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Transgenic Maize in Southern Mexico

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Cassandra Adamson

on 17 September 2012

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Transcript of Transgenic Maize in Southern Mexico

Possible Transgenic Maize in Southern Mexico Cassandra Adamson Background Information: Corn is a very important staple grain in the world's food supply. It has been around for about 9,000 years when it was first domesticated in southern Mexico. It has grown in the area of southern Mexico since and the corn that we actually eat today is from some of the varieties that evolved from early selective breeding. Southern Mexico is still a center of biodiversity for maize. They have many adapted and domesticated varieties. It is important that these crops are preserved because the variety allows for a lot of genetic diversity that can be used to help sustain or adavance agriculture. Genetically Modified Normal In 2001, during a routine genetic test by Mexican government scientists, a farmer's maize in the state of Oaxaca was found to have DNA that matched that of genetically modified corn. This surprised many food experts because although GM (genetically modified) corn was grown in the United States, Mexico had banned the cultivation of it in 1998. This find has people worried because although GM corn and plants have traits like larger size that are beneficial, they can have unintended consequences. One of these consequences is that transgenic crops might cross-breed with local crops and "contaminate" the native crops. Genetically Modified Maize in Southern Mexico Corn is one crop that scientists have genetically altered to have the ideal size , fast growth and to resist insects. They genetically alter the corn by taking genes from one organisms and move them to another. They call the genes moved transgenes and the plants transgenic. The goal of these transgenic crops is to improve the crop performance and to create more crops for people but there are concerns that these crops will breed will local landraces and contaminate the native crop's genes. How it's Done: Ignacio Chapela and David Quist from the University of California heard about the GM maize in Southern Mexico. They were concerned so they traveled to Oaxaca to test the local maize landraces. They found that there were traces of DNA from genetically altered corn in the native crops. They also said that the new genes had split up and spread throughout the crop's genome. The two researchers published their findings in Nature, a scientific journal, in November of 2001. Research in Oaxaca Dispute over Research Many supporters of banning GM foods loved this news and urged banning the importation of transgenic crops into developing nations. People in the agrobiotech industry defended itself and said its crops were safe. They also questioned how valid the report actually was, so did many orChapela and Quist's peers. Eventually due to criticisms, Nature stated they never should have published this article. Findings Confirmed Research conducted later by the Mexican government confirmed Chapela and Quist's findings. 3-60% percent of the maize had transgenes. 37% of the maize that the government distributed were transgenic. A group of experts under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) studied the issue and determined that shipments of corn from the U.S. contained GM and non-GM grain. They also determined that transgenes entering Mexico could spread through wind pollination and interbreeding with native maize. The question: How do GM crops affect people and the environment? Positive:
The genetically modified crops are larger in size, they grow faster, and they are resistant to insects. All of the things improve the crop's performance as well as allow for more food to go to the world's hungry. Negative:
Genetically modified crops might contaminate the local crop's genetic makeup which is important because these native crops are genetic reservoirs. Scientists might need to look into these reservoirs in the future to advance or sustain crops.
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