Biotechnology developments, potentially useful for Mexico
On Thursday, April 25, 2019, the Senate Gazette reported that legislators Ana Lilia Rivera Rivero and Jesusa Rodriguez Ramirez presented a bill for the Promotion and Protection of Native Corn, with the objective of protecting the grain from genetically modified organisms, an action that accentuated the national debate on the issue.
In this context, and with the purpose of contributing more elements to the discussion, the Mexican Society of Biotechnology and Bioengineering organizes the Symposium and Analysis Panel called "Achievements and Potential of Agricultural Biotechnology in Mexico. Evolución de la Investigación para el Mejoramiento de Cultivos y el Aprovechamiento de la Biodiversidad, en el Marco de la Ley de Bioseguridad Vigente", to be held on September 25 at the Arturo Rosenblueth Auditorium, Cinvestav.
At the Symposium, a group of researchers from Cinvestav, UNAM and the Scientific Research Center of Yucatan (CICY), among other institutions, will expose the benefits, difficulties, and situation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the country. Alfredo Herrera Estrella, Director of the Advanced Genomics Unit, will participate on behalf of Cinvestav. He will present the theme "Genomics and biotechnology of agro diversity", and Beatriz Xoconostle Cázares, attached to the Department of Biotechnology and Bioengineering, who will talk about "Development of useful and safe GMOs for our country".
Jorge Manuel Santamaría Fernández, from CICY, will also participate with the theme "Diversifying and preserving the germplasm of local crops", and Martha Rocha Munive, from the UNAM Science Faculty, with "Sustainable cultivation of GM cotton in Mexico".
"The idea is to show that biotechnology in Mexico has great advances; we seek to defend new technologies and show that we have the installed capacity to develop it and use it for the benefit of society, but above all we are interested in the bill on biosafety, which seeks to prevent the use of any tool for genetic improvement, take into account the opinion of researchers," said Beatriz Xoconostle Cázares.
According to the researcher, it is important that society knows the institutions that already have biotechnological developments, with a good degree of progress and in several cases are already examples of success in crops such as cotton, soybean, potato, coffee or lemon, which is at the top of the list of priorities of the current government.
The researchers participating in the Symposium share many elements proposed in the initiative, such as: avoiding technological dependence; not having to pay royalties; containing the invasion of local markets and stopping monopolies; and, they also say, they can prove that their developments are one hundred percent, Mexican, without transnational origin, made with their own tools and some of them different from those proposed as a solution in other countries.
On the contrary, some years ago the Cinvestav Irapuato Unit was already testing biosafety with genetically modified materials and it was said that the Center was a leader in this type of research, but it lagged behind in following the precautionary principles.
The precautionary principle consists of analyzing and evaluating the risks of the use of a new technology, to prevent its exposure from being dangerous using technical bases, but in Mexico, applying it is synonymous with prohibiting it, contrary to international conventions, such as Rio, where it is established that if there is no evidence of danger, the use of any technology cannot be denied.
When the international rules on the use of GMOs are not applied, the country lags behind, maize is one of those cases, but the same happens with other crops. Certified seeds are imported because their genetic improvement was not done on time, not even in the traditional way.
"Here we continue thinking about the precautionary principle to stop the advance of these technologies, but we do not stop it abroad, it is a mistake because stopping internal research will give a competitive advantage to external markets and will slow down our development," said the researcher.
To get society to accept biotechnology as an indispensable tool for development, we must work on communication, "researchers must inform society, seek decision-makers, confront environmentalists without technical support, to reverse the popular idea that GMOs are harmful, so the need for forums such as the Symposium and Analysis Panel organized by the Mexican Society of Biotechnology and Bioengineering, explained Beatriz Xoconostle Cázares.