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Idaho farmers may try teff Gluten-free grain touted as cure for celiac disease

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March 13, 2003View for printing

Hans Turkensteen, a businessman from the Netherlands, is passionate about his company´s plans to produce gluten-free products from teff and the lives those products could improve.

Sandra Forester The Idaho Statesman

Teff is a grass crop that produces tiny grains packed with nutrition. It is a major food staple in Ethiopia. Turkensteen said studies in a Netherlands university have shown it to be free of any known gluten.

Turkensteen and his partners in S&C Improvement visited Idaho last week to meet with farmers, seed companies, the Idaho Department of Agriculture and the Caldwell Economic Development Council.

He told of mothers whose children became ill and stopped growing from eating foods containing gluten, a cohesive protein found in wheat, rye, barley and other grains.

The children were suffering from celiac disease, which develops in people whose systems can´t tolerate gluten. Celiac disease damages part of the small intestine and causes malabsorption of vitamins and other nutrients. It also affects adults with a variety of symptoms from fatigue to anemia, diarrhea and constipation. Sometimes there are no symptoms, but untreated, the disease can lead to cancer. Once gluten is removed from the diet, the body heals.

“Wheat is in everything,” Turkensteen said. “Gluten´s cheap and sticks things together. The stuff collects in the body.”

S&C, a group of Dutch farmers looking for non- traditional crops to grow and market, plans to fill the needs of people who have celiac disease by producing everything from bread and other foods to medicines that are 100 percent gluten-free, Turkensteen said.

The company is looking for farmers to plant about 300 acres of teff in Idaho this year. By 2009, the company hopes Idaho farmers will have 15,000 acres of teff.

The crop also could benefit local farmers because it´s easy to grow even in drought, is less prone to disease than other crops and sells for more than average grains. Turkensteen estimates that the company could have a $3 million to $4 million effect on Idaho agriculture.

Department of Agriculture officials wouldn´t comment on their talks with the company but said they support all producers´ efforts to grow new crops and serve new markets.

“We´re always looking for opportunities for this market,” said Julie Pipal, spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture.

“We want to bring value back to the farmers,” said Jan de Weerd, assistant director of the Caldwell Economic Development Council, who is helping S&C connect with local farmers and seed companies.

De Weerd said the key will be finding those willing to meet stringent requirements that ensure the teff is 100 percent gluten-free. Contamination can occur in several ways if a producer is handling teff and crops containing gluten.

Because of the restrictions, the purity of S&C products should exceed that of many gluten-free products on the market now, Turkensteen said.

Turkensteen said people with celiac disease have told him that products labeled gluten-free don´t always live up to that claim.

“Most of the gluten doesn´t even appear on the label,” said Helen Franklin, a registered dietitian from Weiser who is gluten-intolerant. She said in other countries, such as Canada, gluten-free means zero gluten, but not in the United States.

By federal standards, companies can have up to 200 parts per million of gluten in products without putting it on the label, she said, and that´s enough to make a celiac sick.

“You really have to get way … into how they make it,” she said.

To offer story ideas or comments, contact Sandra Forester sforester@idahostatesman.com or 377-6447

http://www.idahostatesman.com/Busine ... sp?ID=35195

Reader Comments:




Though we appreciate Dr. Turkensteen's devolvment of a 20th of his net profits to projects in Ethiopia we have no exact confirmation of, we are puzzled at how he is convinced he will produce a few million dollars profit for Indian farmers and himself out of our staple, Eragrostis abyssinica.
We have a range of varieties and Ethiopian farmers, much in need of development and this 2008 facing again in areas a grave drought. Our prices can be quite competetive and offer our producers real opportunities. On the other hand, the magic teff is the least productive cereal in the world, out of its own nature of a grass, with no bigger grains than those of some grasses in your green northern meadows. It has to be replaced in many cases in Ethiopia by more productive grains to avert catastrophic famines.
I personally never got an answer from Dr. Turkensteen or his company when I proposed him my full and open collaboration on this issue.
I therefore will soon embark in a series of attempts to sell directly Ethiopia produced quality guaranteed teff. Net proceedings will be totally dedicated to promoting triticale, a tenfold more productive cereal instead of teff, our main, fantastic but unproductive staple.
I direct the Triticale Consultative Group in Ethiopia and manage the only local business association in the milk sector.
Prof. Marco Viganó, lemamilk@fastwebnet.it


Though we appreciate Dr. Turkensteen's devolvment of a 20th of his net profits to projects in Ethiopia we have no exact confirmation of, we are puzzled at how he is convinced he will produce a few million dollars profit for Indian farmers and himself out of our staple, Eragrostis abyssinica.
We have a range of varieties and Ethiopian farmers, much in need of development and this 2008 facing again in areas a grave drought. Our prices can be quite competetive and offer our producers real opportunities. On the other hand, the magic teff is the least productive cereal in the world, out of its own nature of a grass, with no bigger grains than those of some grasses in your green northern meadows. It has to be replaced in many cases in Ethiopia by more productive grains to avert catastrophic famines.
I personally never got an answer from Dr. Turkensteen or his company when I proposed him my full and open collaboration on this issue.
I therefore will soon embark in a series of attempts to sell directly Ethiopia produced quality guaranteed teff. Net proceedings will be totally dedicated to promoting triticale, a tenfold more productive cereal instead of teff, our main, fantastic but unproductive staple.
I direct the Triticale Consultative Group in Ethiopia and manage the only local business association in the milk sector.
Prof. Marco Viganó, lemamilk@fastwebnet.it




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