Iranian presidential candidate Dr. Hassan Rouhani’s response to questions posed by Iran’s Biotechnology Society

Translated by: Shiva Bakhtiari-
“In the name of God”
I would like to begin by thanking Iran’s Biotechnology Society for bringing important issues such as genetic engineering and their impact on Iran’s development, to the attention of presidential candidates.
As you mentioned biotechnology and …

"In the name of God"

I would like to begin by thanking Iran’s Biotechnology Society for bringing important issues such as genetic engineering and their impact on Iran’s development, to the attention of presidential candidates.

As you mentioned biotechnology and genetic engineering play a key role in medicine, agriculture, environment and industry. In the developed and industrialized world, this technology has grabbed a great deal of attention for its ability to improve the quality of products and increasing exports.

Although this field is relatively new compared to other technologies, Iran has also taken great strides in expanding this science especially during the second decade following the victory of the Islamic revolution. Some of the significant achievements made in this regard include the establishment of the National institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, the Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute of Iran, the Royan Institute and the launch of graduate programs in biotechnology at universities across the country.

Although there is still a long way to go, Iran is viewed as a distinguished country in biotechnological issues, not only in the region, and among Islamic and developing countries, but also among European nations. Unfortunately since 2005 we have had some retrogressionsin this area just as in other fields. This however has in no way been due to a lack of expertise on the part of our scientists but because of mismanagement.

It should be noted that, we have had bright points even during this period as well which need to be strengthened. Iran’s achievements in stem cells and proteomics, the production of transgenic goats at the Royan Institute and the production of recombinant medications are just some examples. However when it comes to the agricultural and environmental arena, and the production of animal and human vaccines, we have definitely regressed, and this has been in part due to the eliminatory behavior taken toward those who pioneered this field in Iran. The result has been that genetically engineered agricultural products are now being imported into the country. About 5 billion dollars worth of products were brought into Iran during the last year alone a year which had been dubbed as the year of “national production”. With this said, let’s now move on to your questions.

Question:What is your plan for expanding biotechnological practices such as the use of biological fertilizers, recombinant medications and transgenic products?

Answer:  My main goal is the implementation of law and the return of meritocracy. For instance if we hand over the responsibility of Iran’s biotechnology sector to someone who is not only an expert in the field but also popular and accepted by other scientists, and is familiar with the challenges facing the development of different sectors in Iran, we can replace imports with national production. Transgenic products are safer and contain less pesticide residues. They are also more favorable for the farmers, consumers and Iran’s economy

In my opinion we have some very good rules and regulations in this field which are waiting to be implemented. At Iran’s Center for Strategic Research (CSR), we have established  the “new technologies Department” whose duties include monitoring the implementation of such laws. Unfortunately, reports show that many of these regulations such as the law on biosafety or those relating to the use of new technologies have been put on hold, all of which I hope to set in motion.

Question: Some of the rules and regulations in biotechnology and genetic engineering (like the biosafety law) have not been implemented during the past four years and their executive orders have not been issued during this time either. Is your policy to continue the present situation? What immediate measures do you plan to take to ensure their implementation?

Answer: Yes, as I mentioned before unfortunately some missmanagements in the field have prevented the implementation of such rules and regulations and have opened the door to imports. Of course, it is possible that the rules themselves may sometimes have shortcomings which need to be revised and improved. This is why we need to have someone whose main priority is to make sure that the proper rules and regulations are applied.

Question: How do you plan to use the technical capacities of different scientific communities in Iran?

Answer: Iran’s fifth development plan supports scientific communities and stresses the use of their expertise at various levels. Unfortunately at the moment, these communities have been pushed to the side. My goal is to use them in an institutionalized manner which means representatives of these scientific communities will have a defined role and presence in various councils and decision making organizations.

Also to ensure that my plans are carried out, I will appoint an adviser in new technologies. This person will act as a liaison between the President and scientific communities and follow up on what needs to be implemented.

Translated by: Shiva Bakhtiari

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