Tec de Monterrey


This year was the first time that the team Tec-Monterrey participated in iGEM. We are only the third university in Mexico to ever participate in this competition, and one of the few in Latin America. As our ideas slowly began to shape up into a real project, one of the greatest obstacles that we had to overcome, and perhaps one that we had naively not expected, was the Mexican Customs.

We were surprised to discover that our government doesn’t have a defined protocol for the importation of biological material. The Customs Officers freaked out on reading the words “gene”, “DNA” or “bacteria”, and even if the contents were labeled correctly as non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, non-teratogenic, etc… we had several packages delayed or permanently detained. We were constantly sent to different departments, and finally realized that the mandatory permits should have been requested with months in advance and that they naturally required the payment of a considerable fee.

On speaking to researchers in our own and other universities, we learned that we were not alone on this difficulty. Scientists with enough money pay specialized agencies to arrange the importation of their biological material, which may cost more than the material to be imported! Researchers without such an ample budget simply rely on luck and hope that their package will go unnoticed if undeclared. Clearly, this complication not only slowed down our iGEM project; it delays the progress of science in our country altogether and reflects the lack of understanding of the biological language from our authorities.

Synthetic biology is an emerging science in our country. We know that it is only a short matter of time before more Mexican teams participate in future iGEM competitions, and we believe that we can ease their experience by sharing our own. We have created a quick user manual with the basic instructions needed to fill out the necessary paperwork to receive synthetic DNA donations – such as the iGEM Kit or BioBricks from the Registry. We hope that this information will be valuable not only for future Mexican iGEM teams, but also for any researcher working in the field of synthetic biology in Mexico.

We finally conclude with a list of recommendations that may improve the process of importation of biological material into our country, and that if implemented will greatly facilitate and speed up the progress of science in Mexico. We have submitted this document to our local congresswoman, Brenda Velázquez Valdez, and hope that our leaders will be made aware our views and take them into account for future laws.

Regulations in Mexico related to General Health Law


The General Health Law assigns the Mexican Ministry of Health (Secretaría de Salud) with the responsibility of issuing regulations related to human health. In the case of importations, the importer must show all the required documentation under implemented regulations by the General Health Law, and must include a health certificate issued by authorities in the country of origin. The Ministry may also randomly sample and inspect imported products to ensure compliance with Mexican requirements. Mexican regulations related to human health are issued through the Ministry of Health’s regulatory agency, by the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS); its website

General requirements for labeling importation samples

There are two options for labeling:

Biotechnology labeling

Currently there is not a specific NOM (Mexican Official Norm or standard) for labeling GMO’s or products containing GMO’s. However, the industry has agreed that yellow corn must be identified as such in the package. These products are subject to general labeling requirements.

Regulations and Requirements Based on Public Health Risks (SSA or SALUD)

The Federal Commission for the Sanitary Risk Protection (COFEPRIS) is the regulatory agency in charge of the control and surveillance of food and beverages, food supplements, tobacco, plant nutrients, toxic or dangerous substances, biotechnology products, and pesticides among others types of products.

The Treaty that establishes the classification and codification of products, the importation of which is subject to regulations from the Mexican Ministry of Health SSA, issued on September 27, 2007, and last updated on June 25, 2009, lists the tariff numbers of the products that are subject to SSA regulation. These products require either an import permit “PERMISO Sanitario de Importación” or simply an import notification “AVISO Sanitario de Importación” to COFEPRIS.

The most important thing for the U.S. exporter is to determine the exact tariff classification number. This number will define the regulatory agency and all the documentation necessary to get import approval. In the case of DNA, this classification number (fracción arancelaria) is 29371999 “ácido desoxirribonucleico”. The importer of products subject to SSA regulations must be registered with SSA and is responsible for securing all the necessary documentation for a successful importation process.

Import Procedures

Importation manual: a step-by-step guide

If you are a Mexican team from a public or private university and wish to receive BioBricks from the Registry or synthetic DNA as a donation, then you must begin by obtaining a health permit, three months in advance to avoid setbacks. It is important to know that the regulatory agency for this permission is the COFEPRIS, the Federal Commission for the Protection Against Sanitary Risks in Mexico.

The code for this permission is: COFEPRIS-01-010-E

*It is important that the items be declared as a donation. As a $0.00 price cannot be officially declared, we suggest claiming a cost of $1 or $10 USD.

Document requirements

  • Donation letter given and signed by the donor with recent date. This document must be sent on letterhead paper.
  • Acceptance letter of the donation given and signed by the responsible of your team in your university. This document must be sent on letterhead paper with recent date and it should contain a statement of no commercialization.
  • Copy of professional license of the doctor responsible for the donation.
  • Letter that establishes and notifies clearly the use of the product that you want to import.
  • Application form named “Solicitudes”.

To get started with this process you must fill out properly the application form “Solicitudes”, which is in the web page:

Particularly you must fill the next numbers in the application form “Solicitudes”:

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

This section is regarding product information. The fields that must be filled out are: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10,11, 15, 17, 18, 35, 36, 37.

Step 4

This section is regarding import registry.

Step 5

Download the Manual as a PDF here.

If you have additional questions regarding the importation process for synthetic genes in Mexico or you wish to know a few additional tips and tricks to make your experience simpler, you can contact us in the following e-mail address and we will try to answer your questions as soon as possible:


We finally conclude with a list of ideas that may improve the process of importation of biological material into our country, and that if implemented will greatly facilitate and speed up the progress of science in Mexico. We have voiced these recommendations to our local congresswoman, Brenda Velázquez Valdez, and hope that our leaders will be made aware our views and take them into account for future laws.