Kids of all ages embrace science in Mexico City

By Luis Ventura-Martinez

March 19, 2018

In an effort to disseminate science-based information about biotechnology and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to children and non-scientists, Alliance for Science Fellows and Mexican Scientist Allies for Knowledge in Agriculture (Cmasa)  hosted a recent Mexico City “Food Evolution” screening with workshops and hands-on activities.

The weekend-long event — “Biotechnology: it’s even in your soup!” — was held in one of the country’s most important science museums, which is a part of the National University of Mexico, UNAM. Many of those participating were primary, elementary and high school students who were having their first exposure to such concepts as DNA, biotechnology and GMOs. The event also was intended to promote science and instill the dream among boys and girls of one day becoming a scientist.

The audience ranged in age from 4-year-old Leonardo, whose curiosity prompted him to ask very good questions, to 84-year-old Ms. Gloria, who listened carefully to the explanations about DNA extraction and the journey that crops have taken from their wild state to the foods we have now on our tables. Both participated enthusiastically in the activities.

In addition to the workshops and hands-on activities, the event included a screening of “Food Evolution.” At the end of the documentary, Alliance for Science Fellows and Jose Antonio of the group More Science for Mexico led a discussion to answer questions and emphasize that just as the movie portrays, decisions are being made in the developed world that directly affect developing nations like Nigeria, Uganda, India, South Africa and Mexico, among others.

The event reminded organizers of the importance of speaking out, as well as their responsibility as scientists to not only work in the lab, but also explain to the general public in understandable terms the potential benefits of scientific innovation. Perhaps, if we continue doing this work and we do it right, some of the children we met will grow up in a world that values science-based decision-making. To that end, I share a Neil deGrasse Tyson quote:

“Kids are born scientists. They’re always turning over rocks and plucking petals off of flowers… this is what kids do. An adult scientist is a kid who never grew up… the president of Harvard once said, ‘If you think education is expensive, you should try the cost of ignorance.’ So, I´m not worried about the kids. People say, ‘What can I do to get my kids interested in science?’ They´re already interested in science!”