Biotech #FoodHeroes: Carmen Vicien

Carmen Vicien

When it comes to plant biotechnology, Carmen Vicien believes the best is yet to come.

“The new generation of genetically enhanced crops will be very important,” says Vicien, an agricultural engineer who directs the Department of Agricultural Economics, Development and Planning at the University of Buenos Aires. “They offer the potential to modify and enhance the nutritional make-up of plants, fortify crops and eliminate toxins and natural allergens. With these options, consumers would be able to opt for vitamin-enriched vegetables, allergen-free nuts, or even healthier culinary oils.”

Vicien bases her prediction on 30 years of experience with crop biotechnology, which began when she helped Argentina develop one of the world’s first biosafety regulatory systems. That process took her through “the long and complex evolution of genetically enhanced crops,” she recalls, resulting in a science-based regulatory system that remains relevant and effective today.

“Agronomic issues are complex and require joint solutions, supported by extensive knowledge of agronomy, the environment, nutrition, economics and regulatory issues,” says Vicien, who is rare in bringing that full spectrum of understanding to the table.

As a leading light in biosafety regulation, Vicien has since gone on to advise various projects at Argentina’s local and national level, as well some funded by the European Commission and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. She does this work because she recognizes the value of biotechnology in helping to end hunger and improve health.

“Modern biotechnology has a particularly important role to play in improving food security in parts of the world where nutritional deficiencies are commonplace,” she says. “We cannot resolve world food insecurity without new technologies. Indeed, ignoring this reality will simply make it more difficult to find new solutions.”