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Sent: 28 June 2009 17:28
Subject: 74: Successes and failures of agrobiotechnologies in Honduras
My name is Maria Mercedes Roca. I am a plant pathologist and lecturer in biotechnology at Zamorano University based in Honduras. At Zamorano, we train students from most tropical and Andean countries in Latin America in agricultural sciences, agroindustry, environmental sciences and agribusiness. I am also a member of REDBIO Honduras.
I concur with messages from Jose Falk-Zepeda (nr. 20) and Sandra Sharry from Argentina (nr. 25) who described some of the success of agricultural biotechnology in our region. In Honduras, we have successfully used agrobiotechnologies for the past 20 years, which includes embryo transfer for animal reproduction, the use of novel enzymes and microorganisms for agroindustry processes and for bioremediation; biofertilization including strong programs for Rhizobium and Mycorriza and biological control programs for pests and diseases. We also have a well established structure for tissue culture and a strong regional breeding program for beans that uses marker assisted selection (MAS). We have made good progress in immunological and molecular diagnosis of pathogens (animals, food and plants) using PCR (polymerase chain reaction, both conventional and Real Time) and use molecular and bioinformatic tools for our applied research to improve our crop management strategies to support the conventional and organic agricultural sector. All of these combined technologies are used at Zamorano to train our students better and a fair amount of these technologies are also readily transferable to extension personnel and farmers. None of these fairly sophisticated, non-GM technologies, are subjected to extensive bioregulation.
Other success includes the establishment of a science-based biosafety regulatory framework that has allowed Honduras (the only country in the region and only one of 23 worldwide) to deploy and legally commercialize herbicide tolerant and insect resistant GM maize since 2001. This GM technology has been used with varying degrees of success by large and small farmers alike (Jose Falk-Zepeda, message 20).
We, of course, have our fair share of frustrating failures in adopting more agrobiotechnologies that are related to the same socio-economic, political and financial structural problems that other developing countries face. And we share a fair amount of the seemingly intractable physical and biological limitations to crop production, such as climate change, natural disasters, degraded soils and pest and disease problems that can often not be overcome with current conventional (non-GM) technologies. Two specific examples of diseases that I work with, which cannot be managed well by conventional methods are viral diseases of horticultural crops and Coconut Lethal Yellowing.
Despite our successes of having commercially available GM maize in Honduras, we, the few scientists in the public and academic sector, who need to develop our own local solutions for local problems, are plagued with chronic underfunding from our governments, even if we are properly trained and have reasonably well equipped labs from projects funded by donor agencies. Most importantly, we must overcome the current, excessive, bioregulation structure, before we can use the genetic engineering tools that may create some opportunities for our farmers, if combined with more conventional technologies. The same, sometimes absurd rules and costs, apply equally to the big companies such as Monsanto and Pioneer, as to our poor public institutions in developing countries. Many scientists spend more time these days concerned with endless meetings for biosafety training and enforcement than in actually doing some useful and meaningful science that may help farmers and the environment. We can no longer ignore the burden that the current, highly polarized and politicized bioregulation puts on public researchers wanting and needing to use biotechnology in developing countries.
Finally, we should not frown upon cooperative initiatives among the private and public sectors which can create a win-win outcome in addressing local problems.
Maria Mercedes Roca, PhD
Biotechnology and Plant Protection Programs
P.O. Box. 93
Tel: (504) 776 6140 ext. 2362
Fax: (504) 776 6242
Email: mmroca (at) zamorano.edu
Sent: 28 June 2009 17:34
Subject: 75: Re: Experiences with low cost micropropagation
This is Norbert Tchouaffe, Cameroon, again.
To reply to Message 63 by E.M. Muralidharan:
I think low cost microprogation could be disseminated and transfered through capacity building and networking with communicators and the local population. A forum could also be an impetus to exchange with local populations about new technologies. This mechanism is effectively an occasion for them to voice their needs and their feeling about new technologies and for researchers to address its new technology. The Government as a facilitator is the key player to establish national or international fora for Public-Private-Universities or research institutions and producers dialogue, where the problems encountered by local population could be debated. Most of the time the local populations are not aware of many researches coming from labs, which could be helpful to them.
Master of advanced studies
Ministry of Environment and Protection of Nature (MINEP),
Box. 8114 Yaounde,
ntchoua (at) yahoo.fr