Networks of institutions, networks of solutions.

Author:Swaminathan, M.S.

The Human Development Report 2001 of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has introduced the Technology Achievement Index, which is an aggregation of four groups of indicators relating to the creation of technology, diffusion of recent innovations, diffusion of old innovations, and human skills. Creation of technology has been measured by the number of patents per capita and receipts of royalty and license fees from abroad per capita. The emphasis is thus on the intellectual property rights of nations, evidenced by the power of proprietary science. The other indicators relate to digital, extension and educational divides. The report titled "Making New Technologies Work for Human Development" has however not drawn attention to the fact that bridging the expanding nutritional divide is fundamental to bridging the other divides, particularly that relating to intellectual property rights. The Commission on the Nutrition Challenges of the 21st Century, in "Ending Malnutrition by 2020: An Agenda for Chan ge in the Millennium", has pointed out that some 30 million infants in developing countries are born each year with intra-uterine growth retardation, representing about 24 per cent of all new births there.

Low birth-weight children are characterized by mental impairment. Worldwide, there are more than 150 million underweight pre-school children and more than 200 million stunted children. At the current rate of progress in fighting these maladies, by 2020 about 1 billion children will be growing up with impaired mental development. What will be the impact on the intellectual property of a nation of the denial to the child of opportunities for the full expression on its innate genetic potential for mental and physical development? Such denial, even at the foetal stage, is the cruelest form of inequity. The starting point in initiating a national nutrition security system is learning from successes. Thailand, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Cuba, China, India and many other developing countries have rich experience in operating nutritional safety net projects to address problems in the different stages of a human life cycle. Each programme has both positive and negative lessons. Future strategies should be based on learnin g from successes and failures. What is required is the building of a sustainable community nutrition security system, which I shall elaborate upon in the next pages.

A Sustainable Community Nutrition Security System

Conferring the right to food, and...

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