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

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