Prof. Dr. Behzad Ghareyazie the founder of Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute of Iran (ABRII) dies at 62 due to Covid-19
Babak Nakhoda1 and Danial Kahrizi2
1. Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute of Iran (ABRII), Karaj, Iran
2. Razi University, Kermanshah, Iran
Prof. Dr. Behzad Ghareyazie the founder of Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute of Iran (ABRII) and the Pioneer of modern biotechnology and genetic engineering in Iran, dies at 62 due to Covid-19.
Prof. Dr. Behzad Ghareyazie, plant biotechnologist and geneticist, UPLB graduate and IRRI alumni, the founder of Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute of Iran (ABRII) and the pioneer of the modern biotechnology and genetic engineering in Iran dies at 62 due to Covid-19 after more than a month struggling with this disease in the hospital.
Dr. Ghareyazie received his Ph.D. in genetics and cognate in biochemistry from the University of the Philippines in Los Banõs (UPLB), Laguna in 1992-1996. He did his dissertation and Post-doctoral (1996-1998) under the supervision of Prof. Dr. John Bennett at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). During this time, he worked on molecular markers and genetic engineering of rice and was able to transfer the Bt gene to an Iranian rice variety named Tarom-Molaei as the first Iranian transgenic rice.
Upon his return to Iran in 1998, the Ex. Minister of Agriculture, H.E. Dr. Iesa Kalantary appointed him to establish the Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute of Iran (ABRII). Dr. Ghareyazie worked hard to upgrade the Plant Physiology Research Department of Seed and Plant Improvement Institute (SPII) to an autonomous and independent world-class research institute with State-of-the-Art facilities dedicated to agricultural biotechnology with five research departments namely, Tissue culture and Gene Transformation, Microbial Biotechnology, Nanotechnology, Genomics, and Molecular Physiology.
Later three branches of ABRII were established in Isfahan (Secondary Metabolites and Medicinal Plants), Rasht, Guilan (Animal Biotechnology), and in Tabriz, Azerbaijan (Food Sciences Biotechnology) under his leadership and supervision.
While establishing the necessary infrastructures for agricultural biotechnology in Iran, Prof. Ghareyazie put a lot of emphasis on training human resources and capacity building in this field. Many university professors, students, scholars, and trainees, attended numerous scientific workshops and training courses at ABRII. Many of ABRII’s staff pursued their graduate studies in related biotechnology courses in well-known and prestigious universities and research institutions around the world and joined the faculty on their return to Iran. Prof. Ghareyazie was a great mentor and leader, whom many Iranian students, researchers, and scientists inspired by him. He is being known as the “father of agricultural biotechnology” in Iran.
Dr. Behzad Ghareyazie spent more than 29 years in research, education, and administration in the field of modern biotechnology and biosafety. In addition to academic achievements and positions such as Dean, College of Agriculture of a state University in Iran (Guilan University), he held several executive positions. He was Deputy Minister and Head of Agricultural Research Education and Extension Organization (AREEO) of Iran. He is being considered as the founder of Modern Agricultural Biotechnology in Iran since he established the world-class Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute of Iran (ABRII), in 1999 and served as its Director-General for seven years.
During this time, ABRII hosted several eminent scientists and agricultural leaders around the world including Prof. Norman E. Borlaug, Prof. Dr. Gurve S. Khush, and Dr. Ismail Serageldin who received the Gold Prize and the plaque of appreciation of the Iranian Ministry of Agriculture for their services to global agriculture.
In 2013, he was appointed as the Director-General of ABRII for the second term and the Head, New Technologies Division of Iran's Center for Strategic Research (CSR), and the President of Biosafety Society of Iran. He has been involved in several international negotiations on Modern Biotechnology and Biosafety regulations such as Cartagena Protocols on Biosafety (from the very stage of its development in 1999) and Codex Alimentarius. He is frequently invited by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), World Health Organization (WHO), and other international/national authorities for consultation on the safety assessment of foods derived from Modern Biotechnology and deliberate release of LMOs into the environment, capacity building programs, and consultations.
During his productive scientific life, Prof. Ghareyazie supervised more than 50 graduate students from different universities in the field of Agricultural Biotechnology and has published/presented more than 230 scientific papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals or different congresses.
Undoubtedly, we can consider Prof. Ghareyazie as the most experienced Iranian negotiator in the field of biosafety. He was serving the country as the National Focal Point of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety for several years.
Aside from his governmental positions, Dr. Ghareyazie was so active in NGOs and academia. Dr. Ghareyazie established and chaired the Biotechnology Society of Iran, Biosafety Society of Iran. He established Iran Biotechnology Information Center (IRBIC) and served as its executive director for many years. He was also the president of the Crop Science Society of Iran and served as the chair of the Association of Modern Agricultural Sciences Societies of Iran.
Prof. Ghareyazie devoted his life to promoting the application of modern technologies especially biotechnology in agriculture to improve productivity and enhance the livelihood of the farmers. He is well known in Iran as the father of modern biotechnology and genetic engineering in general and Bt rice and cotton in particular. He received many prestigious awards and prizes for his selfless endeavors in promoting modern biotechnology in the country. Although, he was being seriously criticized and threatened by the anti GMOs and technophobia parties.
Iran indeed has lost a patriot and pioneer chief scientist and a great leader in agricultural biotechnology who may occur only “Once in a Generation”. It is indeed a very great loss for the scientific society, biotechnology family in Iran, the whole country, and even global leadership.
He is survived by two sons Mohammad and Amin and two grandchildren.
May God bless him and his soul rests in peace.