People, Environment

Kalantari’s Controversial Stances Draw Ire of Experts

Kalantari’s Controversial Stances Draw Ire of ExpertsKalantari’s Controversial Stances Draw Ire of Experts

The recent declarations of Isa Kalantari, the new chief of the Department of Environment, have raised the ire of experts.

His statements in support of transgenic products that had been strongly opposed by the previous DOE panel have triggered the most controversy.

“I am not opposed to transgenic products,” he has once said, adding that these crops are cultivated across 160 million hectares of farmlands around the world and already many imported food items such as oil, corn and soy in Iran are transgenic, reported.

Kalantari has claimed that a research conducted six or seven years ago in 70 universities with a $500 million budget on the impacts of transgenic food did not prove any harm.

The DOE chief further said Yazd University of Medical Sciences has approved the safety of consuming transgenic rice after more than three years of research.  

“Those who oppose it have no scientific and logical justification,” he said.

Critics, however, believe that the complete consequences of cultivating and consuming transgenic food have not been researched and could have disastrous results for the country.

A major risk in their opinion is the genetic erosion of indigenous species, which refers to the process in which a plant or animal species faces a gradual or drastic diminishing or complete loss of its unique gene pool.

Esmaeil Kahrom, an advisor to the former administration of DOE, had earlier said that in the transgenic industry, quality is sacrificed for the sake of quantity and that it has potential harms for the environment.

“Scientists of the world have not yet approved the quality of these products and using them could pose a risk to the health of a generation,” he said. In many other countries, the production of transgenic products is banned or severely restricted.

In Iran, the permit for the production of transgenic crops is granted by a committee comprising representatives from the science and health ministries, DOE, Iran Plant Protection Organization and Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute.

Nayyereh Khoshkholq-Sima, DOE’s technology and biotechnology advisor, said that permits will not be issued without the consent of all committee members.

“Currently, transgenic crops are not cultivated in a single square meter of Iran’s farms,” she said.

 Low Priority for Biodiversity

Since his appointment in mid-August, Kalantari has repeatedly stressed that the country’s most critical issue is the water crisis, which is the root of more than 70% of environmental challenges.

He also stated that the grave issue of water shortage must not be overshadowed by “trivial issues such as the Asiatic Cheetah” or a plant species, as it threatens the existence of the country.

Hossein Akhani, a lecturer at Tehran University, told Hamshahri Online that the extinction of an animal or plant species will affect the life cycle and eventually the human race.

“Based on the law, the preservation of biodiversity across the country is among DOE’s responsibilities and the department must not sacrifice it for a one-dimensional approach,” he said.

 Damming Disputed

Kalantari’s support for dam construction has also infuriated many experts.

“Dam construction can be good or bad, depending on the region,” he had said. The DOE chief halted the construction of Nazlou Dam over Nazlou Chay River, a tributary of Urmia Lake, despite making 67% progress. The dam over Simineroud, also a tributary of the lake, was also halted on his order despite the investment of 800 billion rials ($21 million).

However, he voted in favor of the construction of Shafaroud Dam in Gilan Province. This is while in 2014, DOE had opposed the project on the ground that it leads to the destruction of over 157 hectares of Caspian Hyrcanian forests.

Hadi Kiadaliri, the dean of Agriculture Faculty at Science and Research Branch of Azad University, said the harmful effects of such a dam will unfold after 10 years.

“The DOE must stop it now,” he declared.

Only time will show whether Kalantari’s approaches toward environmental issues are scientifically untenable, or his highhanded manner of doing things without consulting experts is the main reason behind these controversies.

However, its adverse environmental consequences cannot be easily reversed and hence, caution should logically be the DOE watchword.


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