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Default Iran, first to plant genetically-modified rice

Iran, first to plant genetically-modified rice

Iran, first to plant GMO rice, hopes to cut imports

By Dolly Aglay
21 November 2005 Reuters News
(c) 2005 Reuters Limited

MANILA, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Iran, which says it was the first country to
commercialise genetically modified rice in 2004, hopes to cut its
imports of about 1 million tonnes each year by developing
higher-yielding varieties, a senior scientist said.

Behzad Ghareyazie of the Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute
of Iran said the area planted to GMO rice was likely to rise in the
next several years after high acceptance among farmers and consumers of
the initial variety.

"In the near future, we will have better varieties and more
higher-yielding varieties," he told reporters on the sidelines of an
international rice conference in the Philippines.

Ghareyazie said Iranian scientists were conducting more research on
other higher-yielding varieties.

Iran approved the commercial planting last year of a GMO variety called
Tarom molaii, an aromatic rice popular among Iranians but not
classified among the higher-yielding varieties.

The Tarom molaii variety yielded an average of 2.2 tonnes per hectare,
higher than the 2 tonnes per hectare for a non-GMO counterpart in Iran,
Ghareyazie said.


The GMO rice introduced in Iran is resistant to the stem borer pest,
the main rice pest in that country which normally infests up to 25
percent of harvest each cropping season.

Greenpeace and other consumer groups are opposing the planting of
transgenic crops, specially rice, saying they threaten consumer health
and the environment.

Scientists said countries in Asia, like China, India and the
Philippines that are pursuing research on other GMO varieties, are
closely watching developments of the GMO rice in Iran.

"Wherever you come close to a technology in a developing country, then
there will be a lot of noise," Ghareyazie said, adding it was up to
public officials and scientists to explain to the people the merits of
such new technology.

Ghareyazie said the GMO rice released in his country was commercialised
after nearly 10 years of risks assessment, including field trials.

"It wasn't too fast. It was too slow," Ghareyazie said, referring to
deaths from misuse of insecticide during the 10 years.

"Every year we have reports of deaths or serious illness due to the
mismanagement and misuse of ... insecticides that are being used for
controlling rice stem borer."

The first GMO variety came from Iran and scientists at the
International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines helped to
modify the rice to resist attack by insects.

The first GMO rice in Iran is now planted in "several thousand
hectares," Ghareyazie said. Rice is planted on 600,000 hectares of land
in Iran, which produces just two thirds of its consumption.

"If we can have our average yield increased to 6 tonnes per hectare,
definitely we will be self sufficient in rice production and that is
possible because there are a lot of countries which are producing 10
tonnes per hectare," he said.

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