The return of Iran’s agricultural sector

TEHRAN — The founder of modern agricultural biotechnology in Iran is back, and with him, hopes of much-needed reform in the country’s agricultural sector.

After an eight-year hiatus under the administration of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Behzad Ghareyazie was in January reappointed head of the Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute of Iran (ABRII), the institute he established 15 years ago.

During Ghareyazie’s previous stretch as ABRII’s director, from 1999 to 2005, he tried to create the infrastructure needed for Iran to benefit from modern agricultural biotechnology. This included the production and official commercialization in 2004 of the first genetically modified (GM) insect-resistant rice cultivar in Iran.

Regardless of the arguments in favor or against GM crops, the achievement was considered a great technological step for Iran, a country where rice is a main food source and a strategic agricultural product. It also put Iran’s name on the map as the first country in the region to produce transgenic rice.
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