IAS Rabat Declaration
Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering
for Development in the Islamic World

Adopted in Rabat (Morocco)
on the
8 Sha'aban 1422
24 October 2001



WHEREAS Allah (God) Subhanahu-Wa-Ta'ala has created Man in the best of forms, provided him with the abilities and resources to improve his well-being, endowed him with reason, dignified and honoured him, and granted mankind the inheritance of life and resources of nature;

WHEREAS Allah has made the pursuit of knowledge an absolute obligation and its acquisition a source of pride and dignity, and has urged human beigns to seek, utilize and disseminate it for benefit of humanity;

WHEREAS the teachings of Islam emphasize the importance of the well-being of man, and underline the fact that Man's relationship to the universe and to his fellow-man must be one of stewardship and complementarity, respectively, and never one of mastery;

WHEREAS the Holy Quran is replete with numerous references to biological sciences;

WHEREAS Muslim contribution to the establishment and advancement of biological sciences throughout the period of Islamic renaissance has been significant;

WHEREAS Islam promotes a needed ecological balance between all living beings and their life-sustaining environment;

WHEREAS the Islamic Value-System provides a unique Code of Ethics, which should govern our outlook on contemporary Genetic Engineering issues, such as Cloning and Organ Transplants;

WHEREAS Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering have now become areas at the forefront of basic and applied research and are continuously reaching new levels in advancement and complexity;

AND WHEREAS the majority of OIC and developing countries have not mapped out a stand on the science or ethical features of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering and are lagging behind in these areas;

NOW, THEREFORE, the Islamic Academy of Sciences:

(a) REALIZING that the applications of biotechnology could have far-reaching effect and favourable impact in the developing countries, many of which suffer from large and rapidly increasing populations, chronic food-shortages and malnutrition, poor health, and profound environmental problems;

(b) ACKNOWLEDGING that Biotechnology and Genetics Engineering are areas where rapid and meaningful advancement can readily be made by OIC countries, especially in attaining food security, promoting the pharmaceutical industry;

(c) APPRECIATING the activities being carried out by many governments, academic institutions, and non-governmental organizations in the fields of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, especially in Agriculture;

(d) ACKNOWLEDGING that advancement in Biotechnology and Genetics Engineering underlines the importance of investment in basic sciences, which are the backbone of sustainable S&T advancement, especially as there is very little biotechnological R&D in the developing countries;

(e) ACKNOWLEDGING the significance of the sequencing of the human genome, an event compared to man's landing on the moon and described as an historic milestone in the history of science that will enhance research in human biology focused on diseases such as Cancer, Alzheimer, Diabetes and Cardiovascular disorders; and

(f) TAKING IN CONSIDERATION the Universal Declaration on the Genome and Human Rights, adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1997, which is the first worldwide instrument in the field of biology, medicine, and genetics;


(a) OBSERVING WITH CONCERN the lack of a long-term Biotechnology policy at the national level in most OIC member countries;

(b) NOTING WITH CONCERN the limited number of enrolled students and quality-graduates in Biotechnology-related disciplines, as well as the poor level of instruction at most institutions;

(c) BEING CONCERNED at the lack of adequate infrastructure for BT-research available in most OIC countries, to sustain this growing sector;

(d) NOTING WITH CONCERN the absence of co-ordination between the various agencies involved in Biotechnological research and application;

(e) NOTING the lack of up-to-date curricula in Biotechnology for all stages of the educational process, as well as the shortage of suitably qualified and motivated and teaching staff;

(f) NOTING WITH CONCERN that the major breakthroughs in molecular biology and genetic engineering have raised many serious legal, ethical and social questions;

(g) COGNIZANT of the fact that genetic engineering has been defined as an unnatural insertion of a foreign sequence of genetic codes in the midst of the orderly sequence of genetic codes developed through millions of years, which is a profound intervention, with unpredictable consequences;


(i) EXTEND, in the spirit of co-operation, all possible help to developing countries in the area of technology-transfer, as well as debt relief to enable them to divert more resources to research in critical areas of Biotechnology;

(ii) CONTINUE to support research projects of importance in the developing countries;

(iii) SET-UP an appropriate mechanism for the protection of national genetic resources;

AND CALLS UPON the leaders and decision-makers of Islamic countries to:

(a) RE-DEFINE national developmental objectives in the area of science and technology, especially Biotechnology and Information Technology, in view of globalization and free-trade arrangements that are being adopted by countries;

(b) DEFINE their BT strategies and, where possible, incorporate them into national S&T policies;

(c) INTRODUCE BT awareness programmes at various stages of the educational process;

(d) INTRODUCE appropriate legislation, including tax and customs-exemptions, to promote the various aspects of the pharmaceutical industry;

(e) ESTABLISH linkages and partnerships between OIC member countries, in Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, to facilitate inter-country co-operation by governments, industry and academia;

(f) ALLAY fears that stringent patents and intellectual property rights, legislation and countries' accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) could cripple drug manufactures in OIC countries;


(a) ASSERT that exploiting a technology, which may give rise to unexpected substances that could be damaging to Health, before this risk has been carefully investigated, should be avoided;

(b) ASSERT that exploiting a technology that may have irreparable environmental effects, before it has been proven that the products do not cause significant harm to the environment, shoud be avoided;

(c) ASSERT that it is not appropriate to expose people and the environment to even the smallest hazard, considering that present genetically engineered products are of little value;

(d) ASSERT that it is not right to justify the exploitation of a potentially hazardous technology today because of a scientifically unfounded principle that it might generate useful products in the future;

(e) ASSERT that if genetically engineered organisms are to gain greater acceptance, decisions that address concerns associated with the application of biotechnology to agriculture must be science-based;

AND FURTHER CALLS UPON the relevant OIC, and other, organisations to:

(a) ENCOURAGE and support OIC-based BT and pharmaceutical industrial ventures;

(b) DEVELOP databases of BT and GE human resources in OIC countries, to facilitate appraisal of national strengths and weaknesses;

(c) SUPPORT inter-disciplinary research and development in various fields related to BT and ensure the requisite development of human resources;

(d) PROVIDE funds as well as governmental support for diagnostic as well as curative medical applications of BT, Gene Therapy, etc.;

(e) CONTINUE to address developments in basic sciences and not to marginalize this backbone of S&T development;

(f) ENCOURAGE and promote the publication of quality research-material of OIC scientists especially in the area of Biotechnology in internationally renowned journals and on the Internet;


(i) THE CREATION OF AN ISLAMIC BT FUND to help poorer OIC countries to transfer Biotechnology know-how from other countries and develop and utilise it to achieve national food-security;

(ii) THE ENFORCEMENT OF A MORATORIUM on the release of genetically engineered organisms and on the use of Genetically Engineered (GE) foods, until sufficient knowledge has been acquired to make it possible to judge how far it is safe for human Health and the Environment to exploit this technology; and

(iii) THE DEVELOPMENT OF A MULTI - DISCIPLINARY GROUP of scientists, technologists and Islamic scholars to study the various facets of social and ethical issues emanating from the recommendations of this conference.

Supported by UNESCO / MIRCEN network
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