Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

Ethiopia still struggling to acquire Teff patent

Despite hard work Ethiopia is still struggling to get the patent for the Teff grain back, according to the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute. According to Melesse Maryo (PhD), Director General of the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute, the government is working on returning patents on different genetic materials that were taken out of Ethiopia without authorization.
“There are a lot of issues and it is something I don’t want to talk a lot about, but we are working to get back the patent on Teff. There is a lot of pressure by the parliament and there are a lot of activities around the process of getting back these patents for different grains that were stolen,” said Melesse.
There have been several reports over the years on how the rights to the genetic varieties of teff, and the traditional knowledge of harvesting methods still belong to a Dutch company, Vennootschap Onder Firma (VOF).
The Director General further stated that several countries such as Germany, although contributing greatly through financial assistance, have also been involved in several violations by taking out genetic materials from Ethiopia without authorization. Some countries have been cooperative in returning patents, he also underlined.
“There is an example where some years ago, in the US, beer factories were hit very hard because the barely used by the breweries was affected by a virus and the crops were failing. They took genetic material from Ethiopia that could fight the disease and saved their crops. They did this without any payment or legal process. Through the Nagoya protocol, we are bringing back these stolen genes and getting them patented,” Melesse said.
Ethiopia currently hosts two gene banks in the country that are under the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute and on Monday, April 24, 2017, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) inaugurated facilities for gene bank and bioscience research. It is stated that the facility will help protect crucial components of the planet’s biodiversity-diverse grasses and legumes that feed the world’s food animals.