The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR)

Non technical abstract



Michelle Chauvet[1]
Yolanda Massieu1
Rosa L. González[2]

Once biotechnology products were commercialized the real debate about its advantages and disadvantages began. The point of the present controversy is about genetically modified organisms’ impacts for food and health, both in humans and animals, as well as effects on environment. These achievements have happened in the industrialized countries and they are spreading to underdeveloped countries. In this essay we expose the situation about transgenic crops in Mexico and their impacts.  We mention specifically impacts in environment, agriculture practices, economics, consumers’ health  and social-institutional ones.

In the international discussion it is important that there are not only considered productive impacts, but socioeconomic also. Mexican agriculture is specially vulnerable in this aspect, due to the increasing power of agrobiofood corporations and the weakness of the local scientific and technological structure. Since two decades ago, economic policy has retired all kind of support to production. There is a great gap between poor peasants who produce hardly for surviving and big agri-business entrepreneurs.

This kind of concerns are present in the case of maize in Mexico, its center of origin and where there are still wild relatives: teocintle and tripsacum (Serratos,1998:4). There are risks in the commercial scale that are not present in field trials, under controlled conditions.

About public perception of biotechnology, in Mexico is highly determined by the media and environmental NGOs, like Green Peace. This organization has begun a campaign for consuming non transgenic national tortillas, the most popular food in the country, which is made from maize, and probably some imports of corn may have transgenic corn.


Mexican agriculture is highly vulnerable because it’s scarce scientific-technical capacities and the increasing power and organization of agrobiotechnologic multinational corporations. Economic policies since two decades ago have meant that the state has retired form many of its regulating and promoting functions. In this context we will mention some of the crops in which there are already biotechnology’s socioeconomic impacts: flower production, tomato, potato, cotton and maize.

From that overview we conclude that biotechnology for rural development is limited and complex for Mexican situation.

·             It is a mega diverse country and center of origin of maize and other important commercial crops, signatory of the CBD Convention and Cartagena Protocol, but this is contradictory with commercial agreements that the country is part of like NAFTA, free trade agreement with EU. The country is member of WTO and OECD.

·             Great importer of grains and at the same time potential exporter of transgenics crops. Mexico is between the 12 countries in the world with transgenic crops surface, so it is necessary to achieve commercial rules and requirements of this market, in spite of social and environmental interests

·             Due great contrasts between Mexican agriculture producers, it is necessary a public policy to make accessible biotechnology’s benefits to small farmers.

·             There is an argument that we do need biotechnology to feed the world, specially underdeveloped countries, but from this paper we can deduce that this objective is not a priority for the present genetic transformations.


[1] Professor-researcher, Sociology Department, Metropolitan Autonomus University. E-mail: ;

[2] Academic from Instrumentation Center, University of Mexico. E-mail:


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