One man’s fascination with fat

Ram Rajasekharan’s two decades of research is converging in ways that offer hope for commercially viable technologies and products.

Professor Ram Rajasekharan
Professor Ram Rajasekharan

“This is the world’s tiniest grain”, says Ram Rajasekharan, handing a fistful with a magnifying glass. Under the lens, Teff seeds look oblong and wispy and, like many seeds, harbour a story which is culturally deep and nutritionally wide.

After three years of field and laboratory testing and selecting for Indian conditions, Rajasekharan is ready to introduce this so-called wonder grain to Indian farmers. High on protein, equivalent to the white of an egg, Teff is the most important cereal of Ethiopia and Injera, made by fermenting the batter in controlled temperature for days, has been their cultural food for centuries. In the last two decades as the oversize disc-like bread—a gigantic Indian dosa as it were—gained popularity outside Ethiopia, a global “Teff-tiff” ensued. Allegations of bio-piracy flew furiously between countries which eventually led the US Department of Agriculture to begin sharing seeds with other countries.

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