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Date:

December 19, 2001

Subject:

SCIENTISTS SAY MEXICAN BIODIVERSITY IS SAFE

 

http://www.agbioworld.org/biotech_info/pr/mexican_biodiversitysafe.html">


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SCIENTISTS SAY MEXICAN BIODIVERSITY IS SAFE

Concerns About Cross-Pollination Unfounded


Contact: C.S. Prakash at 334-663-1511 or prakash@agbioworld.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 Foundation.


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 native varieties."


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 1-334-663-1511 (prakash@agbioworld.org).


 










 





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