Shlomo Bachrach, a long-time Africa observer and the founder/editor of the East Africa Forum (www.eastafricaforum.net) comments for CAS on the above article that was published on reuters.com this week:
“Teff is an example of Ethiopia’s extraordinary variety of native germplasm. For at least 30 years, specimens of many plants have been collected for preservation in gene banks on other continents. The discussions on protecting its native teff predate Ethiopia’s coffee trademark efforts and were entirely unrelated. Ethiopia’s biodiversity specialists, not its intellectual property office, represented the country.
A 10-year agreement with Health and Performance Food International (HPFI), a Dutch company, was completed at the end of 2004. It prohibits the use of teff for pharma purposes without permission, requires written permission to transfer seeds to a third party, allows the use of teff only for specified non-traditional Ethiopian food and drink products and contains provisions for various payments to Ethiopia eventually including 5% of net profits. Ethiopian researchers are to be involved, and results are to be shared with Ethiopian scientists.
HPFI was set up specifically to exploit the potential of teff outside of Ethiopia. Teff has been grown commercially in the US for at least 20 years. It was first grown by a single farmer, a former agricultural advisor in Ethiopia, to supply teff to the increasing number of Ethiopian restaurants in North America. Teff is now grown elsewhere in the US. There appears to be a small but increasing demand in the health food community, and probably a much larger market among those who are unable to process the gluten found in ordinary grains — a population estimated in the millions in the US alone.”