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NewsDraft proclamation exempts trial stage for foreign seed adaptations in Ethiopia

Draft proclamation exempts trial stage for foreign seed adaptations in Ethiopia

A draft seed proclamation presented to the House of People’s Representatives (HPR) on October 20, 2022 allows production of selected foreign seed varieties imported to Ethiopia without the need for adaptation trials.

The existing Seed Proclamation, which has been in place for the past nineteen years, imposes a one-year-long process that requires the planting of a variety in six different locations across Ethiopia for an adaptation trial before a production permit is granted to the producer. 

Under the new system, seeding companies will directly engage in production by submitting a Distinctness, Uniformity, and Stability (DUS) report and fulfilling the country’s biodiversity and quarantine requirements. Prerequisites include submitting a DU report from a foreign regulatory body and fulfilling the country’s biodiversity and quarantine standards.

Under the existing proclamation, the production of floriculture and unregistered varieties imported and locally produced solely for the purpose of export was exempt from adaptation testing. But the draft proclamation exempts selected varieties now. The draft proclamation does not list the crops that their new seed variant will skip the adaptation trial. Hence, whether GMO seeds are included or not is not clear.

According to Medemdemiyaw Neknkew, senior Variety Release and Registration expert at the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), the ministry plans to apply this system to horticulture, particularly vegetable crops that are not primarily produced by local farmers.

“Vegetable crops such as tomatoes, onions, and paper are linked to the lives of local farmers. We will consider this and list out the selected crops as soon as the proclamation is ratified,” he said, adding that cauliflower and lettuce might be on the list.

However, the draft proclamation mandates companies to take full responsibility if any damage occurs because of the production of a seed variety that didn’t undergo an adaptation trial.

The draft proclamation prepared by the MoA and presented to the HPR this week was approved by the Council of Ministers in August 2022. It was awaiting approval from the House, which returned from a two-month recess last week.

Under the existing proclamation, the Ethiopian Agricultural Authority inspects the trials based on standards set by the Ethiopian Standard Agency for every crop. The trial cost is covered by the applicant company.

According to the senior expert, the whole process under the existing law usually takes up to one year.

According to Medemdemiyaw, private seed businesses introduce more than 90 percent of new varieties, despite the fact that state enterprises and cooperatives dominate the seed multiplication and supply industry.

He explains that in most countries, the responsibility for the adaptation of new varieties of seeds to vegetable crops is given to companies.

“Because the companies move in accordance with their reputation, they will act responsibly,” he hopes.

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