Grain wars: Ethiopia fights to reclaim intellectual property rights of its ancient ‘supergrain’ teff

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Image Credit: The Fodmap Friendly Vegan

Teff is a grain dating back time immemorial in Ethiopia cuisine. Its flour is used to produce injera, a staple spongy flatbread used as a base to serve vegetables and meat. It would take European and U.S. scientists until the 1990s to study and conclude that teff is a super-grain.

Since 2000, teff flour and its food-related products (bread, pancakes, cakes, etc…), according to the European Institute of patents, was “created” by a Dutchman named Jans Roosjen, director of Health and Performance Food International. The company holds exclusive intellectual property rights over the sale of teff and its sub-products in Germany and other European countries, according to Nexo Jornal.

The Norwegian research firm, Instituto Fridtjof Nansens, reported in 2012 that “as a result of several circumstances, Ethiopia was left with less possibilities than ever to generate and share in the benefits resulting from the use of genetic resources of teff” due to the Dutch company, which has since gone bankrupt.

Related article:  Ethiopia faces confluence of crises: Locust outbreaks, flooding and COVID-fueled food shortages

The Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office, a government cabinet tasked with handling questions related to intellectual property, is not taking the matter lightly.

In May, the cabinet announced a series of legal and diplomatic actions to regain control of the grain and its sub-products so germane to Ethiopian gastronomy. Now, Ethiopia’s attorney-general will bring a case against the company at the International Court of Arbitration.

Read full, original article: Ethiopia vs Europe: The Intellectual Property of an Ancient Grain, Teff

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