Tag Archives: teff

How a corporation patented Ethiopia’s most common staple

19 Jun

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)


A Dutch company turning food in to intellectual property reveals a failed economic order, Edna Mohamed writes*


In 2005, the Ethiopian Institute of Biodiversity and Conservation partnered up with the Dutch company Health and Performance Food International (HPFI) to marketize one of Ethiopia’s most valuable staples, the teff grain – the main ingredient found in injera bread, now widely dubbed a cosmopolitan ‘superfood’.

The agronomist Jans Roojsen, who spearheaded the project under HPFI, applied for the patent in 2003 and gained it in 2007, thus acquiring the rights to market, sell or import the grain as they wanted without the Ethiopian partnership – meaning that HPFI alone had the rights for the teff grain.

In the beginning, this was seen as a profitable exchange. The Dutch were to be supplied with grains and indigenous foods to market in Europe and local producers were supposed to be paid for their stock, benefiting from a so-called ‘development fund’.

But, the success of the grain never materialized and HPFI went bankrupt in 2009. The agreement with Ethiopia no longer existed and the country only managed to get €4,000 (USD$ 4,479.00) in profits over the five years of cooperation.

Eventually, according to a report made by a Norwegian environmental research institute in 2012, the founders of the Dutch project bought back the patent on teff for €60,000 (USD$67,000).


How Ethiopia lost control of its teff genetic resources: Lessons to be learned

Risks of Ethiopia losing its natural resources: The case of teff as example

Flick teff price upsurge hits wallets: A story of supply problem taking timely revenge against long-ignored productivity improvements





Did a Dutch Company Engage in “Bio-Piracy” by Patenting Teff, Ethiopia’s National Grain?

9 Feb

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

February 8,2019

A “patent” is a type of license issued by a government to an individual or corporation granting sole right to use and exclude all others from making, using, or selling an invention, a product or a process.

There are three types of patents: utility/invention (e.g. personal computer by Steve Jobs); design (Apple’s touchscreen) and plant.

To be granted a patent, the invention, design or plant must be “novel” (new), non-obvious (be inventive or involve significant inventive step and useful (e.g. have industrial, agricultural, etc. application).

A plant can be patented if it is a new variety of plant or represents a significant engenering of an existing seed to make it, for instance, insect or disease resistant or require less water to grow.

Such “engenered” plants are generally called “genetically modified organisms” (GMO). Among such “organisms” on American grocery store shelves include seedless watermelons, grape tomatoes, tangelos and baby carrots.

In 2003, a Dutch company obtained two patents (for processing and preparation, not GMO) on Teff, an ancient grain (the size of poppy seeds) unique to Ethiopia and comes in a variety of colors from white to red to brown.

The Netherlands Patent Office issued the Dutch Company “registration patents”, which does not require substantial patent ehxamination as is the case in the U.S.

In the Netherlands, a registration patent is granted if certain formalities are fulfilled and is examined in court only if a dispute arises in relation to the patent granted.

It appears that is what happened with Ancientgrain’s Teff patent.

Teff is considered a “super food” and has become increasingly popular in the West. Some entrepreneurs such as Ancientgrain see considerable profit potential in Teff.

In 2014, a Dutch company known as Bakels Senior sold Teff bread flour on its website.

Ancientgrain, the holder of the patents, sued Bakels for patent infringement, demanded a stop to the sale and obtained “prejudgment attachment”, a special legal proceeding in which the plaintiff secures compensation before trial.

Ancientgrain defended its patent on various grounds: 1) It had created a new method (milling) of processing ripened teff meal and created a new product by mixing teff flour with other crops such as potato, rice maize and Quinoa. 2)  Its method of leavening, kneading and heating (cooking) is new and overcomes the “instability” of traditionally (Ethiopian-style) prepared injera (bread) which has dough that does not rise and tastes sour. 3) Its teff is new because it is gluten-free and has larger grain size compared to Ethiopian teff.

Simply stated, Ancientgrain wanted a monopoly on the burgeoning global teff market by defending its Dutch registration patent.

The Dutch court invalidated Ancientgrain Teff patent on the grounds that it lacks novelty and inventiveness.

Creating a process for mixing different grains with teff, preparing dough in a certain way and cooking it in a particular way cannot be patented.

In other words, using wheat flour to make French bread, multigrain or brioche cannot be patented. Ancientgrain was just using a different recipe for the same teff flour with minor changes.

Apparently, Ancientgrain has also secured registration patents in Italy , Australia and other countries.

What is the likelihood Ancientgrain will be successful in defending its patents in other countries.

Very unlikely in my view. In many Western countries, the standards for patent infringements (violations) are similar. I would predict Ancianegrain will not go through the expense of defending its patent in other countries because the outcome is unlikely to be different from the Dutch patent court decision.

However, the Dutch teff patent case raises a much larger issue of biopiracy, an activity that is increasing in scope worldwide.

Bio-pirates masquerading as researchers and research organizations rip off biological resources from developing countries without official authorization to Western countries, patent them and sell them with exclusive rights.

Africa has long been a victim of bio-piracy rip-offs.

In my opinion, what Ancientgrain did with its teff patent registration is nothing more than bio-piracy.

For over a quarter of a century, many countries have tried to protect their bioresources by legislating consistent with the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity.

The aim of the Convention is to promote conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources.

A central aim of the Convention is to protect developing countries from bio-pirates.

Ethiopia signed the Convention on June 10, 1992.

I am not aware of any action taken by the former regime that was in power for 27 years to protect our bioresources consistent with the 1992 Convention. It is highly unlikely that regime of ignoramuses was even aware of the Convention.

The Government of H.E. Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed should enact appropriate legislation consistent with the  Convention to protect the hundreds of plant and animal species unique to Ethiopia.

But the responsibility of environmental conservation and preservation does not fall only PM Abiy’s Government.

I would indeed argue that the lion’s share of responsibility for environmental stewardship falls upon Ethiopia’s Abo Shemanes (Cheetahs, younger generation).

As an environmentalist and proud tree hugger, I have always had deep concern for environmental conservation in Ethiopia.

I am proud of the fact that Ethiopia is home to many species of plants and animals that cannot be found anywhere else on Earth. But many of them are endangered.

It is my dream to see the day when an Ethiopian youth environmental movement shall rise and plant 110 million trees (one for every Ethiopian) and join hands to save our endangered species!!!



Reminiscences of history on Ethiopia’s role in the founding of the OAU


ሕወሃት የመለስ ዜናዊን ፍላጎት ተግባራዊ ለማድረግ ዘረመል ምህንድስና ቴክኖሎጂን (GMO) ተግባራዊ ማድረግ ጀመረ፤ በዘር ንግዱ ከፍተኛ ድርሻውን ያዘ

24 Nov

የአዘጋጁ ማስታወሻ፡

አፋጥኑት የኢትዮጵያን በምግብ ራስን መቻል ዋስትና ምርጫው ከመደረሱ በፊት ሳይሆን አይቀርም ግፊቱ!

አቶ ኃይለማርያም ሳይንሱንም ቀድመው መጀመሪያ በጥቅምት 2013 ስንዴን አስመልክተው ከአርሲ አፍሪካን እንመግባለን ሲሉ ነበር። ከዚያ ሕወሃት የኢትዮጵያን ሠራዊት ድል ያደረገበትን ሚያዝያ 28 2014 ሲያስከብሩ በአዲስ አበባ ስታድዮም በምግብ ራሳቸንን ችለናል ብለው የሳይንሱን ማራቶን አቸንፈው ነበር! ያኔም አውቀነው ነበር፤ ዛሬም ምሥጢር አልሆነብንም!

ይህ ግን በቂ የሠለጠነ የሰው ኃይልና ሣይንሳዊ መከላከያ የሌላትን ድሃ ሃገር ምን ላይ ይጥላት ይሆን? እነ ሕንድ ከጥጥ ውጭ ያልደፈሩትን፡ ምነው የኢትዮጵያን ባልሥልጣኖች ታላላቅ የአሜሪካና የአውሮፓ ዘር አብቃይ ኮርፖሬሽንና የአሜሪካን አስተዳደር ለማስደሰት ሲሉ ጀብደኞች አደረጋቸው? የአካባቢያችን አየር በአበባዎች ምርት ኬሚካሎችና በጨርቃ ጨርቅ ፋብሪካዎች ዙሪያ ባሉት ወንዞች መበከሉ ሳያንስ፡ አሁን ደግሞ ዕውቅ የተፈጥሮ ሃብታችንን ልናጣ አይደለምን?


Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

አዲስ አበባ ህዳር 15/2007 (ኢዜአ) የኢትዮጵያ ግብርና ምርምር ኢንስቲትዩት በዘንድሮው ዓመት በሽታን የሚቋቋሙና የተሻለ ምርት የሚሰጡ ከ30 በላይ የተሻሻሉ የሰብል ዝርያዎች ማውጣቱን አስታወቀ። ኢንስቲትዩቱ በኢትዮጵያ የዘረመል ምህንድስና ቴክኖሎጂን ለመጀመር የፖሊሲ ክለሳና ማሻሻል ሥራ እያከናወነ መሆኑን ገልጿል።
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Risks of Ethiopia losing its natural resources: The case of teff as example

27 Feb

Shiferraw has been ringing the alarm for months, calling for due attention to protect Ethiopia’s unique flora and make good use of its genetic resources (Credit: World Bulletin).

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory
By World Bulletin/News Desk

A long drawn out patent row between Ethiopia and the Netherlands concerning teff – a highly nutritious ancient grain variety – has made headlines in Ethiopia, but a local official is worried that not only teff is in danger of being “looted.”
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How Ethiopia lost control of its teff genetic resources: Lessons to be learned

20 Nov
    Editor’s Note:

    Thanks to the computer and the numerous softwares available in the market. Unlike the old days, today it is not a must to go to photo shops to get pictures developed. In those days, one of the worst problems was subdued concern until one can get back the good pictures of his or her daughter’s wedding and the roll of films – a family’s treasured memories.
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የዋጋ ግሽበት ተጠናከረ፤ ኩንታል ማኛ ጤፍ ከ1‚450 ብር ወደ 2‚100 ብር ባጭር ጊዜ ማሻቀቡ ሕዝቡን አስደነገጠ

5 Sep

በታምሩ ጽጌ (ሪፖርተር)

ምክንያቱ ባልታወቀና ነጋዴዎችም ሲጠየቁ ምላሽ መስጠት ፈቃደኛ ባልሆኑበት ሁኔታ፣ የጤፍ ዋጋ በከፍተኛ ደረጃ መናሩ ስጋት እንደፈጠረባቸው በተለይ የአዲስ አበባ ነዋሪዎች ለሪፖርተር ገለጹ፡፡

ነዋሪዎቹ እንደገለጹት፣ ከወር በፊት አንድ ኩንታል ማኛ ጤፍ 1‚450 ብር ነበር፡፡ ከቅርብ ጊዜ ወዲህ ግን ዋጋው በጣም አሻቅቦ 2‚100 ብር መሸጥ ጀምሯል፡፡ አንዳንድ ነዋሪዎች ጤፍ ከሚመረትበት ቦታ ወይም በቀጣይ የሚፈጠር ችግር እንዳለ በሚል ነጋዴዎቹን ሲጠይቋቸው፣ “ከፈለጋችሁ መውሰድ ትችላላችሁ አለበለዚያ ተውት” እንደሚሏቸው ገልጸዋል፡፡
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Teff: Ethiopia’s ancient grain not immune to rising food inflation — Addis Fortune

2 Apr


On Chad Street, around Abenet area, Lideta District, right next to the Kebele 04/06 recreational centre, one can find a shabby house that looks like a mill. The two-roomed house is packed with six electric clay griddles, blue plastic containers, sacks filled with teff flour, and a table that carries piles of injera, a yeast-risen flatbread staple food usually made out of teff flour.
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