Transition in Progress:  Reclaiming responsibility for crop variety testing

Ethiopian seed proclamation and seed regulation specify that variety testing, both  Distinctness, Uniformity and Stability(DUS) test and Value for Cultivation and Use/National Performance (VCU/NPT) Trials, must be carried out by an impartial authority. In reality, the MoA has not taken up variety testing as impartial organization, rather research institutes that also generate the varieties do the variety testing, which may lead to a conflict of interest and mandate. Moreover, decision to release variety is done by National Variety Release Committee, which is dominated by research institutes, who also release varieties. As a result, independent decision making is not guaranteed and private seed companies, in particular, have expressed doubts concerning the neutrality.

Participants discussing at EIAR meeting hall

The recently established Ethiopia Agriculture Authority (EAA) is mandated to manage variety testing and other agricultural regulatory activities. The authority will be in charge of carrying out the full variety testing, registration, and release procedure in Ethiopia.  To this end, ENSP arranged a consultative workshop to discuss about how to transfer the responsibility for NPT and DUS testing to EAA smoothly. About 24 participants which constitute senior breeders, national crop program coordinators from EIAR, GIZ/SSAP, ICARDA, HLIs and ENSP staff all attended this consultation workshop. The workshop was organized on the 20th of April 2022, the objective was to raise awareness of what has been going on with regard to variety testing and release while also soliciting participants’ input on the next steps with regards to variety testing.

In this workshop breeders provided a range of important suggestions to assist with the transition process. The capability and preparedness of EAA to take control of the process in the immediate term as well as the breeding stage at which the breeders submit the candidate variety for testing were the key topics of discussion. Besides participants emphasized DUS and NPT protocol development, variety release guideline, the new seed law approval and variety morphological descriptors preparation are equally crucial to start the business.