Sunday, October 30, 2011

Choice: The Holy Grail of Infant Feeding

Choice has become the holy grail of infant feeding.  Female liberation has been predicated on the "freedom" to choose between infant formula and breastfeeding.  So are women freely making this choice?  Or is society, our medical-industrial-social-marketing-government institutions, creating the propaganda to influence choice?  

I seem to have stirred the hornet's nest, particularly on Facebook, regarding my comments on my previous post to my blog.  The blog writer for Fearless Formula Feeding wrote regarding me--STFU.  And a number of facebookers agreed to that statement.  I had to look up what STFU meant.  Yes, shows my age.  It means shut the fuck up. Wow. Yeah I seem to be the only one on the Virtual who is initial-impaired.  Rude, eh?  What can I say?  Oh yeah I am suppose to shut the....

Sorry, can't shut up, getting too old to shut up.  So I have an answer for those facebookers who think I should STFU.  Put your hands over your ears, close your eyes, and don't read my blog.  I allow humming while reading my blog and actually I do allow people to disagree with my point of view. 

I believe that biologically the mammary gland is a working organ and meant to be used.  Not using that organ has health ramifications for both mother and baby.  Long term there is enormous ramifications to society in terms of health care costs-physical and emotional.   Yet I do not believe that society and in particular government should force women to breastfeed.  I feel a woman has the right to refuse to breastfeed.  The right of refusal is a subtle but crucial difference than in believing in "choice."  Breastfeeding is normal mammalian behavior.  But as I have said many times before we do not live in natural/normal environments.  So while breastfeeding is normal, our culture makes it abnormal.  We struggle with learning to breastfeed because we do not see it in order to imitate it.  Humans are the great imitators.  When women are asked to leave public establishments because they are breastfeeding, it sends a message not only to the mother and her family but to the rest of the community.  These messages are pervasive in the USA.

Choice isn't choice when the person who makes that choice does not know the full consequences.  When a government, a society, withholds crucial information or an industry subverts that knowledge, then choice is a stacked deck.  If women knew about all the patents on human milk components or read the infant formula patents, I believe that they might question the safety of infant formula feeding.  They might question the belief that choice really exists in infant feeding. 
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain

Friday, October 28, 2011

Does fearless breastfeeding exist?

There is a blog called "Fearless FormulaFeeding:  standing up for formula feeders without being a boob about it."  Cute, catchy and oh so "rational" about the need to protect infant formula.   Yes we must protect infant formula from the judgmental breastfeeders of the world.   Okay, okay, the goal of the blog is to support, protect, and encourage infant formula mommys from the judgmental breastfeeding community.  Yet, I am fascinated by the design of this blog.  The use of words, large and small, "guilt,"  "father."  Oh the psychological games we can play when we have a PR industry in our back pocket.  I wonder who really created this blog?  A PR company?  With who's backing?  

The blog states, "that breastfeeding is not useless," but "Its turned into something we have to do, rather than want to do...."  I turn these words around and around in my head.  Of course we have to do it, it is biology.  We have legs and we walk (unless we are crippled), we have eyes and we see (unless we are blind), we have ears and we hear (unless we are deaf).  We have mammary glands and we make milk for our babies.  "Yes Sally, you have legs but you have a choice about using them.  Our society has changed since days of old where walking was normal, natural.  Walking is worth it... but so it your sanity, health, and sense of autonomy."  (the blog stated, "Breastfeeding is worth it.  But so is a mothers sanity, health and sense of autonomy.")

Choice is the holy grail of infant feeding.  We must have choice because we are liberated women.  Liberated from what?  Our biology.  Yet while we are liberating ourselves from our biology, our industry and institutions are making claims on the magic of the mammary gland and its milk.  How peculiar that seems to me. The Fearless FormulaFeeding blog believes "mothers are well aware"  of the benefits/advantages of breastfeeding (and obviously tired of hearing about it).  Yet I see no discussion on this blog about the patenting of human milk components by the infant formula industry.  So let's take a step for honesty to mothers.  If you don't breastfeed, you will be giving your infant the genetically engineered equivalent of human milk...cough-cough... they have yet to know all the components and clone them for use.  Where is the discussion about the safety of genetic engineering of formulas for newborn and premature infants?  This blogger presumes that infant formula is the safe option.  That presumption is based on ease of access to medical care, availability of good sanitation-clean water, etc.  It is predicated on the belief that manufacturers of infant formula do not make mistakes in the processing of infant formula ( we know this is not true because of the number of recalls and deaths/hospitalizations of infants who consumed contaminated infant formula).  

Why does feminism require a choice regarding the nurturing of our infants?  Why is breastfeeding idolized, romanticized?  It's biology.  It can be a beautiful experience but it is also like anything we do with our body.  It can be tiring, boring, painful, blissful, uplifting, repetitive, annoying, fun, funny, irritating, enjoyable, peaceful, sad, and on and on.  It's life with babies.  

Motherhood in the USA is judged and not just with breastfeeding.  Most of us have felt judged, tried, and convicted when dealing with a toddler who is having a meltdown in a public place.  The eyes of condemnation by others who believe you haven't been strict enough or loving enough.  You can't win whatever you do because there will always be someone who judges you as inadequate at this mothering game.  Why do we believe that mothers should just know how to parent because they are mothers?  Why does half our society believe that a good spanking is all that is needed for the toddler or child who cannot behave in public?  Why does the other half seem to ignore their misbehaving child?  

I have never seen a mother condemned for infant formula feeding in public (I am sure it exists but I have never heard anyone speak badly about a mother who bottlefeeds her baby).  But I have heard the words of disgust from people when a mother breastfeeds in public.  I have been given the evil eye for nursing my 2-week old baby in public.  So it is very hard for me to view the blog on Fearless FormulaFeeding as other than a public relation blog designed to influence mothers to bottlefeed without fear.  The design is to put breastfeeding up on that marble pedestal and make us believe that we have actually made a choice to bottlefeed.  Choice in actuality is a stacked deck that only works to protect infant formula feeding.
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Manufacturing antibodies in an immune deficient world

Our world seems to have changed in the past few decades.  Our medical-industrial complex has us convinced that our bodies cannot keep us healthy without vaccinations, drugs, or specially processed liquid foods (cradle to grave formulas).  We can live on top of a chemical dump called earth.  It's okay to breathe in the smog of chemicals from industries making more chemicals.  It's okay to swim in the oceans, lakes, and streams that are so polluted that its creatures wash ashore at regular intervals, dead from a sewer of chemical hells.  It's okay to eat and drink our fast convenient foods.  As long as we get our vaccinations, drugs, and special convenient foods with added vitamins, we will survive.  Like a pod of whales beaching themselves, we humans seem to have run aground in a desperate failing world.  Half breathing, half eating, half drinking ourselves to death:  as the corporate world bankrupts the world.

We believe that we can manufacture an immune system, after we have destroyed it. Men of science have the locks and keys to the molecular kingdom of antigens, antibodies.  Oh brave new world!  Oh hybridoma, mother of us all.  We can genetically engineer immunity.  Ya don't need to birth normally, breastfeed, eat real food, breath fresh air.  Lets fix the problem with molecular engineering and while we are at it we can make a little money.  Because the DNA of life on this planet is the almighty world of profit.

So what has this got to do with breastfeeding?  Not much.  It has alot to do with the understanding of the mammary gland and the value of human milk.  One thing that is well known is that human milk is very antigenic substance.  It was and is still used (in a more limited fashion since it requires injecting the antigenic substance into a mouse which creates ascites that are drained for use in manufacturing antibodies-painful to the mouse) to create polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies.  These antibodies are used to create various ELISA, Western blot,  assay kits to test our blood.  One rather famous monoclonal antibody is BrE3 which is used to diagnose breast cancer and also used in breast cancer therapies.  It was developed through the use of HMFG (human milk fat globule).  There are various patents regarding the use of HMFG in the creation of monoclonal antibodies.  We have patent #5075219 owned by John Muir Cancer & Aging Institute and filed in 1989 and invented by Roberto L. Ceriani and Jerry A. Peterson.

"The BrE3 monoclonal antibody was developed using normal delipidated human milk fat globules as the immunizing agent."

"The BrE3 monoclonal antibody is unique because of its exceptional specificity for a mucin-like glycoprotein complex of very high molecular weight present on the surface and in the cytoplasm of breast carcinoma cells and which expresses no specificity for normal tissue of the adrenal, brain, bladder, colon, esophagus, lymph node, myocardia, muscle , parathyroid, thyroid, mesothelia and liver.  Consequently the BrE3 monoclonal antibody can be useful in several ways."

I am fascinated by the use of HMFG.  How was it obtained?  Is it still needed to create these test kits?  It is also used in therapies.  How much is needed?  Women donate their milk and our science uses substances from that milk (HMFG) to create test kits and therapies for breast cancer (and other cancers, too).  My mother died of breast cancer at 48.  I was 14 when she died and the impact of her death on me and my family still haunts me.  Would I have been a different person, if she lived?  Did she really have breast cancer?  How come?  We lived near a nuclear reactor in Canada-Chalk River in the 50's, which had had a serious accident.  I feel childishly stuck on questions that cannot be answered now.  Yet as far as I know, our family history did not include breast cancer until she died from it.  Is a diagnosis kit for cancer a good thing?  I think most people think it is a good thing.  How accurate?  When you are not sick, but take a blood test that says cancer is there;  what does it mean?  I was told by a friend that her oncologist told her that cancer cells are always floating around in your blood stream.  If you have a healthy immune system, your body fights it off.  How does a blood test know that your body is fighting it or not fighting it?  And how does chemotherapy help an immune system fight off cancer.  All to often it seems that those who take chemotherapy for one cancer die a few years later from another cancer.  For me it is a rather curious world, where we don't try to change our polluted world, we just use man-made creations to try and save our health.  The world seems to actively sabotage normal birth and breastfeeding and the cost is sick people.  But sick people are good for the economy--at least in the USA, where healthcare is based on the profit system.  It seems like we are working this problem backwards.  We accept our polluted world, sabotage any semblance of healthy birth and breastfeeding, and wonder why the world is so sick. 
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Reverse transcriptase in human milk

In 1970 reverse transcriptase was discovered "in connection with the replication of retroviruses."  Molecular Microbiology (1989), 1141-1144.  But you say what is reverse transcriptase?  It's an enzyme that only encodes/copies RNA in retroviruses.  In a laboratory, scientists can make reverse transcriptase do other tricks, it can also transcribe single-stranded DNA templates.  In cloning operations of DNA, reverse transcriptase is essential.  It is also commonly used to amplify DNA for PCR (which is use in diagnosing infectious diseases).  It is commercially manufactured from one of the following retroviruses: the Moloney murine leukemia virus and the Avian myeloblastosis virus.
Initially it was believed that reverse transcriptase was only found in retroviruses.  Later it was understood by some scientists that this enzyme functioned in other life forms.  Some scientists believe that reverse transcriptase is a marker for the hiv virus and is central to the belief that hiv was isolatedDoes reverse transcriptase activity in a particle mean that it is a retrovirus?  Here is a patent in which the inventors found reverse transcriptase activity in the milk of normal lactating women.
This patent is called, "Reverse transcriptase from human milk, method for its purification, and its use in the detection of breast cancer," patent # 4409200 filed in 1980.  The inventors were William F. Feller, Judith Kantor, Jack Chirikjian, and Terence Phillips and the patent was owned by Research Corporation of New York CityTheir research was funded by the US Department of Health and the US government was granted a non-exclusive royalty-free license.
             "The essence of the invention relates to the isolation, purification 
              and characterization of a reverse transcriptase enzyme from the
              milk of normal lactating humans.  This enzyme is capable of being 
              used in a binding assay for the detection of breast cancer."

Was this commercialized?  I don't know.  Research Corporation is now known as Research Corporation for Science Advancement.  It was founded in 1912 and has a long list of accomplished scientists (with patents) that they funded.  The founder of Research Corporation was Fredrick Cottrell, who became the Director of the US Bureau of Mines.
I have always wondered about the materials that are used to test for infectious disease.  Where does it come from?  Why do all antibody tests have false positives?  How pure are the materials that are used for testing of hiv?  Why are there 60 other diseases or conditions that can make a hiv test and other antibody tests become positive?  Lots of questions.  Did they ever use reverse transcriptase from human milk for PCR?  Maybe in the early days before genetic engineering took off?  Fascinating to me and maybe not too many others.  I wonder how reverse transcriptase derived from a virus or often e. coli genetically engineered can "purely" transcribe?  Does nature have purity, isolation?  Are we not a part (our cells, all cells) of the environment?  Questions, questions....
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

More on Monsanto and its human milk patent

I didn't know yesterday that Monsanto manufactured a drug for the treatment of arthritis, a COX-2 inhibitor, called Celebrex (which came out sometime in the 1990's).  Searle,  the pharmaceutical business unit of Monsanto, and Pfizer marketed the drug.  So Monsanto's ownership of patent #5164374 has my curiosity working on overdrive.   Just previous to my post on Monsanto I wrote about a recent Nestle patent called, "Milk fractions and milk preparations for treating and/or preventing COX-2 mediated diseases." (patent #8012509).  And the Nestle patent states, "Particularly, high cyclooxygenase-2 [COX-2] inhibiting activity are provided by sweet whey from human milk and by several fractions from cow milk..."  I am not sure what the ingredients are for Celebrex, probably some chemically-derived lab invention but it is fascinating to me that Monsanto in the early 1990's had a good idea about the value of human milk components.  Of course if I were to say publicly that breastfeeding has protective factors against arthritis, I am sure that there would be a chorus of voices from the medical community that there is no proof.  Because of course, patenting is not necessarily scientific proof.  I am intrigued by Monsanto's patent and how I would never have guessed that Monsanto would have had a human milk component patent.  We, the public, are kept ignorant of the powerful medical possibilities of human milk.  Some breastfeeding advocates (the movers, the shakers and their PR bloggers) continue to push the idea that nothing has changed in the past 100 years, its same old-same-old..."breastmilk can't be duplicated, or made a profit out of, or removed from the control of woman..." I believe it is wishful thinking to believe that nothing has changed.  The whole game has changed with the genetic modification of foods (including infant formula) and drugs.  Just the impact of using human milk components genetically engineered in drugs is a major change.  As long as the US Government (FDA) continues to act upon the belief that genetically engineered is equivalent to what is made by nature, then our food system and consequently the media will continue to be corrupted by half-truths.  That corruption can and will destroy the health of many people.  But industry will make its profits.  The slogans of half-truths will continue to circulate.
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Monsanto and its human milk component patent

Even Monsanto owns a patent that involves the use of a human milk component.  It was filed in December of 1990.  Whether it was made into a product (a treatment for arthritis or related autoimmune disease) is hard to tell.  The patent is #5164374 entitled, "Use of oligosaccharides for treatment of arthritis," and the inventors are Thomas W. Rademacher and Raymond A Dwek.

"The known relationships between sialyloligo-saccharides and rheumatoid arthritis can be summarized as follows:  N-acetylneuraminosyl oligosaccharides of great structual diversity are the major constituents of human milk.  That these structures may be important come from the studies of Witt et al. [Nutr.Metab. 23, 51-61, (1979)] who suggested oligosaccharides were not just storage forms of sialic acid but were absorded and distributed to the tissues intact. Since these studies, it has also become evident that sialyloligosaccharides are important bacterial anti-adhesions, preventing infection in the newborn."

There are more recent patents on the use of oligosaccharides (genetically engineered human milk components) owned by the infant formula industry but obviously Monsanto was way ahead of the game.  Rather ironic that a Monsanto patent seemed to understand the value of human milk back in 1990 better than advocates for breastfeeding.  Patenting has a way of suppressing knowledge.  Of course I think Monsanto is more interested in having populations drinking cow's milk.  And holding onto this patent (patents cost money to maintain-although obviously Monsanto has enough money to maintain a patent even if it never becomes a product) does hold off the competition for a time.

Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain