Final Safety Evaluation of GM Rice, Cotton

Final Safety Evaluation  of GM Rice, Cotton
Final Safety Evaluation  of GM Rice, Cotton

Genetically modified (GM) rice and cotton may soon be cultivated in many farmlands across the country.

“We have already developed GM rice and cotton seeds and the final stage of their health safety assessment is being conducted by the Health Ministry,” said Dr. Mahmoud Tavallaee, head of Iranian Genetics Society.

Stating that a transgenic rice seed was developed in the country several years ago, he said at the time, the cultivation permit was not issued for its production due to the absence of a bio-safety law.

“Later in 2009, even after the law was passed by the Majlis (parliament), the project implementation was postponed, again due to several other reasons,” he said without specifying the reasons, IRNA reported.  

However, the new government is making every effort to complete the final stages of rigorous evaluation in order to let the two key products enter the domestic market as soon as possible, he said.

The Health Ministry, Department of Environment (DoE) and Agriculture Jihad are the three main organs responsible for the biological safety monitoring of GM organisms.

“The specific assessment focuses on the GM crops’ direct health effects, potential to provoke allergic reaction, specific components thought to have toxic properties, and nutritional effects associated with genetic modification,” he explained.

He expressed the hope that after passing all the tests, the two products would meet a part of the domestic needs by the end of the current year in March 2017.

  Healthier & More Profitable?

Stating that the best places to grow cotton is Sistan plain in Sistan-Baluchestan, and Gorgan Province, Dr. Sirous Zeinali, head of Iranian Biotechnology Society said, “At one time the Sistan plains were the cradle of Iran’s cotton farming, but now its cultivation has been halted in the area, and therefore we are seeing problems such as unemployment.”

“GM seeds can increase farmers’ income, encouraging them to return to their farms as they are resistant against insects, diseases and drought. They also don’t need to be sprayed by pesticide as much and often as traditional crops,” he said.

Pesticides can cause many types of cancer in human, and therefore GM foods are beneficial to health.

GM crops productivity is three to four times higher than traditional crops and they also require less fertilizer.

In response to a query as to why so many people are against GM foods, he said it is unfortunate that there is negative publicity about GM foods. Their production can reduce food imports significantly.

Pesticide mafia is another main opponent to production of GM foods as it leads to a big decline in the use of pesticides.

  Leading Producers

Earlier, Dr. Hossein Rastegar, head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) laboratories pointing to the figures on GM food cultivation across the world said, “In 2014, around 73 million hectares were under cultivation of GM crops in the US, followed by 42, 24, 11.6, 11.6, and 3.9 million hectares in Brazil, Argentina, India, Canada, and China respectively.

He also said according to figures, in 2014, 82% of soybean, 62% of cotton, 30% of corn and 25% of canola crops cultivated around the world were genetically modified.  

In the same year, 11% of all farmlands across the world were under cultivation of GM crops. However, all the crops produced were not domestically consumed and most of them were exported, as conventional crop production was enough to meet local needs.

In genetically modified seeds, the DNA is altered in a way that does not occur naturally. The technology is often called ‘modern biotechnology’ or ‘gene technology’, sometimes also ‘recombinant DNA technology’ or ‘genetic engineering’.

It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between nonrelated species. Foods produced from or using GM organisms are often referred to as GM foods.