[ExI] (The Independent 2013-08) Plumpy'Nut: The lifesaver that costs... well, peanuts

Dave Sill sparge at gmail.com
Tue Sep 17 13:15:57 UTC 2013

On Mon, Sep 16, 2013 at 8:44 PM, Tomasz Rola <rtomek at ceti.pl> wrote:
> (It's about special food used for treatment accute malnutrition. According
> to UNICEF, there are millions - 6.9 in 2011 - preventable children death
> each year. Fortunately, the number dropped 50% from 12 mln in 1990.
> Preventable means, lack of vaccine which cost less than about 0.1 green
> alone or less than 1 green with portable fridge for transporting more of
> it, longer distance.  For more details, see "UNICEF Annual Report 2012",
> http://www.unicef.org/publications/index_69639.html . I have quite a few
> of my own problems, probably bigger than most of readers, but I have just
> bought a month, maybe two worth of this Plumpy. It's easy, they welcome
> any money at unicef.org - or, go find your regional office's website. So,
> I am sure you can easily beat me at this stunt, or forward this to your
> innumerable buddies, challenging them in my name - TR)

>From http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/05/magazine/05Plumpy-t.html?_r=2&hp&

"Plumpy’nut is also a brand name, however, the registered trademark of
Nutriset, a private French company that first manufactured and
marketed the paste. It was not the intention of Plumpy’nut’s inventor,
a crusading pediatrician named André Briend, to create an industry
around Plumpy’nut. Briend, his friends say, was always personally
indifferent to money. (Also, apparently, to publicity — he declined
repeated requests to be interviewed for this article.) One element of
genius in Briend’s recipe was precisely its easy replicability: it
could be made by poor people, for poor people, to the benefit of
patients and farmers alike. Most of the world’s peanuts are grown in
developing countries, where allergies to them are relatively uncommon,
and the rest of the concoction is simple to prepare. On a visit to
Malawi, Briend whipped up a batch in a blender to prove that
Plumpy’nut could be made just about anywhere.

Others, however, quickly realized that the miracle product had more
than just moral value. Nutriset has aggressively protected its
intellectual property, and the bulk of Plumpy’nut production continues
to take place at Nutriset facilities in France. (Unicef, the world’s
primary buyer, purchases 90 percent of its supply from that factory,
according to a 2009 report prepared for the agency.) Internationally,
there has been a vituperative debate over who should control the means
of production, with India going so far as to impose sharp restrictions
on Plumpy’nut, calling it an unproven colonialist import. Elsewhere,
local producers are simply ignoring the patent. In Haiti, two
manufacturers are making products similar to Plumpy’nut independently
of Nutriset: one is Partners in Health, the charity co-founded by the
prominent global-health activist Paul Farmer. Partners in Health
harvests peanuts from a 30-acre farm or buys them from a cooperative
of 200 smallholders. It’s planning to build a larger factory, but for
now the nuts are taken to the main hospital in Cange, where women sort
them in straw baskets, roast them over an outside gas burner, run them
through a hand grinder and mix all the ingredients into a paste that
is poured into reusable plastic canisters. Peanuts in Haiti and
throughout the developing world have a high incidence of aflatoxin, a
fungus that can sicken children, especially fragile ones. But Partners
in Health says the product, which it calls Nourimanba, is safe."

It's unfortunate that a product like this is burdened with a (probably
overly broad) patent. It's basically fortified peanut butter, which
isn't really a new idea. It's also unfortunate that the patent owner
"has aggressively protected its intellectual property". It certainly
makes people less likely to donate to Unicef.


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