News / Health

Legal Battle Slows Nutritional Peanut Butter From Reaching Children in Need

Lisa Bryant

A fortified peanut paste considered a silver bullet in fighting child malnutrition around the world is now the object of a transatlantic legal battle. At issue is whether patent rights for Plumpy'nut are preventing the product from reaching children who need it most.

It's a must-have for many humanitarian organizations around the world - a high-energy peanut paste packed with vitamins and minerals.  Produced by French manufacturer Nutriset, which has a patent on the product, the paste Plumpy'nut was critical in fighting the 2005 famine in Niger and helping street children survive in India.

Now, two American nonprofits have filed a suit in a Washington, D.C. federal court to get the Plumpy'nut patent rescinded. Mike Mellace, executive director of one of the groups - California-based Mama Cares Foundation - says there is nothing unique about Plumpy'nut.

"We understand what it takes to invest in development of new products and R&D. There are a lot of drug companies that spend a lot of money, time and energy to develop new products. But the merits of the patent and what they've patented...essentially it's peanut butter," he said.

Mellace says Nutriset cannot make enough Plumpy'nut to meet the global demand. And he says Nutriset's patent prevents competitors like Mama Cares from producing similar, and possibly cheaper, products. Mellace claims children are literally dying because of this alleged monopoly.

"Nutriset can't possibly expect they would be able to reach every organization around the world and sell to every organization around the world the products that they have," he said.

But Nutriset's Deputy General Manager Adeline Lescanne disputes these claims. She says children aren't getting Pumpy'nut because not enough aid has been earmarked to buy and distribute the product. "We have partners everywhere in the world and our total capacity today is 60,000 metric tons. And the demand last year was less than 30,000 metric tons. Which means there is production capacity," she said.

Nutriset says it tries to work with local farmers and manufacturers around the world to encourage self- sufficiency.  "It is really important to have a long-term view of what is happening. We are not just playing with a patent, but we are fighting to implement local production in Africa where there are needs, we are working in Latin America to develop new programs," she said.

Humanitarian groups like Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, agree Plumpy'nut is a tool in fighting child hunger and malnutrition. MSF complained to Nutriset last year about a Norwegian competitor who was blocked from transporting a similar product to Kenya. The issue was resolved.

What is critical, MSF says, is to ensure Plumpy'nut and similar nutritional products are as widely distributed as possible - at the lowest cost possible - to needy children.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid