Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Breast pump companies and the WHO Code

photo by Jesse McClain
There is a belief in breastfeeding organizations that the WHO/UNICEF Code (International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes) does not pertain to breast pump companies. In examining the original document written in 1981, I am rather surprised that breastfeeding advocates have come to that conclusion. In the beginning of this document breast-milk substitute is defined as, "any food being marketed or otherwise presented as a partial or total replacement for breast milk, whether or not suitable for that purpose."
Thus, I suppose a strict interpretation would be that legally this document is only directed at "food." Although it is also directed at bottles/bottle nipples. So it isn't just about food but also products involved in delivering alternative food to the infant/child. In 2003 UNICEF wrote a document called, "Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding." On page 10 of this document under the title, "Exercising other feeding options," they state: "For these few health situations where infants cannot, or should not, be breastfed, the choice of the best alternative-expressed breast milk from an infant's own mother, breastmilk from a healthy wet-nurse or a human-milk bank, or a breastmilk substitute fed with a cup, which is a safer method..." I would interpret this to mean that any mother who is not breastfeeding directly is using other feeding alternatives. And, thus pump companies are marketing alternatives to breastfeeding and therefore must comply with the WHO Code. UNICEF created this Code to "emphasize the importance of maintaining the practice of breast-feeding." (1981) Hasn't UNICEF in later years showed us that the view is that infant feeding options go in descending order of choice with breastfeeding the priority? Thus products marketed that endanger the practice of breast-feeding must be regulated? While breast pumps were created to maintain breastfeeding, they are a two-edged sword. The use of pumps carries a degree of risk. And the risk of breastfeeding failure is higher, if the pump was unnecessary from the start. If one takes a more flexible view of the WHO Code, I believe that one could present a good case for breast pump companies having to comply with the Code. So why are breastfeeding organizations taking a strict view of the Code and letting the pump companies off the hook? Possibly their legal advisers, view the law strictly and believe that all other legal adviser's and the courts would take a similar view. I would suggest that that is not necessarily true. It is also possible that this strict view is a reflection of the fears of "opening up a can of worms." Many breastfeeding organization events/conferences, professional journals and individual IBCLCs are funded by breast pump companies. Pump companies would not be happy about some of the rules of the Code (no advertising products to the public, no promotion of products to health-care facilities, no gifts or personal samples to health workers).
Of course an issue that overshadows this quite a bit is the fact that one pump company has decided to patent their invention of a human milk fortifier using human milk--Medela. They have patent applications in the US, Australia. etc. They had a European patent on the fortifier but lost the patent because they didn't pay the fees on time. But, of course, these patent applications will never be discussed publicly in breastfeeding organizations. Was it Shakespeare that said, "The world is a stage."? Find a mask and play the game.
copyright 2008 Valerie W. McClain

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

of truth, silence, slander, and propaganda

photo by Jesse McClain

I received another email from the anonymous commentator who called me a lunatic, a crazy, an uneducated bigot. This person believes I should publish her comments (maybe it's a him, but I doubt it). If this person wants to be published in my blog, then they need to reveal their name. This new email states that I "slandered the good name of Jennifer Laycock." Slander is usually defined as "verbal" lies against someone to hurt their reputation. Libel is usually considered "written" lies against someone to hurt their reputation. I believe that my statements in this blog were truthful not lies. I would suggest that readers reread my comments. Nothing was said against Jennifer. She is obviously an excellent writer, a lactivist, a caring person. But something bothered me about her writing and when I dug a little deeper I found to my dismay that she makes her living in the public relations field. Readers may want to read "The Lactivist Project" at:
Is stating someone's occupation slander? Or is this anonymous writer trying to tell me that Jennifer Laycock is not in public relations? What is truth? And can we write and speak the truth in this society? When I was "allowed" on Lactnet, I was told that I was libeling people because I wrote about how human milk research was funded by the infant formula industry and questioned a HMBANA milk bank's "in-kind" funding from Dannon (Dannon is part of Groupe Danone-infant formula company in Europe). From my perspective, it looks like one can only be considered a breastfeeding advocate, if one keeps silent about the connections between human milk research and the infant formula industry. One can only be acceptable if one criticizes Nestle, as if Nestle is the only infant formula company in the world. Not that Nestle does not deserve criticism but that the best propaganda is finding and focusing on one "enemy." No self-criticism allowed. One is ethical because one is on the "right" side of the argument. We don't have to follow any rules because we are the good guys. In politics and religion this creates intolerance and wars of righteousness. Life is truly not that way. Ethics is for everyone, no one side has everything right (including myself). Knowledge, the search for truth, has to allow a hearing of all sides. Scientific/medical knowledge becomes more faith than fact, when we close the doors to open discussions and publications. Intolerance of others, ostracism of those we disagree with, breeds poor thinking and even poorer decision-making. Speaking of intolerance, there is no more a divisive slogan than the current mantra from breastfeeding organizations that "breastfeeding is normal." Then, one who does not or cannot breastfeed must be "abnormal." Divisive? You bet. What is the truth? Lactation is a normal biological process that occurs after pregnancy. But, breastfeeding is not "normal" in US culture. If it were normal, would women have to protest being thrown out of various establishments for breastfeeding? Would the percentage of exclusive breastfeeders be so low? Would formula feeding be so much a part of our culture? Instead of an honest statement of our cultural abnormality, we make statements that subtly blame the women who do not or cannot breastfeed. It is propaganda pure and simple. And it is divisive.
While I am accused of slander anonymously, that very same person calls me a lunatic, crazy, an uneducated bigot. Who is slandering/libeling who?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

of lunatics, crazies, and uneducated bigots

photo by Jesse McClain
I recently received an anonymous comment to "Human Milk is NOT invention." The commentor obviously felt quite strongly that I was a lunatic, a crazie[not my spelling, I like to spell crazy with a "y"], an uneducated bigot, and ended with a "SHUT THE HELL UP." Getting an email like that makes me feel like a kid again. Name-calling always invokes the "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me." Of course, name-calling hurts and that is it's purpose. But if I say my childhood mantra of sticks and stones I always feel better. As for shutting the hell up, I have to say that breastfeeding organizations have done an excellent job of shushing me for as long as possible. Although one might call that shushing ostracism or silencing of a critic.
The main thrust of the anonymous comment besides name-calling was to state that "these patents were to protect breastfeeding rates," and that, "pro-breastfeeding researchers should be applauded for these patents." There are no references to these comments. While I would love to believe that pro-breastfeeding researchers are patenting human milk to protect it from the infant formula industry, I have not heard of this before. Nor is there any public record of this being done that I have seen. Silence has been the main response to human milk and human milk component patents from breastfeeding organizations. I have been told by those who answered my emails that this issue is not of concern to them, maybe they will look at this issue sometime in the future...maybe.
Human milk research is funded by the infant formula industry. Human milk research is also funded by universities that are funded by the infant formula industry. The US Government funds research on human milk. But the infant formula industry has a large presence in the government. (Mead Johnson is on the list of CDC Foundation donors) I welcome any information that shows me that human milk researchers are patenting to prevent the infant formula industry from patenting. But I do have alot of questions. The infant formula, pharmaceutical, supplement, and food industries have over 2000 patents and applications on human milk/human milk compenents. There are an enormous amount of components to human milk (some not even discovered yet). Who are the researchers who own these patents to protect breastfeeding? Who is financially backing them? Why is this not public record? Why the silence?
Copyright 2008 Valerie W. McClain

Saturday, October 11, 2008

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