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Science dean travels to Central America for U.S. State Department

By Philip Hadley
University News Service
September 26, 2007


Hector Flores

Hector Flores, dean of the college of science at Texas State University-San Marcos will speak under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State in Guatemala and Nicaragua Oct. 1-5.

Dean Flores was invited by the State Department to speak in a lecture program on issues of economic development and the impact of genetic engineering in Central America.

Flores said he will speak to a number of audiences in both countries on issues related to agriculture and economic growth.

“I’ll be sponsored by the State Department, the agricultural division, and by the economic development officers,” Flores said. “I will be touring universities, farm associations, business associations, politicians and national assemblies in Nicaragua and Guatemala.”

Flores will begin lecturing Oct. 1 in Guatemala City where he will meet with the national Secretary for Science and Technology of Guatemala, and the Institute of Science and Agricultural Technology. On Oct. 2 he will lecture at Universidad de San Carlos and Francisco Marroquín University. Flores will also meet with the Guatemalan Chamber of Agriculture.

Flores will spend one day traveling to Managua, Nicaragua. While in Managua, he will spend two days lecturing at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua-Managua and Universidad Centro Americana.

“I will mainly be speaking on the issues of whether it is beneficial or not beneficial for developing countries to import, grow, or consume genetically engineered crops,” Flores said. “This is an attempt to bring together different stakeholders in agriculture and give them the facts and let them decide what they want to do.”

Flores received his Ph.D. in plant biology and has conducted extensive research in the biotechnology field.

“Between 1994 and 1999 I conducted a project that involved collaboration between scientists and traditional agricultural farmers in the highlands of Peru,” Flores said. “Because of this, I have ample experience in attempting a true collaboration between farmers and scientists.”

Flores said that he hopes to promote discourse on the emotionally charged issues of biotechnology and genetic engineering.

“I don’t feel like there is a true dialogue going on between all the agricultural stakeholders,” Flores said. “I want to establish a real conversation so that people can put aside their political and emotional views and look at the facts. We need to find a way to make traditional local agricultural and local bio diversity compatible with new technologies rather than say right away that it’s not going to work.”

Flores said that not pursuing or investigating the alternatives in agriculture would be a mistake for a rapidly growing global population.

“It would not be sensible to not pursue all the alternatives, and to study all the alternatives available to farmers,” Flores said. “Globalization has truly opened up agricultural opportunities for everyone.”

Flores was born in Lima, Peru where he would later pursue a degree in biology at a school with a familiar name.

“Ironically, the name of my alma mater was Universidad Nacional de San Marcos which was established in 1560 and is one of the oldest universities in Latin America,” Flores said.

Flores graduated from Universidad de San Marcos in 1975 and immigrated to the U.S. to pursue a Ph.D. at Yale University. He graduated from Yale in 1983 and moved to California where he worked for a biotech company for two years.

Flores later moved to Louisiana in 1985 where he re-entered academia as a professor of biology at Louisiana State University. Three years later Flores became a professor of plant pathology at Penn State University. In 2005 he moved to Texas and entered the administration field when he became dean of the college of science at Texas State.

Flores said he is excited to speak in Central America because teaching is what he loves, and he has never been to Nicaragua or Guatemala.

“It’s always exciting to talk to new audiences,” Flores said “I love teaching the most and I encourage people to look at the history of the interaction between plants and people for the last 10,000 years. I believe strongly that if we can understand that history better we will be in a better position to inform and make wise choices regarding the future of how we deal with crops and agriculture.”