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[MEXICO CITY] Regulations for the authorisation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) under Mexico's biosafety law were published last week, three years after the law was approved.

The regulations of the 2005 Biosafety Law of Genetically Modified Organisms were published in the Official Daily of the Federation, the official publication of the federal government, last week (19 March).

They set out requirements and procedures for the authorisation of GMOs for experimental or commercial purposes. Under these regulations, the commercialisation, farming, import and export of GMOs can be authorised.

The document also regulates GMO-related research and education, stating that it is necessary to establish a biosafety commission in any institution that uses GMOs in research or teaching.

The publication comes after much opposition to the use of GMOs from green groups and farmers. The use of GM crops has been controversial in Mexico, particularly regarding maize and the possibility of GM contamination of traditional varieties. The legislation allows the government two months to announce plans on a special regime of protection for traditional maize species.

"This is an indispensable landmark in the structuring of an integral regulatory framework", says José Luis Solleiro, a researcher at the Center of Applied Sciences and Technological Development, of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told SciDev.Net.

He says that one success of the regulations is that they establish detailed procedures about the necessary documentation to obtain authorisation, and the criteria the government should use to approve or refuse applications to use GMOs.

Solleiro says that the regulations should also contain clear guidelines about the process of taking a GMO from experimental stages to commercialisation. For example, he says, one Mexican GM cotton has been in the experimental stage for more than ten years, but so far it hasn't been made clear how it can be commercialised.

He adds that the special regime to protect traditional maize varieties is merely a political response, and unnecessary because evaluations of the safety of GM crops are made case by case.

"Real protection of maize requires investment in developing banks of germplasm [genetic material], making Mexico a leader in maize genetics, and requires developing research for molecular characterisation, genetic improvement and the use of improved varieties."

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