plant phys use in breeding

S. A. Modena samodena at csemail.cropsci.ncsu.edu
Tue Sep 29 22:38:02 EST 1992


In article <1992Sep29.190654 at IASTATE.EDU> rjsalvad at IASTATE.EDU (Ricardo J Salvador) writes:

>
>> So how many cutting edge applied or basic plant.biologists can Mexico
>> support, or India, or the Russian Federation or <<fill in your favorite
>> target country>>?

Let's remember the question that I actually asked.  Read on.

>
>Interesting that you should ask this. Recently, a poll conducted among the
>readership of SOC.CULTURE.MEXICAN asked the following question:
>
>"I agree that the higher priority in Mexico ought to be development of
>applied research over "basic" or theoretical research."
>
>The readership responded (a small and self-selected group composed of
>middle-class and above, highly educated Mexicans with access to computer
>networks, mind you) like this:  73.7% agree, 26.3% disagree.

Let's get across to everyone just how self-selected these people are:
The majority of people in Mexico are illiterate.  Now the exact number-of-
years-schooling-per-capita in Mexico escapes me, but it's something like
an average of FIVE years (actually something like 4.8).
And Mexico is *not* first in Latin America; unexpected others
jump ahead.  50% of all Mexicans live in five cities: primarily due to
some Mexico/Aztec traditions of unidirectionally transferring most of
the wealth of Mexico to the Valley of Mexico....where 70% of Mexico's
Industry resides today.  And today, perhaps 26 million people live in the
Valley of Mexico (officially 22 million) where in 1958 just TWO million
people lived.  [ The native intelligence and resiliance of the Mexican
people keep it all from  just collapsing into a heap:  Bravo! ]

In Mexico City and Monterray and a few other places, one finds excellent
educational institutions and a competitive supply of talented computerists
and entreprenures.  Like the United States, immigrants and returning
expatriates (who got their educations abroad 8=) like El Jafe ) are an 
important source of talent and innovation.

TelCom has rows of satellite dishes assuring clear connections for the
international traveller who uses his/her Visa Card on special "international"
telephones in the Mexico City Airport while just 20 miles outside of
the City, telephone service goes down on a DAILY basis, for days at a time,
and many, many villages have ONE telephone (and no water connections or
sewage piping --let alone sewage treatment plants. Hell! Ciudad Mexico
DOESN'T have sewage treatment! but it has reliable telephone service ).

And yes, >70% of the people who have seen *two* worlds would indeed
prefer a little greater emphasis on *applied*  research....

>
>More to the point, the current Mexican president, Mr. Carlos "I studied at
>Harvard and I think just like an American" Salinas de Gortari has given

.....when he says "American" in Spanglais, what word does he use?
    "gringo"  "norte americano" or what?  I'm sure he uses a word that
    conveys something that you are not quite saying right in "straight"
    American English...because Mexicans in general do not hide their
    irritation with North-of-the-Border criticism and neglect....(well,
    if I learned anything, it is that Mexicans are proud to be Mexicans)

>ultimatums to the Mexican equivalent of the USDA to the effect that within
>three years they need to document their economic contribution to the
>state of the nation or face elimination (of course similar talk about the
>USDA in the US has circulated in Congress in recent days....). 

You are certainly underrating Sr. Salinas.  While I was in Mexico last
year, suffering like all from the UNBELIEVABLE ozone and toxic pollutants 
in the Valley of Mexico, Sr. Salinas *bravely* signed a decree to close--
with no forewarning-- the PEMEX refinery, located with Mexico City itself,
that processes 10% of all of Mexico's gasoline/fuel needs.  And began
summarily closing the worst air and water polluters.  He sure didn't
learn this as a child of the "morbida" (bribery) system.  (Pardon my
poor spelling.)  On the other hand, one must admit that the daily index
had gone off scale (what comes after VERY DANGEROUS???: "leathal?" ) and
one would perfer that people not just drop dead in their tracks.  No,
Sr. Salinas has at least a touch of sympathy from me.  At least his
economic theories are not at the infamous level of previous Mexican
administrations: the more people that Mexico has, the richer Mexico will
be!  And under a national campaign of "every woman should be proud to be
pregnant," 50% of Mexicans today are under age 15!

i>......................... A related
>process concerns Salinas' dim view of the effectiveness of the postgraduate
>college of agriculture (government supported).  In brief, his reasoning
>goes like this: (the figures are not actual, because I don't remember them)
>"So it costs us  120 million dollars a year to float this place, and you
>graduate 20 Ph.D. and M.S. people per year, therefore the cost per
>advanced degree is 6 million dollars.  Well, for $45,000 we can send the
>same person to the US for a 3 year Ph.D. program and get trainig FAR
>SUPERIOR than we'll ever be able to manage by playing catch up here in
>Mexico, so let's just close down the postgraduate college and send
>everyone to study in the U.S. ECONOMICALLY, it will be far more effective."
>This is how a man reasons who is actually in a position to answer the
>question you ask.

Well, you mock El Jafe Salinas, but what is the situation at the
at the PostGraduate College near Texcoco?  I worked with a
person who had recently been employed on the faculty of the PostGraduate
College.  That person told me how much effort had gone into training
a technician to do the lab work to support the biochemical work.  But the
technician gave up and took up selling tacos on the streets of Texcoco,
because, as she said" "You can earn much more as a street vendor."  Did
even the staff and faculty get paid regularly what's owed them?  

Another person (Ph.D.) was in training to learn certain molecular
techniques for use in an applied ag project that had received some
startup funding.  It was something of a SHOCK to learn, not what the
cost of cryogenic storage facilities would be, but the cost of
a 200 KW generator (2 second-start-up time 1/20th of a second after
the commercial mains go down) and the cost of FUEL to power a lab
with it's inventory of perishable lab supplies all imported for hard
currency and bribes....because the "outlying" ag research facilities
(and villages and towns) loose power EVERY DAY, sometimes several
times a day, for a few seconds to 8-or-12 hours at a stretch.

Perhaps Salinas is simply asking Mexico's power elite to prioritize its
needs and objectives so that *some* of them can be attained and maintained
with excellence!  He is asking: Where does Mexico want to go?  And that is
not an unreasonable question (especially within the political realities of
Mexico).  Kind of confrontational politics in the face of imminent
disaster.

>
>-Ricardo
>
>

I do not believe that Mexico, or other Latin American Countries, lack
the requisite *number* of applied or basic scientists--nationally and/or
foreign educated--who are intelligent and capable of conducting
research that could benefit their home countries.  

Quite the contray, and as I originally asked: how *many* can their
respective countries maintain....and, of course, how many do their
countries maintain "on paper" at funding levels that make it impossible
to conduct any worthy research at all?  Meanwhile, many, many people are
just "surviving" on subsidized tacos.  And others take jaunts to LA
to see Jose V. pitch a game and get in some shopping......in a way,
it sounds just like the U.S., doesn't it?

It's well and good to philosophize in very general terms about how wastefully
the arrogant elites fritter away their countries, but why not get
really specific and kick ass?  Name names!  If you were president of
the Republic of Mexico for 5 years, what would you do?  ;^)  Give us your
five year plan!  And if you'd rather not discuss one for Mexico, well
then pick something more familiar and give it to us for IOWA or the
USA.  I'll listen and respond thoughtfully.

Folks, pardon the apparent dirgression, but these questions are no less
valid in Mexico than they are here (the U.S.A.) or the U.K. or Canada...
as one can easily discern by simply asking colleagues what the legislative
agenda of their respective countries are on the question of publically-
funded agricultural research and technology transfer.

Have a nice day!  :^)

Steve
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