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September 10, 2010
NY Times Weighs in on Plumpy'Nut
Back in April I had a pleasant exchange of views with M. Rémi Vallet of Nutriset, who responded to my original posting pointing out that the ready-to-use therapeutic food marketed as Plumpy'Nut was another situation in which the interests of intellectual property and protection of commercial profits was coming into conflict with clear lifesaving needs.
Now Andrew Rice of the New York Times has a magazine article focusing on the company, its product, and the controversies around it. As I noted back in April there are no simple and easy answers to this tension. In Haiti, Rice finds one company that is making its own version of a peanut-based food, while another has become a franchisee of Nutriset.
Rice also touches on the issue raised by Vallet in his response to Copyfight, which was the vast gap between the billions of dollars that would be needed to manufacture any RUTF and the actual dollars that are delivered to Nutriset and its franchises to do actual manufacturing. There are continuing accusations of anti-competitive behavior, and as with any business it's hard to break in where one company totally dominates the market.
For me the most interesting thread in Rice's story isn't well developed, but it's in there. In effect Rice and the people he interviews are suggesting that the real solution is not an either/or proposition but some combination of three contributors: commercial development, charitable work, and grants by major aid agencies and governments. The big unknown is who or what would coordinate such an effort.
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