Bitter Battle Over "Superfood" Patent Divides Business, NGOs

It’s a battle between commercial interest and the life of millions of malnourished children.

Two U.S.-based nonprofits are fighting to annul a French company’s patent on a peanut paste known as a “wonder-product” in helping restore the health of famine-stricken children in Africa, BBC reports.

But Normandy-based Nutriset, makers of Plumpy’nut, contends that the company has to protect and maintain patent to prevent the production of cheap versions, adding that “no child in the world has even been denied access to the product as a result of the patent issue.”

The company allows franchising and local production in 12 African states.

The firm’s refusal to break its virtual monopoly over the therapeutic product is “preventing malnourished children from getting what they need to survive,” said Mike Mellace of California-based Mama Cares Foundation.

Made of peanut paste, milk, sugar and vegetable oil, Plumpy’nut gained its reputation as a super food for helping revive the health of malnourished children in Niger during a food crisis in 2005.

About the author

  • Tarra Quismundo

    Tarra Quismundo joined Devex Manila as a staff writer in October 2009 after more than six years of working as a reporter for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a nationwide daily, for which she covered major breaking news in politics, military, police and international affairs. Tarra's Devex News coverage focuses on key Asian donors and top aid officials around the globe.

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