Team:BGU Israel/Human Practice/Policies


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Regulation & Legislation

Genetic Engineering Regulation in Israel hasn’t been forged into a solid policy yet and lacks clear Legislation. Furthermore, Israel is considered relatively liberal on the matter, encouraging research and genetic engineering development.


We used the opportunity to meet the Minister of Health to express our murmur against the government decision to subsidize the unhealthy food products that play a major role in bad nutrition, thus leading to Type 2 Diabetes.

Meeting with the Minister of Health

Regulation & Legislation

Currently we have not met with regulations limiting the implementation of the Inner Doctor treatment. However, it is likely to suspect that once the treatment will become ready for use and nationally known, some confrontation and opposition would arise, especially from The Green organizations such as "Green Peace". "Green Peace" is ever vigilant, holds a pack of lawyers and has the knowledge and power to arrange a slamming campaign against Synthetic Biology in the official and social media. When the time comes it is important to pay attention to such opposition a sit can easily lead to new strangling laws.

Genetic Engineering Regulation in Israel has not yet been forged into a solid policy and lacks clear Legislation. Furthermore Israel is considered quite liberal on the matter, encouraging research and genetic engineering development. As "The Start-Up Nation" rich with bright minds and booming technological innovations, Israel serves as a comfortable hub to experiment and do research while enabling quite a hands free legal environment. We will not address freedom of Biotechnology research in universities which is usually subjected to the Ethics Committee of the Institution. This review will however address examples from the field of research in Stem Cells, and the increasing issue of GMO in the food industry.

Israel has one of the world's most liberal regulations of embryonic stem cell (ESC) research and human cloning. The common explanation comes from religion, where Jewish religious teachings lead to a conception of ESC research and cloning as morally acceptable. We also have to take into consideration existing political narratives. Instead of there being a consistent governmental policy on how to regulate medical technologies, the Israeli bioethics discourse shaped the regulations on ESC research and human cloning by providing decision-makers with particular understandings of what is ‘thinkable and sayable’. The Prohibition of Genetic Intervention Law of 1999, which was extended in March 2004 for another 5-year period, will illustrates this claim thoroughly.

In the field of Genetically Engineered food, currently in Israel there doesn't exist an official policy or legislation. Due to the fact much of agriculture production is exported to Europe where the law on the matter is very strict there is no commercial agriculture of genetically engineered plants. However, because experiments in genetic engineering do exist in Israel, and products containing genetically engineered components are sold here, there are two committees responsible for the legal issues. One from the Ministry of Health and one from the Ministry of agriculture. Yet these committees have not concluded on regulations matters for over 7 years, and still there is no clear policy and legislation in the near future to come.

Our conclusion is that if we had to choose a state to start implementing the Inner Doctor, according to legal possibilities, we would definitely choose Israel. Atmosphere here is a combination of scientific curiosity, modern liberal way of life and pro innovation. This is the birthplace of many other health breakthroughs - why shouldn't it be the birthplace of The Inner Doctor as well?


  1. Hearing # 46 , Session #121, Israel Knesset 26.02.2014
  3. ‘Negotiating Life’ The Regulation of Human Cloning and Embryonic Stem Cell Research in Israel (Barbara Prainsack, April 2006)
  4. Two Countries, Two Approaches To Regulating Embryonic Stem-Cell Use (Joy Resmovits , Jan 2011)


We used the occasion of meeting with the Minister of Health to express a resentment Shula Vitko had raised during our Innovation Conference (see more here) towards the irony of the government subsidizing exactly the unhealthy food products that play a major role in bad nutrition, bad nutrition that leads to Diabetes 2. Being a Clinical Diet Expert specifying in Diabetes, Mrs. Vitko claimed against the ridiculousness of treating one problem and consequently creating another, which is exactly what the government does when it spends resources to subsidize white bread, white rice, fat-rich dairy and etc., thus it makes these unhealthy choices of basic everyday products more attractive to people and especially those of lower social and economic classes.**

Background work done by our group revealed that many researches show a clear and strong connection between the Western way of life and the rise of illnesses such as The Metabolic Syndrome which includes Diabetes 2 and heart diseases. It is also noticeable that low social-economic classes tend to consume food with high amount of carbs and fats, thus the rate of people suffering from The Metabolic Syndrome among them is rising abruptly. The state of Israel monitors and subsidizes the price of various food products, among them white bread, milk, eggs, hard cheese and more.

In recent years awareness to healthy nutrition has increased, leading the trend are full wheat breads which the Health Ministry is encouraging people to eat. Furthermore, several legislation attempts to monitor these healthy products maximum prices have been tried with no positive results. It is obvious that encouraging the consumption of healthier foods is an efficient move that will eventually save money to government, as prevention in healthcare is almost always more effective then treatment.So a question arises as to why these attempts have not succeeded? Why healthier choices of products are out of these subsidization lists? And even more intriguing, why are unhealthy food products still are on these lists?

We took upon ourselves to lead a change and encourage eating healthier foods in society. We did so in different ways but because we knew many times the buck is what counts we offered to implement a change through the top of the pyramid - the heads of the Health Ministry. We came up with many ways to do deal with this constraint: Subsidizing specific healthy full-wheat made bread, rice, chickpeas; switching high-fat cheese with low-fat similar cheese types; limiting the maximum prices of healthy fruits and vegetables and removing sweet fat-rich cream from the subsidizing list.

We presented the Ministry of health officials with documents, suggestions, and reviews of legislation changes attempts we found in archives. Furthermore we spoke out loud the absurdity of the current situation, and pointed how clear and beneficial is the solution, hoping to make them realize it too! On the bright side they all smiled and said that we are going over well-trodden ground, and that this already is an important objective the ministry took upon themselves, also they agreed to all our points and wished too that such amendments would be able to be made soon. Minister Yael German praised us for our good intentions and comprehensive work yet as politicians often do, she also elaborated on the complexity of change in the political environment. How it is a cross ministries matter which makes progress take much longer, and finally reminded us that perhaps some powerful firms afraid of losing money might be lobbying against such an act. We definitely learned a lesson about how politics work with our legislation attempt, but still it made us happy to know that at least the leaders we met are sensible professionals that understand us and too are trying to improve the food people are eating in Israel.

*Subsidizing - - keeping product prices low by compensating producers for the price difference
**Israel is a young state which started with a very socialist political and economic ideology, although it is becoming more and more capitalist, policies such as subsidization still exist

Meeting with the Minister of Health

Our project offers an alternative, innovative Synthetic Engineered treatment to the Metabolic Syndrome. First of all we needed to check and raise the awareness of officials to this increasing health threat. Secondly, for such a dramatic treatment to be implemented in the nation's healthcare it is necessary to get support and consent from the highest authority, both politic and scientific. Thirdly, we wanted to receive feedback from an important existing, unexplored point of view. Fourth and last, it ought to be a wonderful opportunity to promote iGEM and Synthetic Biology research, plus a jump to greater public exposure.

So after a lot of work we managed to arrange a meeting with the Minister of Health, Yael German, the Ministry of Health Chief Executive, Prof. Arnon Afek, and the Chief Scientist of the Ministry, Prof. Avi Yisraeli. We made an introduction to Synthetic Biology, explained iGEM in general lines and presented our project. It was fascinating to see things through their eyes, to understand what parts particularly interest them and to learn how they evaluate our project in practical real-world measurements, quite different than the sciThe presentation went very well and The Inner Doctor video was a huge success proven by the fact the Chief Executive insisted we play it once more. Minister Yael German and the whole room rewarded our video with a round of applause, she was really delighted about The Inner Doctor and about our undergraduate, multi-disciplinary group. She questioned us about the details of how the treatment would be delivered, about the project's current status and readiness which definitely gave us a new view that we're creating something for real and not just in the lab. She was interested to hear also about our research methods and was glad to hear that experiments were not done on animals. Last, we reviewed our work in the field of community outreach with the Bedouin society and we discussed Diabetes rate differences between genders.entific way we did.

The minister's receptiveness was amazing especially because of its direct positivity. She basically said: "it's great, we support it, how can we help?". Besides all the warm words, support and assistance in public relations, Minister Yael German understood our financial challenges and promised to help through three Ministry channels: Through healthy lifestyle activities funds, through supporting non-animal research funds, and through a following meeting with the Chief Scientist of the office. It is important to note that the Chief Scientist of the Ministry, Prof. Avi Yisraeli is well-informed about iGEM, being a M.I.T. graduate, who visited the competition and is following the field of Synthetic Biology from time to time. All in all, this meeting at the top floor of the Ministry of Health's building in Jerusalem was a unique important gratifying experience for us. We prepared much for it, and we truly believe we made the best of it by not only teaching about Synthetic Biology and sharing our vision with the most powerful health related decision maker in Israel, but also integrating out project with reality while understanding the needs of institutions and gaining a new point of view on our work.

We approached the Minister of Health with our analysis and proposition to subsidize healthier food products – read more about it here