Wednesday, April 30, 2008

April is child abuse protection month

On June 24, 2006 the Houston Chronicle had an article written by Polly Hughes. It stated that "a child is four times more likely to die in the Texas foster care system than outside it." "Many children are in more abusive situations now than they were before the state intervened." The article states that in 2004 in Texas "63 foster children that year received medical treatment for rape occurring while in the foster system and 142 children gave birth while in foster care." Various articles on the internet discuss the number of deaths of children in foster care and of some children just disappearing in the system. In an article written by Dave Mann for the Texas Observer (March 09, 2007) regarding the foster care system in Texas he reports that the Child Protection Services "removes children from dangerous homes more frequently, but the kids potentially face new harm once under the care of the state." The answer for Texas has been privatization of the foster care system. But privatization in Texas seems to have met with more tragedies in the death of several children in late 2006. Texas's foster care system has also been so overwhelmed that foster children were sleeping in their caseworkers offices.
So in Texas, the belief seems to be that since the government makes a mess of the system, they must call in the private companies to make a profit from it. And see how well they are doing? They put over 400 children into the foster care system in one swoop. Hm....does more children in the system mean some people are going to make more money?
Welcome to Texas....where child protection puts a child at greater risk for abuse.
Copyright 2008 Valerie W. McClain

Friday, April 25, 2008

Only in Texas

photo by Jessie McClain
"They came first for the Communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists.....then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up." Pastor Martin Niemoller regarding the Nazi's rise to power in Germany.
What we are witnessing in Texas regarding the polygamist religious sect is unfathomable. The initiation of this event was a supposed call to 911 from a young woman who told of abuse by male members of this sect. This is considered the evidence the state needed to invade the compound of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. So far they have not found the young woman who initiated the call. Will they ever? What is the truth regarding this invasion and detention of a sect that practices polygamy?
I don't think much of polygamy. If men can have multiple young wifes, then I would think that women should be able to have multiple young husbands. Of course I am joking, but I am caught in the culture I was born into, so polygamy seems so strange to me. Yet, in our strange society, a number of married men have multiple sexual partners and some quite young. Many men seem to be practising serial marriages. (women also) Men trade in their old wives for something young and new. So what is the difference between men who practice polygamy and men in our society? Maybe its honesty. The polygamist is honest about his need for multiple young women. I am not trying to make light of the allegations of sexual abuse at this compound. But our society while condemning sexual abuse/rape rarely prosecutes the rapist. Women rarely take the rapist to court because the victim is put on trial not the perpetrator. How many victims of theft have to prove they are purer than pure and that they fought off the attacker? What are the statistics on rape? I believe I have read that one out of four women in the USA will be raped. So why are we repulsed by this religious sect?
What seems to be the case whether a woman lives in a religious sect or within our "modern" culture, women and children are victimized by a dominant male culture and by the legal system.
Who were the perpetutors of this supposed crime? Men in this religious sect. Who gets punished? T he women and children. Herded up, rounded up and then torn from each other. Why? Who are the perpetutors? The victims are the mothers and children. Place the children in foster care? Are you kidding? It has been long known that the separation of children from their mothers is detrimental to the mental and physical well-being of children. Mental health experts know that there will be serious repercussions to this abrupt separation.
Is this a religious war our country is waging? Reading history and the rise to power of Hitler, one is struck by the similarities of a government's ease in rounding up people who are different. Watching this round up of innocent mothers and children, sends shivers up my back. If we allow this to happen without public outcry, we are following in the footsteps of other country's who committ atrocities to people who are different.
Some blog writers believe that all the babies of these mothers should be given pumped breastmilk from their mothers. While certainly health is an important aspect, and human milk will keep these infants healthy. The physical separation is what I believe we should be shouting about publicly . Pumping milk under government supervision seems to me to be an open invitation for government to find another use for this milk (afterall they own patents on human milk). Interestingly enough, the first patent on the real human milk component (a patent on life) is owned by Baylor College of Medicine....of Texas. I guess all manner of strange comes out of Texas. I always say...only in Texas....."They came for the Fundamentalist Mormons and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Fundamentalist Mormon."
Copyright 2008 Valerie W. McClain

Cancer is a stem cell disorder

photo by Jessie McClain

According to the NIH a stem cell "has the ability to divide (self-replicate) for indefinite periods" and "under the right conditions, or given the right signals, stem cells can give rise (differentiate) to the many different cell types that make up the organism."
Stem cells are found in embryonic tissues but they are also found in various tissues of the adult. Some cancer research of the mammary gland has focused on the stem cells located in the ducts and lobules of the breast. At the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey, they state, "cancer is a stem cell disorder."
There are references to research done years ago. So it has been well-known that the human mammary gland has stem cells. The focus of the cancer researchers is when these stem cells go haywire. Medicine only sees disease, injury. Reality surrounded by sickness, pain, injury distorts the vision of a normal functioning body. Meanwhile, cell scientists looking for a medium that creates growth/life found that human milk works well as a reagent. It's antigenic, a material for some medical test kits (ELISA/EIA). Human milk is a great substance to make monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies. The infamous Pharm Woman patent (patent #4977137) owned by Baylor College of Medicine claims that, "Mammary secretions from goats, sheep, cows, and humans stimulate the proliferation of various cell lines growing in culture" and human lactoferrin (a component of human milk) "appears to be a potent activator of thymidine incorporation into DNA in incubated rat crypt cells." When we, humans, breastfeed our babies, we pass on our DNA. When we use man-made formulas, we pass on genetically engineered DNA from various organisms. We assume it is safe because we believe that all of this is tested. The reality is that infants are part of a grand experiment in the manipulation of DNA. The monitoring of health effects is after-marketing survelliance. When an infant dies, who asks and documents how that infant was fed? We d not see the impact of artificial infant feeding because we do not document it. We do not document it because we believe that in a modern society, it doesn't matter how you feed a baby. We believe in the "choice." I chose to smoke at the age of 15...was that really a choice? Or was it a society so manipulated by the tobacco industry that as a teenager I believed it was cool to smoke. How many men and women believe that breastfeeding is "disgusting." Is that a natural reaction or a result of a society manipulated by the infant formula industry? As individuals we make choices assuming we have free will. We are like puppets on a string, dancing to the tune of an industry that makes billions. Our free will is nothing more than the imagery the industry has planted in our heads. And this industry only plants with genetically engineered material."
Copyright 2008 Valerie W. McClain

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Celebrate World IP Day April 26th

"Celebrate, to the music"...April 26 is World Intellectual Property Day. According to the WO Patent Office we will be "celebrating innovation and promoting respect for intellectual property." As an IBCLC, one of our ethical tenets (tenet # 25) is respect for intellectual property rights. So party-on next Saturday. I am planning a cake which I am patenting and my party favors will be copyrighted.
Speaking of patents. I thought I'd add a little to my previous post regarding stem cells in breastmilk. The European patent called, "Method for isolating cells from mammary secretion," invented by Mark Derek Cregan and Peter Edwin Hartmann is owned by a Swiss company called Carag AG whose CEO is Michael Larsson. If you need references about the company according to their website you can contact the Swiss company called Medela whose CEO is Ollie Larsson, and/or Swissimplant AG (and I don't who the CEO is for that company). Their European patent publication date is in 2006 and publication # is EP1697506 (A1)
What is the value of human milk now that the public knows that human milk has stem cells? Party-on...let the gold rush begin full scale. Of course there are over 2000 patents on human milk, so for those of you not in "the know" it's a little late to cash in on this project. But there are always other projects. Back years ago, in order to make monoclonal antibodies or polyclonal antibodies, they would inject mice with human milk. This is a rather tortuous process for mice because this would create ascites in their abdomens. Those ascites would be drained and used to produce the antibodies. I believe the process is no longer used or not used as much because mouse monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) don't work so well on humans. Seems that humans get allergic reactions to mouse MAbs. And it angered alot of animal rights activisits.
Human milk is a living substance. It has growth factors in it that support cellular health and growth. Our society has chosen over the years to believe that women should have a choice regarding infant feeding. So here is the choice: Give your infant a living substance that contains stem cells (powerful growth factors), a baby's DNA inheritance or pop that plastic lined can (that adds to the pollution of earth and has that wonderful plastic chemical in it that causes reproduction problems and cancer) made by men so that women will be liberated from their bodies. Of course our liberation from being tied to our bodies, allows the corporations to extend their profits. That choice allows us to continue to pollute the world. Have you heard about the Pacific island of garbage (80% plastic) that floats in the sea? It is suppose to be the size of Texas or larger.
Some women want to breastfed but can't. Why is that? We have a society that sets women up to fail at breastfeeding. The constant propaganda and marketing of infant formula creates an atmosphere where most moms end up saying, "I will try to breastfeed," not "I will breastfeed." Mentally, women are primed by the propaganda to feel tentative about the decision. Meekness in the face of a medical system that markets free infant formula in the hospital (not all hospitals but a majority of them) and a medical system that believes its health care workers must be multi-taskers, so that lactation becomes the last priority creates a bottle-feeding nation. So guess who gets human milk when infant feeding is a choice? Not babies... the pharmaceutical, infant formula, supplement and food industries. Men of industry realize value when they see it. Human milk is a food, a medicine, a supplement, a drug. And if women choose to not use it, then men will have it to make a profit.
Copyright 2008 Valerie W. McClain

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Stem Cells in discovery????

Supposedly, a researcher from Australia, Dr. Mark Cregan, just discovered (2008) that there are stem cells in breastmilk. I choked on the news...According to the news report it is a world first discovery. Hm.......
In 2001, I wrote and talked about stem cells in human milk. I wrote about it in Lactnet (a professional listserve for lactation consultants) and I spoke about it in two Florida La Leche League Conferences (2001 and 2002). Funny, I never got asked back to speak--I know I am not the greatest public speaker. The topic of patenting of human milk was banned on Lactnet--yes where oh where is free speech in the USA? Then I got kicked off Lactnet....I ruffled too many feathers regarding funding, human milk research, and human milk banking. I tend to look at it as discrimination or blackballing an individual because of the way they think but I suppose the rest of my profession considers it good riddance to a person who makes others very uncomfortable. It was made quit clear to me that I was being very effectively silenced.
I have seen my research/my writing posted about the internet. In some cases, rather shockingly verbatim with another name attached to my writing. So I am now under the impression that my hours and hours of research is worthwhile to some people, but my name isn't. I always liked my name but I guess I have an ego problem (said to me a few years ago). I admit to an ego :) Yes, water over the bridge, que sera....sera
Anyway, back to stem cells and Dr. Mark Cregan. This isn't a new discovery--just finally being made public. Of course, the question is why is it being made public now? Not sure. I do know that Dr. Mark Cregan and Peter Hartmann are co-inventors to European patent # PCT/CH03/00846 called "Method for isolating stem cells from mammary secretion." They also share another patent with several other inventors called, "Use of a breastpump."
The dates on the patents are 2003. But I believe it has been well-know for years that the mammary gland has totipotent stem cells. Dolly, the cloned sheep, was made in part from a sheep mammary cell. For some years there have been educational conferences around the world on mammary stem cells. We have over 2000 human milk component patents and applications. Researchers and industry are very aware of the potential of human milk. Monopolization creates a world of secrecy. Secrecy means that few consumers understand the real risks of infant formula feeding. And few medical professionals realize the risks because most information is bought and paid for by you-name-it corporation.
Copyright 2008 Valerie W. McClain

Friday, April 18, 2008

DHA Research Trail of Funding

The International Formula Council (IFC) in response to the DHA/ARA Report written by the Cornucopia Institute stated their position on their website.
They state, "The decision to supplement formulas with these nutritional long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) was made following years of research studying the clinical effects of both DHA and ARA in infants." And then they state a list of respected institutions or organizations that support the inclusion of DHA and ARA in formulas, such as the FDA, Child Health Foundation (a non-profit partly funded by Martek maker of DHA and ARA for infant formulas around the world), the National Academy of Science, the World Health Organization, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, etc.
But how long has researchers and industry been studying the effects of these oils on infants? In particular, how long have they been studying the effects of new or novel microbial oils on infants? It would seem that research on the need for LCPUFAs started in the 80's. But research on the microbial oils only began in the 90's. Not a very long time to know the health ramifications of something new. Martek Bioscience declared their oils were GRAS, and the FDA had no questions regarding this declaration. The IFC statement that the "FDA agreed that oils containing DHA and ARA are generally recognized as safe for use in infant formula," is a slippery slope comment. I would believe that the FDA might be somewhat unhappy with this statement. The FDA system is no longer an approval system but a notification system. Thus, the FDA only publicly registers that they have no questions regarding the company's belief that their substance is GRAS. In 1999, Wyeth tried to get the FDA to declare that Martek oils were GRAS. This was prior to the changing of the GRAS system from approval to notification. In 1999 the FDA refused GRAS approval to Wyeth for Martek oils because of independent studies that showed abnormalities in rats given these oils.
In the references to research on LCPUFAs in the IFC statement, one researcher's name is prominent, Berthold Koletzko or B. Koletzko of Munich, Germany. This particular researcher is on the scientific advisory board of the Nutricia Research Foundation (which "acts completely independent of the commercial activities of the related company" and "the capital of the Foundation was generously donated by Nutricia and its successor Royal Numico")
Most of the research on DHA/ARA has been either sponsored by the infant formula industry or Martek Bioscience. Mead Johnson was the first infant formula company to place DHA and ARA in their infant formula. They funded a researcher named Eileen E. Birch (EE Birch) who is a co-inventor to several pending patents on DHA and ARA (patent applicaition # 20040048926 called "DHA and ARA to enhance visual development of term infants breast-fed up to age 6 months," assigned to Mead Johnson and the Retina Foundation of the Southwest--Birch is employed with this foundation--and patent application # 20040091599 assigned to Beechnut and the Retina Foundation of the Southwest regarding the placement of these oils in baby food)
Eileen Birch received a grant from Mead Johnson of $1,460,000 for the years 2003-2008.  

[This link no longer works, 10/1/12--Dr. Birch along with Dennis R. Hoffman, Julia Anne Boettcher, Deborah Ann Schade are inventors to patent application 20040048926 entitled, "Use of docosahexaenoic acid and arachidonic acid to enhance the visual development of term infants breast-fed up to the age of six months."  filed in March of 2003.  According to the application, "the U.S. Government has a paid-up license in this invention and the right in limited circumstances to require the patent owner to license others on reasonable terms as provided for by terms of Grant No HD22380 awarded by the National Institute of Health."]

Dennis R. Hoffman is a co-inventor to these pending patents with Eileen Birth. His research is often cited regarding the need for DHA and ARA. Deborah Schade [ now known as Deborah A. Diersen-Schade, Director of Global Scientific Affairs at Mead Johnson] is a researcher on DHA and ARA with Mead Johnson and inventor to several patents. In an article on her and her research at Mead Johnson in the Courier & Press of Evanville she states, "We work very closely with some of the best nutritional scientists around the world," The article then states that those scientists are from institutions such as Harvard, Baylor College of Medicine, and Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
The article also states that, "Collaboration between the company and academic institutions is important to both. Mead Johnson researchers can contribute information that assists them in publication."
Another well-known researcher on LCPUFAs for infants is Susan Carlson. She has been funded by Mead Johnson for various research projects. But holds a patent with the assignee being Abbott (parent company to Ross, infant formula) called "Method of reducing the incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis," patent # 6080787. She has co-authored studies with John Columbo, another well-known researcher on DHA and ARA. He happens to be a consultant for the US Tuna Foundation, Fonterra Brands, Mead Johnson, Ross Labs, New Zealand Milk, and Martek.
The IFC references a new study (2008) by Koletzko et al. in the Journal of Perinatal Medicine
entitled, "The roles of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in pregnancy, lactation and infancy: review of current knowledge and consensus recommendations." In small print above the abstract on medscape it states: "Developed under the direction and sponsorship of Martek."
Are we basing our understanding of LCPUFAs on several industrys' need for greater profits. Martek became cash flow positive in 2006 (first time) in a statement made to investors. There infant formula revenue increased 27% to $241 million. Breastfeeding rates according to many LCs is down. Is there a relationship between increasing profits of these industries and the slow slide downward of breastfeeding intiation and duration?
The IFC states they support breastfeeding...that breastfeeding is the "ideal," but some mothers cannot or choose not to breastfeed. How much of the "cannot" and "choice" resides on the ability of powerful industries to influence the academic world through funding? How much of the "cannot" and "choice" resides on what gets published in our medical journals and is believed to be unbiased? I suppose there are some people who believe that how one is funded does not matter or whether patenting (a monopoly on a product) exists has no factor in influencing medical policy decisions by our institutions. I guess I am not one of those people.
Copyright 2008 Valerie W. McClain

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Double Helix continued

The International Society for Research in Human Milk and Lactation gave the 2008 Macy-Gyorgy Award to W. Allan Walker, Director of the Harvard Medical School Division of Nutrition. Integrity in Science had a brief write up on this Harvard Department because their 7th Annual Postgraduate Nutrition Symposium (2005) on "The Childhood Obesity Epidemic" was sponsored by unrestricted grants from such companies as McDonalds and such infant formula companies as Nestle, Wyeth, Mead Johnson, Dannon, and Ross.
As Director of the Department of Nutrition of Harvard, W. Allan Walker gave the introductory speech for this symposium. In 2007, he gave the introductory speech for the Symposium, "Breastfeeding and Atopic Disease." This Symposium was presented by Harvard's School of Nutrition and the International Society for Research in Human Milk and Lactation (ISRHML) and it was made possible through unrestricted educational grants from Mead Johnson, Nestle Nutrition, Ross Nutrition, and Wyeth Nutrition.
Thus, the foundation of human milk research seems to be based on the funding of the infant formula industry. Of course that does lead to some questions. But who can ask those questions in this society? Even a majority of breastfeeding advocates refuse to ask those questions. Is a researcher truly independent of his financial backers? Are our researchers biased, blinded by their funding or who employs them? How does critical thought exist when it is tied to whether you can economically exist or will be able to ply your expertise? Is there a middle road that researchers can walk while serving an industry? While walking the middle road is economically safer for the individual, is it safer for our society? As industry infiltrates our educational systems, will students ever understand that their "knowledge" is based on what industry wishes us to know? Does industry know best? or the very best as Nestle loves to tell us? Do we consumers really have shared values (Nestle's belief of corporate social responsibility) with industry?
I have been told to quit being naive about life. In the US, our motto seems to be "he who dies with the most toys, wins." I recently saw that bumper sticker on a Beamer on I-95. The first time I saw that statement, I laughed. Now, I feel a sense of loss...the humor escapes me. Our value system is tied to making lots of money and buying lots of things and that should give us happyland. But our personal Happyland comes with an enormous price tag for the rest of the world. How can one be happy while the rest of the world suffers the consequences of one society's greed? How do we call it corporate social responsibility when an industry sells a product that sabotages breastfeeeding? How can we be truly educated, when that education is sponsored by the corporation?
Copyright 2008 Valerie W. McClain

Monday, April 14, 2008

Harvard, Nestle: the double helix....

photo by Jessie McClain
In a transcript from the 2006 SRI Forum in New York and London, Nestle of South America states that the DNA of their corporation is its commitment to corporate social responsibility. Thus, the Nestle double Helix is based on its long term commitment to corporate social responsibility. There is an interesting transcript of Nestle's SRI Forum at New York and London. They "present a case study performed by Foundation Strategy Group.
In this transcript we are introduced to the CEO of Nestle S.A., Peter Brabeck-Letmathe and their head of Public Affairs, Niels Christiansen. We also get an introduction to Professor Mark Kramer of Harvard University/Chairman of the Foundation Strategy Group. Nestle and the Foundation Strategy Group "developed" a report that went with Nestle's shareholders report. The Foundation Strategy Group wrote the report. Mark Kramer is also the founding director to Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism at Harvard. He has had articles published with the Boston Globe, the New York Times, National Geographic, and the Atlantic.
It's worthwhile reading to get an understanding how huge corporations view themselves and the world around them. At one point either the CEO of Nestle or the head of public affairs speaks about how Nestle works with some 280,00 farmers in Latin America and the statement is, "These milk farmers live exclusively on the relationship they have with us." Yes, I call that coporate social responsibility. One might view exclusive relationships as: a marriage, or a monopoly, or slavery. What you think is often dependent on your viewpoint...whether you are a have or have-not in this world. Certainly those farmers have "shared values" with Nestle. And when a learned professor from Harvard writes for Nestle to their shareholders, then who am I to question Nestle's DNA of corporate social responsibility. see:
Copyright 2008 Valerie W. McClain

Institute of Medicine (IOM)...independent scientists?

I read the DHA/ARA Report by the Cornucopia Institute when it came out a few months ago. I was somewhat astounded to read that they believe that a "panel of independent scientists was convened by the Institute of Medicine to take a critical look at tests performed for new ingredients in infant formula." Certainly, they convened a committee to "evaluate the addition of ingredients new to infant formula." In fact this was back in early 2002. I wrote the Institute of Medicine to complain about their selection of committee members. I stated in my letter, "Should the decision of safety of infant formula be given to people from the very industries and universities that will benefit from the decision?" My letter was 4 pages long with 14 references to the connections between the committee members and the new industries that would gain from the inclusion of new or novel ingredients. The committee members were changed, but the chairman of the committee stayed the same. Dr. Richard Deckelbaum was the chairman and had been funded over the years by Nestle, Mead Johnson, and the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board. Many of the new committee members had associations with Mead Johnson (they funded alot of the original DHA research). In fact one committee member, George L. Baker, was the retired Vice president of Mead Johnson. William C. Franke, another committee member, was employed by Unilever at that time. Unilever at that time had Loder's infant formula (Europe) and they were working on a human milk fat replacer similiar to Betapol.

Representatives of Monsanto and major pharmaceutical companies have been on the IOM Board over the years. How do these representatives of these industries make "independent" policy decisions regarding issues that impact the companies they represent? Currently the Food Forum participants at the IOM are from Coca-Cola, ConAgra, Kellogg, Ross Products (infant formula company), McDonalds, General Mills, Mead Johnson, Cargill, Monsanto, Kraft, and Mars. Scattered among these participants are some people representing universities and government (FDA, NIH)...about 5 representatives.

I would think in regard to safety issues regarding products that effect our most vulnerable populations, like infants, there would be a stricter definition of the word "independent." But such is life in the USA. By the way Martek, recently announced that they had just hired Dr. Norman Salem, Jr. as vp and chief scientific officer. Dr. Salem worked at the NIH for 30 years as the government expert on DHA and the function of polyunsaturated fatty acids and lipids.
Some people call this the "revolving door" of employment between government researchers and industry. Why would we begrudge scientists the chance to make more money? And yet, there is something troubling about this situation.
Copyright 2008 Valerie W. McClain

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Genetically engineered...truth or dare?

Martek, maker of microbial oils by single cell protein production, states that their oils are not genetically engineered. Since the company began in 1985 they have always stated that genetic engineering is a possibility but that would be sometime in the future. Their first few patents were filed in 1992-1995. They now have many more patents but the original patents were from that time period.
Genetic engineering went commercial in 1985 when companies were able to manipulate enzymes. This was not public knowledge. Most consumers are unaware of how much of our food is genetically modified. I have helped run a small local organic food coop since 1985, and in the nineties came to the realization that almost all USA cheese is made with a genetically engineered enzyme that imitates cow or pig rennet (chymosin). Our coop in order to get cheese without this genetically engineered enzyme had to order cheese from Europe. Since that was prohibitively expensive, most members were resigned to eating American cheese or none at all. How many US consumers realize this fact. Do we know if this is safe technology? How do we know that this is safe? Previously we were dependent on the slaughter of veal calves or cows or pigs for our cheese. We are now dependent on genetically engineered E.coli, Kluyveromyces lactis, and Aspergillus niger to make our rennet. (from "An Introduction to Genetic Engineering," by Desmond S. T. Nicholl, second edition, Cambridge University Press, p.186)
Martek Bioscience is a spinoff company from Martin Marietta and the NASA space program. Providing food for people in space is a complex problem. Remember Tang, the orange breakfast drink? This drink was the result of the NASA space program. Teflon is also another product that has its roots in the space program. The space program creates consumer products that are in the marketplace.
On March 29, 1995 Henry Linsert, Chairman and CEO of Martek Biosciences (Steve Durbin is the current CEO) testified before the House Judiciary Committee subcommittee on courts and intellectual property. He was testifying on behalf of BIO (Biotechnology Industry Organization). His testimony was about the enormous capital needed to bring a biotech product to market. He stated that Genzyme raised $328 million and Amgen had to raise $406 million. He spoke about the "critical synergy between intellectual property protection and capital formation." He quoted A Dr. Austin who states that patents are a way to attract investment capital. Henry Linsert states in this testimony, "Since genetic engineering is the only commercially feasible method for manufacturing human proteins, a patent on the recombinant manufacturing process can be tantamount to a product patent." Later he states, "Thus a patent on the method of making a protein by using a host cell would produce a basis for an infringement action under section 271(g) of tile 35, United States Code."
In a report written in June 2001 in Science ( volume 292 15 June 2001 page 2073) called "Trophic Conversion of an Obligate Photoautotrophic Organism Through Metabolic Engineering," scientists from Martek and the Carnegie Institution of Washington, detail how to genetically engineer a microalgae, Phaeodactylum tricornutum to thrive on glucose in the absence of light. This abstract states, "This also represents progress toward the use of fermentation technology for large scale commercial exploitation of algae by reducing limitations associated with light dependent growth."
In an article in the Asia Food Journal written by Leontien Braakman dated January 1, 2005 it states, "An American firm, Martek Bioscience has used genetic modification to convert algae that need light to grow, to the their energy instead from sugar." and "But the strain of algae has become a genetically modified organism (GMO) as a result consumers may not like this and reject products made with it." What strain are they talking about, since Martek denies genetically engineering the algae used for infant formula? Does Martek have separate fermenting tanks? How is this separation maintained during processing? Does the FDA inspect the facilities to ensure that no gmo strain accidently contaminates the algae not genetically engineered? Anyone know?
SemBioSys Genetics, Inc. has an agreement with Martek Bioscience that was amended in 2007. In a press release by BioSpace it states, "Martek has decided it is important to have the flexibility to pursue a traditional commodity crop as well as specialty crops, like safflower, as a source of DHA-rich plant oil. Regardless of the crop used by Martek as a source of DHA-rich oil, under the amended agreement, SemBioSys will receive a royalty on gross margin of DHA-rich plant oil product sales." SemBioSys is a biotech company that is developing commerical products using genetic engineering (in this case the plant,safflower, to create DHA).
So Martek is not adverse to using other biotech company's genetically engineered oils but does not genetically engineer its own oils. Will the consumer know whether the DHA is from algae or safflower or a mixture? Afterall, it's rocket science, and your guess is as good as mine. Rock, paper, scissors: who wins?
Copyright 2008 Valerie W. McClain