The 18th FAO e-mail conference, entitled "GMOs in the pipeline: Looking to the next five years in the crop, forestry, livestock, aquaculture and agro-industry sectors in developing countries", was officially closed on Dec. 3, 2012.
FAO established this Biotechnology Forum in order to provide quality balanced information on agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries and to make a neutral platform available for people to exchange views and experiences on this subject. Dr. Behzad Ghareyazie who attended in this conference as the President of Biosafety Society of Iran said
Iran has a relatively strong genetic engineering program. Genetic engineering and biotechnology has received full support from the Supreme Leader and is reflected in the strategic plans. According to the Iran strategic plan for Biotechnology Iran should grow minimum of 0.2% and 0.5% of global area under the transgenic plants in short and midterm respectively. According to the Irans National Biosafety Law "all activities related to production, release, import, export, transit and transportation, commercialization, use and application of LMOs are permitted" and "the government should take all necessary actions to facilitate these". In the same law decision making is based on scientific data and not on the ideological believes or other basis. Iran officially commercialized the first insect resistant Bt rice in the year 2004 coinciding with the international year of rice (James 2005). This rice was released among farmers who wanted to reduce application of chemical insecticides against striped stem borer which is a very devastating insect pest of rice in Iran. In the year 2005 with the election of Dr. Ahmadi Nejhad as the President of the country and the following changes in the administration, the" extension" of this transgenic rice was stopped on the basis of two excuses: 1) there was no national Biosafety law in the country, and 2) lack of harmonization among different stakeholders (Ministry of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Organization etc.). Though there was no moratorium and no court order or any officially made decision against any GMO in Iran, but the record of area under the cultivation of Bt rice was lost and the government did not support the release of GM crops in spite of relatively good investment in terms of R&D.
Since then, all the infrastructures including the national biosafety law were set in place and as mentioned above the Law asks the government to "facilitate" the release and use of LMOs.
Therefore the first LMO to be commercialized again in Iran is the Bt rice and the herbicide tolerant rice. The combination of these two will bring drastic changes to the current "unsustainable" and traditional methods of rice cultivation in Iran, saving a lot of practices/money for the farmers while reducing the environmental foot prints because of the dramatic reduction in the application of agrochemicals. These plants are produced at public sector. So far no private sector is active in the LMO business due to the current administrations stand on the transgenic issue.
Bt cotton, Bt sugar beet, herbicide tolerant canola and Bt alfalfa are the next GM crops to be released in the next 5 years.
In terms of transgenic animals there is no project on production of transgenic animals for food production purposes. But there are transgenic goats called Shangool, Mangool and Habbeye Angoor (the three characters of the famous Iranian popular folk story “Shangool, Mangool and Habbe-ye angoor) that has been produced since 3 years ago with the goal to produce pharmaceuticals in their milk. Recombinant human proteins (factor 9) is produced in Shangools and Mangoolss milk and is currently extracted and purified from their milk. Habbeye angoor and other transgenic goats, also produced by Royan Research Institute with the full support from the Supreme Leader of the country, produce tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). This is a protein involved in the breakdown of blood clots. tPA catalyzes the conversion of plasminogen to plasmin that is the major enzyme responsible for clot breakdown. Because it works on the clotting system, tPA is used to treat embolic or thrombolytic stroke. There will be no resistance in any parts of the government f or commercialization of GM animals (the drugs produced in their milk) produced by Royan Research Institute. The products will be in the market within the next 2-3 years. Erythropoietin and Albumin are other two proteins to be expressed in Goad milks and is expected to be commercialized in the next 5 years.
There are several other crop plants/traits at different stages of research and development but I do not think that they will be commercialized in the next 5 years.
To see the messages from November sorted by date (latest on top), see:
The e-mail conference ran for 5 November to 2 December 2012. A total of 770 people subscribed themselves to the conference and, of these, 59 (i.e. 8%) submitted at least one message. Of the 109 messages that were posted, 36% came from people living in Asia; 26% from Europe; 24% from North America; 10% from Latin America and the Caribbean; and 5% from Africa. The messages came from people living in 24 different countries, the greatest number coming from India (31 messages) followed by the United States (25 messages). A total of 55 messages (i.e. 50%) were posted by people living in developing countries. A total of 30% of messages came from people working in universities; 18% from participants from non-governmental organizations; 17% from people working in research centers; 12% from people working in the private sector; 11% from people working as independent consultants and 8% from people in Governments.