suspect that some corona viruses are responsible for colds.  What about the “novel” COVID-19 corona virus?  Microbiologists define novel as that which is genetically engineered.  I found a youtube video dated 3/9/2020 of a Fox News interview of Alex Azar, Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, in which he states that SARS, MERS, and COVID-19 are genetically modified and different from the common cold.  Alex Azar was the President of Eli Lilly & Company (USA) from 2012-2017.  One would suppose that a President of a pharmaceutical company would know a lot about drugs and genetic engineering (since a lot of our drugs and vaccines are genetically engineered). 
Meanwhile many US news outlets state that COVID-19 is not a man-made virus, not genetically engineered.  Who is telling the truth?  I believe that COVID-19 is genetically modified.  I don’t normally watch Fox News but this statement by Alex Azar is eye-opening.  
Azar's statement starts at 6:32 of the FOX News video

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same” IF by Rudyard Kipling
The history of the corona virus as seen through US patents is interesting.  In a patent owned by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC filed in 2004 and entitled, “Coronavirus isolated from humans,” they state,
“Coronavirus have not previously been known to cause severe disease in humans, but have been identified as a major cause of upper respiratory tract illness, including the common cold. Repeat infections in humans are common within and across serotype, suggesting that immune response to coronavirus infection in humans is either incomplete or short lived. Coronavirus infection in animals can cause severe enteric or respiratory disease. Vaccination has been used successfully to prevent and control some coronavirus infections in animals. The ability of animal-specific coronaviruses to cause severe disease raises the possibility that coronavirus could also cause more severe disease in humans (Fields et al. eds. Fields Virology, 3rd edition, Raven Press, Philadelphia, 1323 1341, 1996; Mahey and Collier eds. Microbiology and Microbial Infections, Volume 1 Virology, edition, Oxford University Press, 463 479, 1998).

In late 2002, cases of life-threatening respiratory disease with no identifiable etiology were reported from Guangdong Province, China, followed by reports from Vietnam, Canada, and Hong Kong of severe febrile respiratory illness that spread to household members and health care workers. The syndrome was designated "severe acute respiratory syndrome" (SARS) in February 2003 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (MMWR, 52:241 48, 2003).”

In another patent owned by the US Department of Health and Human Services and Versitech Limited of Hong Kong, filed in 2014, entitled “Human monoclonal antibodies against the middle east respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and engineered bispecific fusions with inhibitory peptides,” they state,
Emerging viruses present a serious threat to human health and safety. In the past few decades, many infectious diseases, such as those caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Ebola virus (EBOV), Nipah (NiV), and Hendra (HeV) viruses, have effectively made the jump from animal to human hosts and devastated entire populations and economies.

In 2012, a novel human coronavirus, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), was isolated from a Saudi Arabian patient suffering from severe pneumonia who later died of respiratory and renal failure (see Zaki et al., N Engl. J. Med., 367: 1814-1820 (2012)).”

It appears that some researchers knew that there was a novel corona virus that caused severe respiratory infections that morphed into pneumonia with high mortality.  It surfaced in the Middle East as well as China, Vietnam, Canada, and Hong Kong.  The patents suggest to me that some scientists, medical people, and researchers were aware of this as far back as 2002. And now we have another novel corona virus that seems to be far worse than these older, novel corona viruses. Or should we say genetically modified corona viruses?  What is known and what is being hidden from the public? 

What about the 4 US Senators who profited in the stock market from knowledge they were privy to in the Senate.  Insider trading?  This became news worthy headlines, only to be buried in an avalanche of novel COVID-19 statistics of those who tested positive and those who died. Are we witnessing a dysfunctional government or a emergency situation too difficult for any government to handle?  Should the US Government Health Department own patents?  Has the US Department of Health and Human Services become just a business entity with no outside oversight?  While the US government patents are not on the novel COVID-19 virus (newly named), they certainly show that somehow the corona virus of years ago had transformed into virulent forms.  

Genetic engineering?  Alex Azar called it genetic modification.  When genetic engineering is discussed in the media, the industry waxes poetic about the wonders of the science.  We are told that man-made splicing and dicing of genes is safe.  It’s in human food, infant formula, baby food, pet and livestock foods, supplements, drugs, and vaccines. Risks of genetic engineering:

The other day I received a post card in the mail entitled, “President Trump’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America.” On the card it states that for further information visit the White House and the CDC website.   One might get the impression that the CDC, Donald Trump, and the White House wrote the Guidelines. Elections will be in November.  Who paid for the postage of all these postcards?  The CDC?  Was the CDC aware that President Trump would be using the corona virus guidelines postcard as a political advertisement?            

“If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools.” IF—by Rudyard Kipling
I recognize that my thoughts put down on this particular blog post are scattered.  There is a wind storm stirring up random thoughts that to me seem connected.  It appears that this world- wide emergency situation will not disappear as quickly as the news cycles in our media.  We are all in for some very difficult times.  My heart goes out to everyone who is struggling.  We are all struggling with our fears of the future.  Fear can tear us apart. It can paralyze us. We no longer know what is the Truth and what are lies.  Truth has become a thread of gossamer shimmering in the air, tossed by the winds of Greed and Avarice. 
Copyright 2020 Valerie W. McClain