Science and Facts to Ensure Mexico’s Food SecurityThu, 02/09/2017 - 16:05
Q: What are AgroBIO’s most important achievements in Mexico?
A: When AgroBIO was founded, the country’s legislative scenario was very different from what we are seeing now. Over the years, we have worked intensively with the government to create a solid legal framework for the use of agricultural biotechnology or genetically modified (GM) crops where scientific evidence is privileged. It has been a difficult task that has taken a lot of time, with several sectors involved in the discussions, including civil associations and academia. Agricultural biotechnology is a sector that is highly regulated. In fact, Mexico’s regulatory framework involves seven different governmental agencies, including the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, COFEPRIS, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Finance and Public Credit, Ministry of Education and CONACYT. The involvement of so many regulators is proof of the sector’s complexity and the several areas that are affected.
Q: What is the state of the negotiations for normalizing transgenic crops?
A: In Mexico, genetically modified crops haven been imported, commercialized and consumed for 20 years under COFEPRIS’ authorization for food, feed and processing. These products are not only used for human consumption but have a wide range of applications, including animal consumption, cosmetics, textiles and petrochemical. For instance, transgenic corn has over 1,000 different uses in various sectors. Today in Mexico, there are 146 genetically modified crops approved for human and animal consumption, including maize, soybean, canola, tomato, rice, alfalfa, cotton and potato.
When it comes to growing transgenic crops in the country the discussion changes. In this sense, it is important to differentiate cotton, soybean and corn. The cotton crop is a successful case. After 20 years of having genetically modified cotton crops in the country, a total US$384 million has been generated in economic benefits. Back in the 1990s, cotton was not a profitable business and was almost abandoned. Thanks to modern biotechnology, the crop gained a new dimension and today the adoption rate of genetically modified cotton is 95 percent.
While there is hesitation about growing GM crops, it is important to differentiate between crops. For instance, modified soybean is grown on between 15,000 and 20,000 hectares. Considering that the country imports about 93 percent of the soybean that is consumed per year, I would say that expectations for adoption are very high, yet some continue to resist the adoption of this crop. When it comes to GM corn, the discussion on whether it should be permitted or not is based on the fact that Mexico is a center of origin and genetic diversity and that corn itself is a genetically diverse crop. Health-related issues have nothing to do with it.
We understand the importance of Mexico being a genetic reservoir for 59 different corn varieties, including teocintle, a corn ancestor. Nevertheless, there is still a lot of misinformation surrounding genetically modified corn that generates resistance to its normalization.
Q: Where is the balance between using this technology and more traditional methods?
A: The key lies in coexistence. There is a wrong belief that allowing genetically modified crops in certain regions of the country will end other traditional methods such as the native maize or organic crops. The Biosafety Law establishes the economic, technical and legal coexistence between both types of agriculture. Most of the planting of genetically modified crops has taken place in the northern part of the country, in regions that are not considered centers of origin and genetic diversity for maize, such as Chihuahua, Durango, Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Sonora and Sinaloa. It is important to note that according to the Biosafety Law, GM crops are not allowed in centers of origin and genetic diversity and protected natural areas.
AgroBIO MÉXICO is a civil association founded in 1999 that groups the five largest agricultural biotechnology companies. The main objective is to broadcast the benefits and potential of agricultural biotechnology