GMO news related to Mexico

04.10.2018 |

Mexico’s new science minister is a plant biologist who opposes transgenic crops

MEXICO CITY—In early June, evolutionary developmental biologist Elena Álvarez-Buylla received an out-of-the-blue phone call from the campaign of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, then the front-runner in Mexico's presidential election, with a question. If López Obrador won, would she consider becoming the next director of the National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt), the country's science ministry and primary granting agency? "My first reaction was to say, ‘I can't,’" recalls Álvarez-Buylla, a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) here. "I have a great passion for scientific research," and she couldn't imagine leaving the laboratory.


Álvarez-Buylla led a team that confirmed the results of the 2001 study and has continued to hunt for transgenic DNA and any possible effects in Mexican landraces, work that helped her win Mexico's National Science Prize in 2017. She says she has nothing against genetic engineering in itself; her team creates and studies GM plants in the lab, and such experiments should not be prohibited or restricted, she says. "I'm not a Luddite who is scared of technology." But her own experiments have shown introduced genes can have unpredictable effects. "If a transgene is inserted in one part of [a plant's] genome, it can be silenced and have no effect. If it's inserted in another part, it can lead to a tremendous change," she says. That unpredictability makes it too risky to allow GM maize anywhere near Mexico's landraces, she argues. Planting GM maize in Mexico has been prohibited since 2013, pending the outcome of a lawsuit. Álvarez-Buylla has been an outspoken proponent of a permanent ban.