Ethiopia plans to open its first Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute (ABRI) by next year. The institute, funded by a World Bank loan, will be part of the Hotela Agricultural Research Center, about 45 kilometers from Addis Ababa. "We cannot just beg and keep distributing food to the people forever," says Tilahun Zeweldu, former coordinator of Ethiopia's program for capacity of national agricultural biotechnology, who helped to plan ABRI.

The new institute could present long-term solutions by, for instance, improving plant products through modification, thereby boosting Ethiopia's farming and exports, Zeweldu says. Scientists hope the ABRI will serve as a central facility for research in molecular biology, genetic transformation, diagnostics, genomics, and bioinformatics – in turn, advancing agricultural biotechnology development and protecting plant genetic resources.

Some question the institute's apparent focus, stressing the need for addressing local problems and concerns. Delphin Diasolua Ngudi, a senior researcher at the Ministry of Health...

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