“Severe droughts, rising grain prices and food shortages — the latest headlines are an urgent call for action,” and “it is time to step up our response,” Suma Chakrabarti, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and Jose Graziano da Silva, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), write in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. On September 13, the EBRD and FAO will convene the Private Sector for Food Security Conference in Istanbul, Turkey, “the largest and most important gathering of companies and decision-makers in agribusiness from the Caspian and Black seas to the Mediterranean … [to] discuss the key role of the private sector in feeding the world,” they note. “The simple truth is that the world needs more food, and that means more production,” they state, adding, “The private sector can be the main engine of such growth.”
Private Sector Involvement
“Some academics and non-profit organizations are skeptical of the motives of the increasing number of multinational companies who seek partnerships to address non-communicable diseases (NCDs),” Derek Yach, senior vice president of global health and agriculture policy at PepsiCo and former head of NCDs at WHO, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. He asks, “So how well is the private sector doing in tackling the rising pandemic of NCDs, which cause nearly two out of every three deaths in the world (80 percent of those in developing countries), the four main ones being cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes?” He continues, “The private sector is a major stakeholder in many ways — as employers; makers of food and medicines, sports gear and technology; as corporate citizens and consumers — and wants to be engaged in the global NCD dialogue. We deserve a seat at the table.”
In this PLoS Medicine research article, Reed Beall and Randall Kuhn of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver provide an analysis of trends in compulsory licensing (CL) of pharmaceuticals since the Doha Declaration. “Almost 10 years after the Doha Declaration, we examined the subsequent occurrence of CL episodes, an important direct indicator of treaty impact,” they write. Given that “compulsory licensing activity has diminished greatly since 2006, … the researchers conclude, health advocates who pushed for the Doha Declaration reforms have had little success in engaging trade as a positive, proactive force for addressing health gaps,” according to the article’s Editors’ Summary (1/10).
The January issue of the WHO Bulletin features an editorial on non-communicable diseases and post-conflict countries; a public health round-up; an article on Arab health professionals; a research paper on caesarean section rates in China; and a series of round table articles on the Global Fund and the interaction of public and private interests (January 2011).
Business and political leaders meeting in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Thursday agreed that the focus on the global financial crisis “won’t matter unless people have one basic thing: Enough food to eat,” the Associated Press reports. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “estimates there are at least 925 million undernourished people in the world — almost one in seven,” the AP notes. FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said, “The problem is not the supply side. … The problem is the access — they don’t have the money to buy it or they don’t have the water and land they need if they are subsistence farmers,” according to the news service (Heilprin, 1/26).
“I have just returned from a whirlwind visit to Washington, D.C., and Chicago, where I participated in a number of events around the G8 and NATO Summits focused on food and nutrition security,” Tom Arnold, CEO of Concern Worldwide, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, adding, “Among so many world leaders and high-level representatives from civil society and academia, I felt a sense of critical mass beginning to form in the fight to end global hunger.” He continues, “It’s a feeling I’ve had before — perhaps not this strong — only to be disappointed when promises went unfulfilled. We must keep calling our leaders to persevere, especially those in the G8, to ensure that does not happen this time.”
GlobalPost reports on the GBCHealth Conference, which took place in New York City on Monday and where “panelists at a session titled ‘AIDS@30’ were asked how they would fulfill U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s call late last year for an ‘AIDS-free generation.'” According to the news service, “Ambassador Eric Goosby, the U.S. global AIDS coordinator, said the key will likely be a combination HIV prevention strategy” that “includes expansion of treatment to help prevent new infections; major scale-up of male circumcision; and treating all HIV-positive pregnant women to end the transmission of HIV from mother to child.” GlobalPost adds, “Michel Sidibe, UNAIDS executive director, said the way to defeat AIDS had to include more financial contributions from developing countries.” GlobalPost quotes several other conference attendees (Donnelly, 5/15).
“As Washington prepares for a major international AIDS conference this summer, developments on the drug front are once again elevating the subject of the continuing epidemic in the public eye,” CQ HealthBeat reports. The article mentions an FDA panel’s recent recommendation for the approval of Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV among healthy people at risk of contracting the virus and a bill (S 1138) introduced last week by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) aimed at reducing the cost of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). The bill, which is focused on the cost of ARVs in the U.S., would “create a $3 billion ‘prize fund,’ through which [pharmaceutical] firms that bring a new HIV or AIDS medicine to market would get awards” in exchange for relinquishing patent rights to the drug, according to CQ (Norman, 5/18).
Politico examines the implications of the Senate’s draft farm bill on the maritime industry, noting the industry “makes much of its money on foreign-aid shipments, courtesy of the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Agency for International Development,” and writing, “The Senate’s farm bill extends [Food for Peace, the largest international food-aid program] for the next five years but pulls $40 million a year from shipments to go toward cash grants and the purchase of food in local markets.” The news service adds, “The success of the industry lies in the continued authorization of these programs with the farm bill looming before the Senate this week.”
The two-day Child Survival Call to Action, “a conference hosted by the government in collaboration with Ethiopia, India and UNICEF to recognize and promote efforts to curtail child mortality,” began in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, the Associated Press/Washington Post reports, noting that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and actor Ben Affleck, founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative, “were two of more than 80 governmental, civil society and business leaders slated to speak at the conference Thursday and Friday.” During her speech, Clinton said improving child health “cannot be just a job for governments,” and she “announced that more than 60 faith-based organizations from 40 countries were joining the fight to end preventable childhood deaths through promotion of breastfeeding, vaccines and health care for children,” the news service writes (6/14).