The Plumpy Nut Controversy
INTRODUCTION: Nutriset Company has produced and patented the Plumpy nut product that helps to solve acute malnutrition in Africa. The company is challenged to lower prices, and allow other companies to produce the same product in order to save more lives. This challenge has put the company in an ethical dilemma where there is a collision between company profits, intellectual property rights on one side and public interests on the other side.
FACTS SUMMARY: Acute malnutrition in Africa is a challenge that has attracted companies to provide nutritional products that save lives. In-line with the growing demand for nutrition and health services, companies like Nutriset have been ahead of the game with their peanut paste product. Nutriset is the sole manufacturer of plumpy nut, a highly nutritious peanut paste that has been tauted as a lifesaver to address the problem of acute malnutrition in Africa. Nutriset has patented the Plumpy nut paste in order to rip to avoid loss of investment in this innovation.
Nutriset is in an ethical dilemma with the growing pressure to infringe on its patents in order to save lives in areas where acute malnutrition in causing mortality. Patenting the product aimed at preventing other companies from exploiting the innovation and preventing the loss of business for Nutriset. The company is in monopoly and cannot lower the price of the peanut paste because it risks losing its investment in the business.
1. NGO’s in the US have tried to overturn Nutriset patents in order to allow other companies to produce the product.
The development of the food product took Nutriset financial resources and technology. It is therefore, costly to venture into such a business and the need to protect the innovation and the associated business has to be emphasized. The two NGOs battling the infringement of the Nutriset patent have the interests of the public at heart because they are trying to prevent more deaths because of malnutrition. However, the NGO’s do not seem to be mindful of the costs that the company took to venture into the business.
2. Patenting the product has denied other companies a chance to produce the product yet Nutriset has done nothing to increase the production of the Plumpy nut.
The huge demand for peanut paste nutritional product in Africa has attracted other companies who have the capacity to supply the product. The companies are unable to produce the product because they have been denied the rights by Nutriset patent. Nutriset is therefore a major obstacle in the process of increasing the production and supply of this lifesaver product.
3. Nutriset has maintained the prices of the Plumpy nut very high despite the increasing numbers of deaths caused by malnutrition in Africa.
Production of a new product that can meet the needs of many people is a very costly affair. Nutriset took the trouble to research and develop the peanut paste that is finally addressing the problem of acute malnutrition. This has made the company to price the product highly in order to gain from the business.
Nutriset should give other companies rights to be involved in production or distribution of the product. For instance, they should be allowed to take part in production only under Nutriset. This solution will increase production while preventing the loss of business for Nutriset.
Lowering the prices
Nutriset should be compelled to lower the price of the peanut paste because production will be increase by subsidiaries that will be licensed by Nutriset. For instance, the company can allow companies in Africa to produce the peanut paste under its recommendations.
Nutriset has invested in the business of producing the Plumpy peanut paste and has patented the brand. The interests of the public to produce more products to save more children have to be addressed in a proper way without infringing on the rights of Nutriset. The company should lower prices, allow more production of the product, and still maintain the ownership of the name.
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