Hola a todos! I have been in Peru since July 14 with NC State’s Genetic Engineering and Society program, to study pest issues in developing nations. Today we arrived in Iquitos, Peru, officially ending week 1 in Lima.
This was a busy, full week of conferences, farm tours, and museum visits. Conferences were spread over Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday at three universities in Lima: San Marcos, Catolíca, and La Molina. The schedule included a diverse mix of presenters representing different universities, different areas of transgenic research (including Peru, Brazil, Panama, and the Key West), and the Peruvian government. These conferences have provided a unique opportunity for not just our group of NC State students, but for all these interested groups. We were able to spend some one-on-one time with Amy Morrison, who is working with the Aedes mosquito in Iquitos, Peru; Nestor Sosa, who is researching dengue and working with Oxitec in Panama; Margareth Capurro, who is researching transgenic mosquitoes in Brazil; and Mike Doyle, who is also researching transgenic mosquitoes in Key West. These conferences provided an opportunity for these scientists, working in the same feild, to meet one another and discuss their own technical, social, and regulatory difficulties in each of their areas. Hosting this meet-up in Peru has been significant for a number of reasons, the most significant being the fact that Peru passed a 10 year moratorium on transgenic crops just this past December. These researchers, while working in different areas, have had several overlapping concerns, the biggest being public perception and opinion of their work, governmental regulation, and ethical issues.
A common thread I have noticed in many of these discussions is the difficulty in navigating boundaries: institutional boundaries, governmental boundaries, economic boundaries, and personal boundaries. We were able to see first hand the differences in economic interests even just within the Cañete valley in Peru, when we visited a corporately owned farm (which produces artichokes for Kirkland), a privately owned farm, and a university research farm. Some researchers presenting at the conferences stressed that no one product would be suitable for all areas. These same researchers (Peruvians themselves) also exhibited much pride in Peru’s biodiversity and diverse lanscape. This sense of nationalism extended, from my experience so far, from the scientists who were looking into tools to help preserve this biodiversity, to the citizens who wanted to protect their environment from these transgenic products. What is most interesting to me is discovering how skeptics and proponents (and those who are unsure or have no opinion) share this great sense of pride in their agriculture and environment, but come to seemingly opposing conclusions on how to make “progress.” This, I think, is the role of rhetoric in transgenics.