“It represents a manifestation of global power relations in which multi-million-dollar corporations based in the global north excise cultural appropriation in Third World countries,” he said. “The flaws in the international legal system that give private companies patent ownership without thorough investigation are disproportionally affecting developing countries such as Ethiopia.”

This is blatant neocolonialism and a cheap commodification of their cultural heritage. I'm glad they managed to reclaim the patent for teff, but it still makes me sad that injera is becoming difficult to justify eating in Ethiopia because the opportunity cost of not selling it is too high.

I feel...pretty icky about the side-story with Starbucks, too. Call me crazy, but multinational corporations turning heritage into a marketable product rubs me the wrong way, especially when the culture itself isn't consulted and doesn't benefit from the relationship in an equitable way. Nice that they got called out on it, but I still have my doubts about the deal that was struck.

On a less depressing note, I had an Ethiopian friend on my high school debate team. Every now and then, she'd bring a big foil-wrapped serving of injera to pass around the bus - I love the stuff. It's like a sour, spongy tortilla. If you've never tried Ethiopian food, I'd highly recommend you find a restaurant nearby!

posted 222 days ago