SCIENTISTS SAY MEXICAN BIODIVERSITY IS SAFE
Concerns About Cross-Pollination Unfounded
Contact: C.S. Prakash at 334-444-7884 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Auburn, AL, December 19, 2001 - Following allegations
that genes from biotechnology-improved crops have been found in varieties
of corn grown in Mexico, scientists around the world are re-affirming
that Mexico's biological heritage is safe and that biotechnology will
actually protect biodiversity, not harm it. "Organizations with vested
interests and hidden agendas have used these tenuous claims and a campaign
of hysteria to discredit modern biotechnology," said C.S. Prakash, a professor
of plant genetics at Tuskegee University and president of the AgBioWorld
Activist groups claim they are concerned that gene flow
will destroy biodiversity in native varieties of corn. However, corn itself
is a wholly un-natural plant created by thousands of years of selective
breeding by farmers. In Mexico, farmers reproduce their varieties by carefully
selecting the seed they save from year to year. Thus, if an undesirable
gene is transferred into certain plants, seed from those plants will not
be planted the following year and will be eliminated from the gene pool.
This cultural practice has worked very well for millennia and explains
why Mexican farmers can plant many different varieties next to one another,
without worrying about cross-pollination.
"There is no scientific basis for believing that out-crossing
from biotech crops could endanger maize biodiversity," said Luis Herrera-Estrella,
a noted plant scientist and director of the Center for Research and Advanced
Studies (CINVESTAV) in Irapuato, Mexico. "Gene flow between commercial
and native varieties is a natural process that has been occurring for
many decades. Nor is there reason to believe that these genes will become
fixed into landraces unless farmers select them for their increased productivity,"
added Herrera-Estrella. "In the end, that would result in improving the
The claims of cross-pollination have not been verified and
have been called into question by scientific experts. That has not stopped
the Mexican Congress, or Greenpeace and other anti-technology activist
groups, who have called for a ban on the import of biotech corn varieties.
Such a move would do nothing to protect biodiversity. It would, however,
damage agricultural production and trade - ultimately harming Mexican
farmers. "The biggest threat to Mexico is not out-crossing from biotech
crops, but activism that prevents farmers from adopting more productive
and environmentally beneficial agronomic practices," said Dr. Prakash.
"That's the only real damage this whole scenario will cause."
Thousands of scientists from around the world - including
Nobel laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug, who has worked in Mexico for the past
five decades - have endorsed biotechnology as a safe and productive means
for helping to improve food security, while reducing pesticide use and
improving biodiversity. In the meantime, the Mexican government has established
a program to examine the allegations and to determine whether such out-crossing
could cause any possible harm. "The most responsible step right now would
be to postpone potentially harmful legislation and other action until
this full and independent analysis is conducted," concluded Dr. Prakash.
The AgBioWorld Foundation is a non-profit organization that
provides information about developments in plant science, biotechnology,
and sustainable agriculture. For more information, contact C.S. Prakash
at 1-334-444-7884 (email@example.com).