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Ammann: The Effects of Transgenic Maize in Mexico: CEC-Report
Posted by: DR. RAUPP & madora (IP Logged)
Date: November 10, 2004 08:11AM

www.czu.cz ; www.raupp.info

A major report on the Mexican maize has been just published;
Report on the Effects of Genetically Modified Maize in Mexico

Description from AgbioView
The Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, an
international organization established by Canada, Mexico and the United
States in a side accord to NAFTA, today released a landmark report on the
effects of genetically modified maize in Mexico.

Maize and Biodiversity: The Effects of Transgenic Maize in Mexico Key
findings and Recommendations includes a series of unanimous recommendations
from a 16-member, international panel of experts. This advisory group
includes a former Monsanto executive, the chair of the American Association
for the Advancement of Science, Canadian and British academics and an
esteemed member of the US National Academy of Sciences. The recommendations
are directed at the three North American governments and contain specific
actions related to the management of transgenic corn imports to Mexico.
These include recommended steps to reduce the chance that unapproved maize
grain will be planted in Mexico through policy development, education,
labeling and milling of maize intended for livestock feed.

The report was initiated in 2002 following a claim that genetically modified
material had been found amongst traditional Mexican varieties of maize
despite a moratorium on its planting. The Mexican government confirmed
earlier this year that that 7.6 percent of plants tested in 2001 had traces
of GM material.

The report also says that "Regulatory agencies of the three countries should
develop and implement better methods for detecting and monitoring the spread
of specific transgenes. . . [and that] the modification of maize to produce
pharmaceuticals and certain industrial compounds that are incompatible with
food and feed should be prohibited in accordance with Mexican Government
intentions, and serious consideration should be given to banning such use
for maize in other countries."

The full report can be downloaded at:
[www.cec.org]
or [www.botanischergarten.ch]

The CEC Secretariat report is also available in Spanish and French. For more
information or assistance in contacting members of the advisory group,
contact Spencer Ferron-Tripp.

My comments:
Conclusions regarding gene flow and biodiversity are drawn in a very
reasonable way. It is especially rewarding to see that socio-cultural
matters have been given detailed consideration.
Overall, the report is giving a very clear picture about the effects (or
better no-effects) of GM maize on biodiversity in Mexico. Still, several
areas of poor or lacking knowledge have been identified and need attention.
The report remains remarkably vague in transgene flow statements: From the
circumstances described it seems very likely that transgenes will occur in
small amounts, and it is very unlikely that it will be possible to remove
them later.

Conclusions related to biodiversity:
1. There is no evidence to suggest that the patterns of inheritance of
transgenes
in Mexican maize or teosintes differ from their behavior in other organisms,
or from the behavior of genes and genetic elements, in general.
2. Neither negative nor positive effects of transgenic maize on the plants
and
animals occurring with them in Mexican maize fields, or milpas, have been
reported; however, specific studies have still to be conducted.
3. The biological characteristics of maize and the teosintes are such that
they
appear very unlikely to spread into neighboring communities, whether they
are transgenic or not. However, the effects of GM maize on target and
nontarget
insects moving between maize fields in Mexico and adjacent natural
communities are unknown.
4. Agriculture, however practiced, reduces the overall level of biodiversity
from its pristine condition. It is an open question whether productive,
concentrated agriculture affects biodiversity more than dispersed, less
intensive and less productive systems.

Conclusions related to gene flow
1. Gene flow between landraces of maize?as well as between landraces and
modern
varieties?has been demonstrated to occur experimentally and descriptively.
All
strains of maize, Zea mays subsp. mays, are interfertile and produce fertile
progeny.
2. Descriptive studies have demonstrated that gene flow between maize and
teosinte
occurs, but it is not known how long maize genes persist in teosinte
populations
after hybridization has occurred in the field. The rate at which crop genes
enter
teosinte populations may be limited by partial genetic barriers and
subsequently by
the relative fitness of the hybrids.
3. Gene flow is important in the dynamic process of on-farm (in situ)
management of
maize genetic resources in Mexico. Mexican farmers often trade seeds, sow
mixtures of seeds from different sources, including the occasional modern
hybrid
variety, and often allow and intend, cross-pollination between different
strains to
occur when they grow close together. Despite gene flow, farmers are able to
select
and perpetuate different landraces and cultivars.

Conclusions related to socio-economic matters:
among numerous other conclusions here No. 4 and 5, which seem to me of
utmost importance, if one is determined to save the landraces:

4. Campesinos should be supported in their efforts to protect and preserve
the unique
biodiversity in Mexican landrace maize. This may involve direct payments to
farmers who are willing to sustain their traditional farming operations and
adopt
breeding practices that preserve landraces in a way that prevents or
minimizes the
introgression of genes from other sources and localities.
5. A quality assured landrace seed program should be developed. Campesino
farmers
may submit their own seed and any other materials they intend to use for
breeding
to labs for investigation of the presence of any GM traits. This measure may
also
require regional registration of campesino breeders and the development of a
management system (which could provide a basis for campesinos protecting
their
traditional knowledge, creating the base for a differentiated food product).
If
effective, this would both limit introgression of new transgenes and detect
and also
allow for the removal of any transgenes currently in campesino seeds.

See also the report of a PEW initiative conference from September 2003
[pewagbiotech.org]

see also previous Berne Debates on the subject:
[www.bio-scope.org]
[www.bio-scope.org]
[www.agbioworld.org]


See my coordinates and other activities
[www.botanischergarten.ch]
m
Best regards Klaus Ammann

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