Wednesday, July 21, 2021


“I would like you to show me, if you can, where the line can be drawn between an organism and its environment.  The environment is in you.  It’s passing through you. You’re breathing it in and out.” –Wendell Berry, author, poet, environmental activist


We cannot separate ourselves from our environment.  From the first breathe as a newborn, to our last breathe on this earth; we are one with our environment.  We breath in gasoline fumes at our local gas station or the fresh paint fumes of a newly painted room; and our lungs, blood, and cells must process those chemical toxins.  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner reflect the environment of where our foods are grown, processed, and packaged.  With the global food economy, it is very likely that what we eat reflects the global rather than local environment.  Our skin protects our internal organs from the environment but it also absorbs and transfers chemicals in our environment into our blood stream. As Wendell Berry so eloquently says, “The environment is in you.  It’s passing through you.”

The burden of chemical toxins in our environment is also passed onto the next generation.  The fetus lives for months inside the mother’s womb.  The womb does not provide a barrier against many chemical toxins but rather transfers them to the fetus.  If the mother in her pregnancy is in contact with toxins in her environment; she transmits those toxins to her fetus.  Scientists believe that exposure prenatally and during infancy can be more harmful than later in life. It is also believed that the first born baby receives substantially more toxins in utero than subsequent siblings.  Mother’s milk reflects the mother’s environment; passing on the chemicals the mother encounters to her offspring.   While mother’s milk reflects the mother’s environment it also is the mechanism in which newborn’s are protected from pathogens (bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites) in the mother’s environment.  The mammary gland creates antibodies to the pathogens in the mother’s environment. Some toxic chemicals (PFAS, forever chemicals for example) attack the human immune system, suppressing the antibody response.  

US newborns/babies are fed a variety of ways and exposed to a variety of food and environmental products.  Studies that actually define breastfeeding categorize breastfeeding into 2 groups:  exclusive breastfeeding and partial breastfeeding/mixed feeding. Exclusive breastfeeding is usually defined as babies given no foods/solids, water, or liquids, only breastmilk.  Partial breastfeeding/mixed feeding is often defined as babies given infant formula, as well as solids/foods, water, or other drinks. These definitions do not categorize babies that are fed human milk in a bottle either exclusively or partly.   In the US about 20-30% of infants are never breastfed.  Of those babies, some are exclusively formula fed, and some also receive food/solids and drinks besides their formula.  While some 70-80% of mothers exclusively breastfeed in the early weeks postpartum, only 30% are exclusively breastfeeding at 3 months postpartum.  US infants are exposed to a variety of foods, baby formulas, and drinks in their first year of life.  How researchers define the way babies are fed is critically important to our understanding of which babies are more at risk to exposure of toxic chemicals.  Yet environmental studies usually do not define breastfeeding or breastmilk feeding. Studies on infant feeding that totally focus on environmental toxins in breast milk without defining breastfeeding or also measuring toxins in infant formula, do not give a clear or actual picture of the risks of toxic chemicals to infants.  And when these studies are broadcast in the media, are they helpful to parents?  Or do these media reports create more harm than good?  Why are researchers focused on human milk and its contamination; rather than looking at the broad spectrum of feeding methods and products given to US newborns and babies? US media headline’s scream toxic, contaminated breast milk, but have no apparent interest in why most scientists aren’t researching toxins in baby formula. [US CDC data on exclusive breastfeeding]


There are some 5000 PFAS chemicals; these forever chemicals are described in the recent US media articles.  For example The Guardian published the article, “Study finds alarming levels of ‘forever chemicals’ in US mothers’ milk,” written by Tom Perkins in May of this year.  The author states breast milk levels of PFAS in a new study are “at levels nearly 2,000 times higher than public health advocates advise is safe for drinking water.”

The article does state that no standards exist for PFAS in breast milk.  But does not mention that water standards vary from state to state and the 1 parts per trillion (ppt) recommended by the Environmental Working Group is not the same recommendation made by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency-US Governmental agency).  The EPA recommends 70 ppt. There appears to be no consistent water standard for PFAS chemicals in the USA.   The study that Perkins is revealing states that the levels of PFAS in this new study ranged from 50ppt (lower than the EPA water standard) to more than 1850ppt.  Yet at the Toxic-Free-Future-Action-Center, in which many of the researchers in this particular study were a part of, they state, “…the study finds that 50 out of 50 women tested positive for PFAS, with levels ranging from 52 parts per trillion (ppt) to more than 500ppt.”  There is a huge difference between “more than 500ppt” to “more than 1850ppt.”  One would suppose that the article from Toxic Free Future would be correct.

The research paper states that the PFAS concentrations in breast milk were the sum of 16 different PFAS chemicals with the predominant PFAS being PFOS and PFOA.  Those 2 PFAS showed a decline from breast milk samples taken in US in 2004.  Both these chemicals are no longer manufactured in the US and have been around since the 1940s.  Yet the Guardian article did not mention this decline, but focused on the “alarming levels of PFAS chemicals.” 


There are some 5000 or more PFAS chemicals, “forever chemicals,” being manufactured around the world. Two of the most commonly detected PFAS chemicals in the US are PFOA and PFOS.  These two chemicals are no longer manufactured in the USA but are still manufactured in other countries.  PFOA was used to produce Teflon products and PFOS was used to produce ScotchGard-a water/stain resistant product used in fabrics. PFAS chemicals are suspected to increase the risk of various cancers:  kidney, thyroid, prostate, bladder, ovarian, liver, testicle, breast, and pancreas. Other suspected health risks are increased cholesterol levels, increased risk of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnancy, small decreases of infant birth weights, decreased vaccine response in children, changes in liver enzymes.  Lab animals have shown damage to their livers and immune systems, birth defects, and newborn deaths.  PFAS chemicals do not concentrate in the fat/lipids of the body.  They bind to serum proteins (albumin, globulin).  The human body stores PFAS chemicals in the liver, blood, kidney, and muscle.  The chemicals are slowly excreted in the urine and feces.  Humans are exposed to PFAS chemicals primarily through ingestion of food or drink.  But also exposed to these chemicals through inhalation, and skin contact.


Fire fighting foam-contamination of wells near airports and military base  

     Flame retardants in clothing-found in 80% of baby and children’s clothing

     Most US infant car seats- flame retardant/stain and water resistant fabric

Water resistant fabrics-found in upholstery and upholstery in cars

Teflon used in cooking pots/pans;  The chemical contamination of the Ohio River in West Virginia and Ohio by Dupont now Chemours (a spin-off company of DuPont)  in the production of Teflon products has resulted in a US lawsuit. Lawsuits in North Carolina  Interestingly, Dupont’s Nutritional unit manufactures Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs) for use in baby formulas.  Dupont applied for FDA GRAS for their manufactured HMOs derived form Escherichia coli K12 strain.  FDA had no questions. GRAS notice #897 

Pesticides mosquito spray, migration of PFAS from storage container such as High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)


Microwave popcorn bags

      Food packaging-for example pizza boxes 


Hand Sanitizers

Dental floss

Plastic food storage containers

Drinking water in many US muncipalities and water bottles

Laptops and smart phones 

*Lab equipment-for example: reagents, glassware, tubing, vial caps, aluminum foil, filters

*This poses problems for researchers of PFAS chemicals, requiring that lab equipment must be checked for PFAS chemical contamination before its use.


There is very little objectivity in articles published in the US media.  Most articles in this past decade appear to be biased in favor of corporate interest; which is about increasing profits.  Reality is far more nuanced than the media portrays.  Scientific studies are not necessarily a true description of the natural world and how it works.  Nor is one study necessarily a definitive understanding of what is being researched.  The reality is that isolating one component from other components may give us some understanding of that one component but that one component does not work in isolation. Isolated cells only exist in science labs and only with the aid of various chemicals and human manipulation.  

Copyright 2021 Valerie W. McClain

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