Maria Mercedes RocaView all speakers
Dr. Maria Mercedes Roca is Associate Professor of Biotechnology at Zamorano University, Honduras. She joined Zamorano in 1997, where she devotes part of her time to education projects, course design and curriculum development. She holds a doctoral degree in plant pathology and virology from the University of London, and a B.S. in microbiology from Kings College, London.
Dr. Mercedes Roca has lived and worked in the UK, Mauritius, Mexico, Bolivia, Colombia and Honduras. She joined the Norman Borlaug Institute of tropical agriculture at Texas A&M University in 2009 as faculty exchange member. She is the country representative for RedBio (Latinamerican Network for Biotechnology), was councillor of the Caribbean Division of the American Phytopathological Society, and organized an International Conference on Agriculture and Environment in 2012 attended by Ministers of Environment and Agriculture from Central America.
She is an advisor to the Honduran government on agricultural biotechnology regulation, and was a member of the Honduran delegation to the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012. Dr. Mercedes Roca was invited in 2013 to join a group of international experts on risk analysis of genetically modified organisms by the Secretariat of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety of Biotechnology. She has a keen interest in the regulation and biosafety of synthetic biology and its potential for education in biological sciences.
This is not an orthodox paper about research results presented at an orthodox scientific meeting. It is an invitation to apply the tools of synthetic biology (SB) to solve some century-old problems of plant diseases in tropical crops that have proved intractable to solution by conventional tools such as plant breeding or pesticides. Coconut Lethal Yellowing killing 90% of palms of susceptible varieties on Caribbean beaches; frosty pod of cacao (chocolate) and coffee rust, which are drastically affecting production and income in Central America; Black Sigatoka disease of bananas where 30% of the costs of producing bananas is now due to pesticides used to fight the disease. Formidable challenges are also incredible opportunities for change. Humanity is embarking on a new powerful genomic revolution and the field of SB offers the promise to revolutionize biological sciences and contribute to agriculture. Scientists can bring solutions. Policy makers must acknowledge both the SB’s potential and the public’s deep mistrust for new, untested technologies they feel are outside their control. The future success of SB depends to a large extent on whether public policy is well-crafted. Both groups must work together to realize the potential.