Milking it in California

Edited to add: Two other blogs have now picked up on this story.

The Lactivist notes “The International Breast Milk Project in the News Again“.

And MamaBear at breastfeedingsymbol.org has done some ringing around – directly to the iThemba Lethu orphanage. Her post You’re Going to Want to Read This details the fact the the numbers are still just not. adding. up:

Since the IBMP made their promise to send 55,000 ounces of donated breast milk, they have sent the one shipment of 5,343 ounces in May 2007. Their rate of shipments to Africa is about two shipments a year so far.

Why is it important to know all of this? Because the International Breast Milk Project got 55,000 ounces of donated milk because of Oprah. On Oprah’s show, it was stated that the donated milk would go to Africa, not 25% of it. The IBMP promised that all those 55,000 ounces would be sent to Africa, and that thereafter, 25% of what is donated would be sent. At the current rate and quantity that the IBMP is sending milk (an average of two shipments a year), it would take almost five years to send the originally promised 55,000 ounces to Africa.

MamaBear also notes ways to contribute that don’t line anyone’s pockets: you can donate milk and/or money directly to iThemba Lethu, or to non-profit milk banking or milk sharing networks in your locality.

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The O.C. Register today carried this story: Rancho realtor donates breast milk to Africa.

You might recall that I’ve written in the past about the close ties between breastmilk-for-profit Prolacta and the “International Breastmilk Project”. The Oprah-advertised “charity”, supposedly independent from Prolacta, was outed as providing 75% of milk donated for African orphans directly to Prolacta for sale within the United States:

Feed the wo-orld”¦ one baby, anyhow.

Salon’s “Milk Money”: media scrutiny of the IBMP-Prolacta partnership

At the time, I held the opinion that this “collaboration” was essentially a push for Prolacta to gain a supposedly arms-length “non-profit” front for its milk collection activities. And the exploitation of the image of sick black starving babies doesn’t hurt, either. This is nothing new for Prolacta. Prolacta has dubbed its commercial milk-collection arm the “National Milk Bank”, with an “org” suffix (nationalmilkbank.org). When it was first set up, Prolacta-NMB claimed openly on its webpage to be a non-profit organisation. (The claim has since been removed).

Unsurprisingly, women are more likely to donate milk when they feel it is going to a good cause, rather than when they know that they’re being exploited for massive profits by venture capitalists.

Of course, my concerns were dismissed by the IBMP founder. No, she said, we just have this little arrangement with Prolacta, they’re helping us out with processing. We’re not Prolacta, we’re totally independent. Prolacta are being all altruistic in all this, and by the way, aren’t they lovely to donate all these resources for the greater good? Don’t they deserve some good publicity for it?

So guess who’s the director of the new Californian branch of the “International Breastmilk Project”? April Brown. Daughter of Elena Medo. Who’s Elena Medo? The CEO and founder of Prolacta.

Arm’s length arrangement, my arse.

*** If you’re in the USA or Canada and wish to donate milk to a real non-profit organisation, check out HMBANA, the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. ***



Categories: ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism, health

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