Economy, Domestic Economy

Controversy Continues Over Transgenic Food

Genetically modified food made its debut in Iran 20 years ago.
Genetically modified food made its debut in Iran 20 years ago.

Azad Omrani, a member of the Agricultural Products National Association, has cautioned against alacrity in the commercializing and consumption of transgenic crops.

“As per an international treaty, transgenic crops must be tested from various aspects in order to reduce its possible adverse health and environmental impacts. Such tests take 13 years and cost $130 million at times,” Mehr News Agency quoted Omrani as saying.

Transgenic technology refers to the processes that remove genetic material from one species of plant and add it to another to improve crop yields and protect those yields from pests and disease.

So far, there is scientific consensus that food on the market derived from genetically modified crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food. However, opponents object to the use of GM crops on several grounds including, but not limited to, environmental concerns and food safety.

Referring to the annual imports of up to $5.5 billion of genetically modified food, Omrani, who is also a member of Iran Organic Association, added that it’s only six months that the general public has realized that they were unknowingly consuming GM food.

Earlier this year, former agriculture minister Isa Kalantari had said transgenic products, such as vegetable oil, soybean and red meat, constitute 90% of the Iran’s food imports.

Supporting the domestic production of GM crops, Kalantari noted that figures show 200 million hectares of farmland are currently under the cultivation of transgenic crops across the world. He added that major food exporters, including Argentina, Brazil and the United States, are key producers of transgenic products.

According to Behzad Ghareyazie, chairman of the Biosafety Society of Iran, GM foods made their debut in Iran 20 years ago. Transgenic crops of oilseed, soya, corn and colza are being consumed by people on a daily basis.

“Thanks to the significant benefits of transgenic technology such as higher crop yields, reduced costs, increased profit and improvement in health and environment, Iranian academia, farmers and officials are willing to indigenize the production know-how,” he noted.

Iran developed transgenic rice in 2004 and cultivated it in 2005. No pesticides were used in cultivating the transgenic produce, which made it healthy and economically viable as crop yields were also higher. “But unfortunately the infrastructure was destroyed and 120 tons of transgenic rice we had produced were dumped,” he said without elaboration.