Thursday

Protecting Breastfeeding from the Human Milk Industry

"The 10,000 years of human expertise in feeding us is a women's expertise."
                                            Vandana Shiva-"Seeds of Resistance"
                                            from the International Museum of Women

Vandana Shiva was writing about women as seed experts, "the biodiversity conservers of the world."  Reading about the preservation of seeds, of the need for biodiversity in our crops, I find that instead of thinking about seeds I am thinking about breastfeeding.  The survival of humanity for thousands of years depended upon breastfeeding.  It was dependent upon the knowledge of breastfeeding being passed from one generation to the next.  It was dependent upon the diversity of human milk.  Breastmilk, unlike formula, is not just species specific, but genetically specific for each infant.   The survival of the infant is dependent on the closeness of the mother.  Her milk producing antibodies specific to their shared environment.

Fast forward to our biotech society that believes in separation of mother and infant and that it doesn't really matter what you feed the baby.  All we need is clean water, antibiotics, and available health care facilities and providers and babies will survive.  And most do survive in our biotech society but we might question whether infant's have optimum health.  We do not consider that for 1000s of years,  infants were biologically programed to be close to their mothers and feed at their breasts.

And now we are entering an era where improvement of infant formula will be based on actual human milk components.  I realize there will be people who think this is a great thing, a safe thing for infants.  And maybe that is so.  But the real issue breastfeeding advocates need to ask themselves is how will this protect, promote, and preserve breastfeeding?  How does homogenization of human milk into infant formula safeguard the biological diversity of breastmilk?  Yes, I hear the voices of industry:  some babies cannot breastfeed, some mothers cannot produce enough milk, and some mothers do not want to breastfeed.  We must have a billion dollar industry to save those babies.  Seems like a hell of a lot of babies need saving to support a billion dollar industry.  And adding real human milk components, is only going to add to the cost of infant formula.  What babies are we saving?  Certainly not the babies who are born into poverty?  Not the babies whose parents cannot afford expensive infant formula.  And how do we ethically justify the use of free donor milk to aid a billion dollar industry?  

I hear the little doubters in the room.  This isn't happening.  We are not seeing the merging of the infant formula industry with a human milk industry. Let me see, let's take a look at the clinical trial called, "The Impact of Oligosaccharides and Bifidobacteria on the Intestinal Microflora of Premature Infants,"  ClinicalTrials government identifier NCT00810160.  The study start date was June of 2009 sponsored by University of California, Davis and the collaborators are Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institue of Child Health and Human Services.  Some babies will get Prolact Plus mixed with formula, this group is labeled Permeate (remember Prolacta's patent application for human milk permeate?).  This is a Prolacta product.  Other babies will get a galacto-oligosaccharide supplement, and some babies will get either Bifidobacterium infantis or animalis.  
http://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT00810160

I have no information on the results but I presume that since Abbott has made those 7 applications on human milk oligosaccharides that they may have been very promising. Premature babies are usually the first to get new additions to infant formula.  It was certainly the case with Martek's DHA/ARA.  So one must presume that the next step would be all babies.

Prolacta was started by Elena Medo in California.  Lately, I have not seen her name mentioned among the executives of the company.  Many of those executives were previously employed by Baxter.  So I started trying to find out what happened.  I found a little information.  She is now the CEO of a company called Neolac, Inc. based in Murrieta, California.  At the Manta website it states that Neolac is a private company categorized under Fluid Milk.  Interesting.  But not as interesting as her new invention patent at the World Intellectual Property website.  Her company Neolac has a patent application WO/2012/030764 entitled, "Human Milk Preparation."  So I guess Neolac isn't a company based on cow's milk.  It's really weird writing this.  We have a fluid milk industry and its made up of women donating their milk to save all those little NICU babies.   Science fiction coming alive to a place near you.  Obviously, the US is way ahead of the game of monopolies and using women for greater gain.   I am shaking my head and wondering when will breastfeeding advocates stop imploring women to donate their milk and at the very least question what is going on?  I guess when hell freezes over.
Copyright 2012 Valerie W. McClain




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