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2-Plants: Large scale cultivation of GMOs will not take place in Iran

                                 PART I
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TITLE:  Large scale cultivation of GMOs will not take place
SOURCE: Shargh Newspaper, Iran, by Leyla Lotfi
        translated by Maryam Rahmanian, CENESTA, Iran
DATE:   18 Deb 2005

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Large scale cultivation of GMOs will not take place

Jafar Khalaghani, the Director of the Agricultural Research and Education
Organisation (AREO), explained yesterday that there has been a change in
policy regarding GMOs. In recent years and especially last year the large
scale cultivation of GMOs, in particular genetically modified rice, was
one of the most important topics discussed by the Ministry of Jihad for
Agriculture and the Department of Environment (DOE), but no clear
position was reached during the tenure of President Khatami. This is
because the decision makers of the Ministry of Jihad for Agriculture at
the time stressed the importance of large scale cultivation of GMOs and
especially GM rice. And on the other hand, the decision-makers of the DOE
insisted on no large scale cultivation for scientific reasons.

But under the new government the new Minister of Jihad for Agriculture
and his deputies have decided to pursue large scale cultivation only on
condition of approval from relevant international organisations and
approval from Iran's National Biosafety Committee (which consists of the
heads of the Ministry's of Health, Jihad for Agriculture, Science and the
head of the Department of Environment and is headed by the office of the
President of the Republic).

Khalaghani stressed that the new policies of AREO do foresee the large
scale cultivation of GMOs, but only if these two conditions are met. "If
these conditions are not met then the Ministry will not approve the
large-scale cultivation of GMOs".

He described the new policies of the ministry as prioritising food
security which includes the two dimensions of self-reliance and healthy
food which he said were equally important.

He added that in addition to the issue of health, the issue of exports
was important with regard to GMOs because if some of the country's
exports are not up to [international] standards then the export of other
products will also be affected.

                                 PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Iran takes rice biotech lead
SOURCE: Des Moines Register, USA, by Philip Brasher
DATE:   22 Jan 2006

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Iran takes rice biotech lead

Iran's nuclear scientists get all the ink. But the country's biologists
are making some strides that could shake up agriculture.

The Iranians commercialized the first variety of genetically engineered
rice last year.

No one expects this rice to leave the country. Iran doesn't produce
enough rice as it is, and the type modified is a locally important variety.

But the crop is a landmark development in biotechnology nonetheless.

It was the first time that a biotech version of rice, one of the world's
most important food crops, legally had gone into production.

Just as significantly, the Iranian crop, plus similar advancements in
China, show that biotechnology is spreading beyond the industry giants
such as Monsanto or Des Moines-based Pioneer Hi-Bred International that
have led the way.

For advocates of agricultural biotech, who have been arguing for years
that farmers in poor countries could be major beneficiaries of genetic
engineering, here at last is some evidence.

Even if it is Iran.

"This is a very important contribution from the public sector in terms of
genetically modified food crops," says Joel Cohen, who follows
biotechnology developments for the International Food Policy Research
Institute, a Washington-based think tank.

The Iranians as well as the Chinese, who also are close to
commercializing their version of biotech rice, are doing their research
in the public, rather than private, sector.

Iran's new rice plants are toxic to insect larvae known as stem borers.
The Iranian scientists crafted the crop in the Philippines at the
International Rice Research Institute, a sister organization of the
International Food Policy Research Institute.

The rice contains a bacterium gene identical to one found in popular
types of Bt corn that is now commonly grown in Iowa and throughout the
Midwest. If the Iranians ever tried to export the rice, they could run
into patent problems, says Cohen.

The rice was put through extensive safety testing before it was released
to farmers, he says.

And so far the results appear promising: Iranians report that their Bt
rice raised yields by 10 percent to 2.2 metric tons per acre. The average
U.S. yield is about 3.2 metric tons.

"This is an excellent demonstration of the fact that you can use new
technologies but in very basic material requested by farmers in the
developing world," Cohen says.

Between 500 and 1,000 Iranian farmers are believed to have grown the crop
in 2005. Full commercialization is expected to start this year, but on
less than 50,000 acres.

U.S. rice farmers won't have anything to do with biotechnology until it's
accepted in markets such as Japan and Europe. Because much of their crop
must be exported, U.S. farmers can ill afford to lose any markets.

But the developments in Iran, and especially in China, will turn up the
pressure on the Bush administration to figure out how the government
would handle imports of foods that have been bioengineered in other countries.

Believe it or not, the country that pioneered agricultural biotechnology
isn't sure yet how it will treat the products of other countries' scientists.

To date, the only imports have been of material intended for research

The U.S. Agriculture Department is still trying to figure how it should
regulate imports, and there are significant questions to be answered:
Would every crop or transformation need separate approval? Would USDA
treat the products of some countries more leniently than others,
depending on how similar their regulatory structures are to the U.S. system?

USDA hopes to have a proposal ready later this year.

The government needs to be looking ahead before "something shows up at
the door," says Michael Fernandez, executive director of the Washington-
based Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology.

"It's not just going to be the U.S.-dominated commercialization that it
once was," he says.

European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
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