Iran joins GM Rice Race

Iran joins GM Rice Race

SOURCE: KSJ / Nature Biotechnology 23: 405 - 406
Iran joins GM Rice Race
April 2005

Iran claims it will become the first to commercialize transgenic rice, possibly before the end of the year, beating China and India. A local variety of 'tarom molai' has been genetically modified (GM) with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin to become resistant to stem borer pest, a major problem across Asia. "It has passed all field tests and approval has been sought for commercial cultivation," explains Amir Mousavi, a research scientist at the Iranian National Institute for Genetic Engineering and
Biotechnology (NIGEB) in Tehran.

The Bt rice will be followed by Bt cotton, herbicide-resistant rapeseed and virus-resistant sugar beet, according to Mohammad Hossein Sanati, director of NIGEB. "Many people think Iran is backward in biotechnology but it is not the case," the Iranian officials said, as they unveiled their 'National Biotechnology Strategy' at the BioAsia-2005 conference in Hyderabad held on February 10_12.

The strategy aims at "exploiting modern biotechnology to increase and diversify sources of foods and incomes for 70 million people," Mousavi said, adding that 23 out of the 55 biotech research institutes in Iran are involved in agbiotech research. Iran expects to use its membership in the Federation of Asian Biotechnology Associations to promote joint ventures with developing countries.

FAO Funding $6 mln worth of Projects in Iran

SOURCE: IranMania

FAO Funding $6 mln worth
DATE: 12 Mar 2005

LONDON, March 12 (IranMania) - United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is implementing several projects worth a total of $6 mln in Iran, said the FAO country director in this northwestern city.

According to ISNA, Dr. Abdur Rashid further said during his visit to Zanjan to become acquainted with the challenges facing the farmers in this cold area that FAO-sponsored projects could also be implemented in this province given its strategic importance to the western Iran's agriculture economy.

He said FAO is implementing 25 agro projects in Iran in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture Jihad.

The FAO official discussed a range of issues including the possibility of further promoting irrigated farming as well as an increase in the use of genetically-modified seeds with local agricultural authorities.

Environmental groups in Iran are strongly against the use of genetically-modified seeds.

The Department of Environment (DoE), the main environmental body, has voiced angry opposition to plans by agriculture officials to bring 200,000 hectares under cultivation of GM rice.

Iran has announced plans for increasing the area under cultivation of genetically modified rice in a bid to boost production with the help of nanotechnology.

However, environmental activists say genetically modified rice would damage the environment, destroy traditional rice farming and cause health hazards.

Iranian Scientists Produce Country's first GM rice

SOURCE: SciDev.Net, UK, by Wagdy Sawahel
Iranian Scientists Produce
18 Feb 2005

[CAIRO] Iran's first genetically modified (GM) rice has been approved by national authorities and is being grown commercially for human consumption.

Researchers at the Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute of Iran (ABRII) modified rice to resist attack by insects by inserting a bacterial gene that produces a toxin. The chemical kills insects but is harmless to birds and mammals (see Researchers pinpoint pests' weak spot for natural toxin).

The research was conducted in collaboration with the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) using a local variety of aromatic rice, Tarom molaii.

Following laboratory tests, the GM rice was grown in a greenhouse and in field experiments from 1999 to October 2004 -- a total of six generations.

ABRII's director general, Behzad Ghareyazie, told SciDev.Net that in the trials the GM rice killed close to 100 per cent of the four species of insect pests attempting to feed on it.

One of these -- the striped stem borer -- is the main insect pest of rice in Iran, and is also widespread in Asia, where it can cause substantial crop losses.

Ghareyazie added that in the field trials the GM rice showed no abnormal patterns of growth and differed from non-GM rice only in its ability to resist pests. Additional tests showed the modified rice to have the same nutritional value as the variety it was developed from, he said.

Livestock accepted the GM rice and had no adverse health effects from eating it, said Ghareyazie.

The ABRII team published its initial research in the journal Molecular Breeding in 1997 and in the Journal of Economic Entomology in 2000. The results of the field trials and animal feeding experiments are also being prepared for publication.

Iran is one of the world's major importers of rice.

Mohammed Hamoud, head of genetic research in the botany department of Tanta University, Egypt, told SciDev.Net the Iranian rice could provide a cost-effective way of controlling pests, as well as being environmentally friendly because it would decrease pesticide use.

However, he added that the rice should undergo more careful testing to ensure it is safe for human consumption and to minimise environmental risks, such as the development of resistance in the pests to the toxin in the rice.

In addition to GM rice, Iran has produced different GM plants in the laboratory, including insect-resistant maize, cotton, potato and sugar beet; and herbicide-resistant canola; salinity and drought tolerant wheat; and blight-resistant maize and wheat. Greenhouse and field tests experiments are being conducted on such of these crops. Read more about GM rice in SciDev.Net's GM crops dossier

References: Molecular Breeding 3, 401 (1997); Journal of Economic
Entomology 93, 484 (2000)