Last August, a team of scientists had announced it had mapped the DNA sequences of several types of avocados. This research will likely become the foundation for breeding techniques and genetic modifications designed to produce avocados that can resist disease or survive in drier conditions.
Still, the genetic research will probably be controversial. Many environmental advocacy groups oppose genetic alterations. Dr. Herrera-Estrella and his collaborators in Mexico have already had to navigate the complex politics of biotechnology.
Their avocado project began in 2012 with a $2.5 million grant from the Mexican agriculture ministry. Three years later, however, the government -which has grown increasingly resistant to genetic research and biotechnology over the years- declined to renew the funding.
The researchers also faced scientific hurdles. Analysing the [avocado’s] genetic material was like gluing together a document that had gone through a paper shredder, Herrera-Estrella said.