By Hans Turkensteen, Director Soil and Crop
Tigrai Online May 01 2008
Again our company Soil and Crop has been accused of bio-piracy of the Ethiopian grain Teff.
S&C found out that if you mill teff to flour with extreme fine specifications (it not flour but powder) you can bake excellent modern products like cookies, muffins, cakes and modern breads with it.
These products are not only gluten free but might help western consumers to control their weight. Different then the modern grains teff helps the body to be fit for life. Even top sportsmen, like Ethiopian Haile Gebreselassie and Keninisse Bekele recognize that products made out of teff, including injera, helps them break international records over and over again.
The problem with tef is the yielding. When we started to grow teff in the Netherlands in 2003 we produced 10 quintals at average per hectare of teff-seeds. That’s is about the same amount most Ethiopian farmers get form their fields.
Then we started and extensive research program to find better varieties, agricultural practices and modern technologies suitable for the extreme small grain tef. We did this with the full support with Ethiopian and Dutch research institutes, like EIAR in Debris Zeit and IBC in Addis Abeba.
In the Netherlands, with it cold and wet climate, we now produce above 17 to 20 quintals per hectare. In the highlands of the USA, were conditions are more similar to Ethiopia, we produced over 27 quintals per hectare on irrigated fields.
Soil and Crop has entered into a project where the company aims to support rural cooperative union in Modjo (16700 farmers), Alamata (500 farmers on organic teff and a Farmer Marketing Organization with 498 associated farmers in Busa Harbu.
The project is co-financed with the share of the profit coming from Soil and Crop as agreed upon with Ethiopia government. Different then stated in the Monitor no traditional knowledge has been stolen from Ethiopia. The patent is about milling teff to powder and mix it with other grains like wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rice. To mill teff into powder a nitrogen cooled mill is used.
Please let me state that far before S&C received the Captain Hook award my company entered into an agreement with Ethiopian authorities. This agreement has been and still is seen as an example how interests of rural farmer societies can be brought in line with the interest of a modern western company.
Please understand that a company as Soil and Crop needs a patent to protect it 3 million investment program on the application of teff in modern western nutrition. Through the profit of Soil and Crop the Ethiopian farmers benefit and can use their part of the profit to create a better future for themselves originating from their Teff.
Co-founded by German government the aim of the Tef-project is to substantially raise the income of Ethiopian farmer societies and establish a constant stream of international currency for one of the countries in the world who can use this the most: Ethiopia.
Let me please state that my company believes that the accusers of my company are trying to sincerely take responsibility for the interests of the developing countries and the farmers. We respect this.
As a company we would like to be more involved and asked for detailed information before accuses are made public. The owners of the company are mainly scientist which believe in future of the Ethiopian grain and have invested heavily in their dream to create better nutrition hand in hand with a better future for Ethiopian farmers.
With respect Hans Turkensteen
Director Soil and Crop
Tel +31 653413847
Please read the other sides view Is It an Act Of Biopiracy Over Ethiopian Most Critical Crop Teff (Eragrostis Teff)? by Demissew Sertse