Human milk is NOT Invention

photo by Jessie McClain
Human milk, as invention, seems so far-fetched, so unbelievable. Yet, obviously some people on this planet believe that human milk (its components) can and should be patented. There is money to be made and the raw material is FREE for the taking. There is no need to feed or take care of the human animal, like the dairy cow industry. So essentially, the only problem is convincing the female human animal to freely donate. No problem there, just set up a PR campaign that convinces women that everyone is donating to this good cause. One of the fascinating things I noticed about some of the lactivist blogging sites was the CDC advertisements. Yes, just a coincidence. Interesting, though, that one of the CDC Foundations projects is testing human milk for toxins. So one might suppose that the CDC has an interest in having some of that breastmilk for its "studies." I do have to note that the media loves the contaminated breastmilk headlines and plays that theme regularly. But women should take note how little US media mentions contaminated infant formula. The Chinese infant formula scandal is minor news and even breastfeeding advocates on blogs say that they don't want to offend formula feeding mothers by discussing it. I guess that blows my mind. The death of infants and the hospitalization of thousands of infants will upset infant formula feeding mothers, so we won't talk about it. This is a prime example of codependent thinking. There is a problem, we won't talk about it and it will go away because we don't talk about it. This is the same thinking regarding the patenting of human milk. We won't talk about it and therefore the problem does not exist.
Despite the patenting of human milk, women are still donating their milk. So mothers don't seem to be concerned about patenting or have no knowledge of patenting. Mother's Milk Banks (a HMBANA trademark) are increasing around the country. According to news reports I have read, the difference between the HMBANA milk banking system and Prolacta is that HMBANA milk banks are non-profit. Prolacta makes money, a business.
There is a patent application called, "Oligosaccharide Compositions and Use Thereof in the Treatment of Infection," #20070275881. Patent inventors to this invention are Ardythe Morrow, David S. Newburg, and Guillermo M. Ruiz-Palacios. This patent application is based on research done on human milk oligosaccharides but is not about using the real components. I believe the patent application mentions cloning, a genetic engineering technique. David Newburg is inventor to two other patents on a human milk component-HMFG (owned by John Hopkins/Senomed). Interestingly, he is on the planning board of the relatively new HMBANA Mother's Milk Bank of New England. So exactly why does a milk bank have researchers involved in their planning that have patented human milk components? Is there some entrepreneaurship being developed? Are donating mothers to this non-profit aware that the use of their milk may go to research that is financially beneficial to the researchers or to some un-named company?
What is the difference between a non-profit milk bank and for-profit milk bank when researchers are given access to donated milk and use that resource to create patents? Frankly, I see no difference. Its all about entrepreneurship. It's all about the belief that human milk should and can be patented. What is this drive to get women to donate their milk? Is it about the poor NICU babies or orphaned babies in Africa? I believe it's about research that leads to patents...and many of those patents are about creating a better infant formula. How does this preserve, protect breastfeeding, if our milk banking system is feeding the infant formula/pharmaceutical industry?
Copyright 2008 Valerie W. McClain

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