Truth to Power

The battle over Plumpy’nut

Legal fight over Plumpy’nut, the hunger wonder-product

Should a revolutionary humanitarian food product be protected by commercial patent, when lifting restrictions might save millions of starving children?

That is the moral conundrum at the heart of a bitter transatlantic legal dispute.

On one side are the French inventors of Plumpy’nut, a peanut paste which in the last five years has transformed treatment of acute malnutrition in Africa.

Nutriset, the Normandy-based company, says the patent is needed to safeguard production of Plumpy’nut in the developing world, and to stop the market being swamped by cheap US surpluses.

And on the other side are two American not-for-profit organisations that have filed a suit at a Washington DC federal court to have the patent overturned.

They say they are being stopped by Nutriset from manufacturing similar – and cheaper – peanut-based food products, despite the proven demand from aid agencies.

“By their actions, Nutriset are preventing malnourished children from getting what they need to survive. It is as simple as that,” said Mike Mellace, of the San Diego-based Mama Cares Foundation. </em>

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