Mexico has become a major importer of US-produced staples such as corn, rice, and beans

1295

Thanks to NAFTA and US agricultural subsidies, Mexico has become a major importer of US-produced staples such as corn, rice, and beans. In 2021, the country, once the birthplace of modern maize, became the world’s second-largest importer of corn. Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel Lopéz Obrador (or AMLO as he’s commonly known) is determined to reverse this trend. Since coming into office in late 2018, AMLO has made food security and self-sufficiency one of the main priorities of his government.

“We have to aim for self-sufficiency in food, just as we have done with energy,” said AMLO in his regular morning press conference this Wednesday. “Producing what we consume in Mexico is the best strategy for tackling the problem of inflation.”

US Biotech Corn’s No.1 Export Market

These words were deemed so important by the Mexican government that it shared them on its official Twitter account. But they will not have gone down quite so well among corn growers and Big Ag corporations on the other side of the Rio Grande. Nor will the recent announcement that Mexico plans to cut the cost of 24 basic goods by curbing food exports, including white corn and beans, in a bid to tackle raging food inflation.

All the while the Jan 31, 2024 deadline for the Mexican government’s ban on all imports of the “probably” carcinogenic weedkiller glyphosate and prohibition of the cultivation and importation of genetically modified (GM) foodstuffs looms ever larger. For US corn farmers and Big Ag corps, the threat could not be greater: 90% of the yellow corn they produce is genetically modified, and Mexico represents 25% of their entire export market.

On Wednesday (Nov. 9,) the Wall Street Journal published a three-paragraph letter from Jon Doggett, the CEO of the US National Corn Growers Association, calling on Washington to “halt Mexico’s trade war before it’s too late”:

The US is a leading corn supplier for Mexico, and 90% of corn grown in this country is biotech, which empowers farmers to conserve the soil and reduce insecticide use. Given these facts, it goes without saying that Mr López’s decree would be devastating for the Mexican people and U.S. farmers. Thousands of growers are busy right now booking seed for spring 2021 planing, meaning that what is purchased this fall be in grain channels as late as 2025. Much of that seed is and will continue to be biotech corn.

Biotech corn isn’t the only crop targeted by Mexican officials. Biotech soybeans, cotton and canola import approvals have also been rejected by Mexico’s regulatory agency over the past year.

And here comes the kicker:

There is a way to resolve this situation before it is too late. The U.S. Trade Representative must intervene and file a dispute with Mexico under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Given all that is at stake, we would encourage USTR to act sooner rather than later.

A Decade-Long Struggle for Control of Mexican Corn

The world’s GMO giants have been trying to crack the Mexican market for a long time. But in 2013, a judge by the name of Manuel Zaleta ruled in favor of a motion brought by a grassroots coalition seeking to safeguard Mexico’s diversity and common ownership of corn. In doing so, Zelata suspended the granting of licenses for GMO field trials sought by Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, Pionner-Dupont, and Mexico’s Environment and Natural Resources Ministry. Since then the cultivation of GM corn in Mexico, even in field trials, has been banned.

In his ruling, Zaleta cited the potential risks GMOs posed to more than 7,000 years of indigenous maize cultivation in Mexico, which has given rise to a staggeringly rich biodiversity. That biodiversity is vitally important not just for Mexico but for the world as a whole, as argued in a 2018 article in Scientific American:

Commercial corn farmers in Mexico planted around 3.2 million acres during the rainy season; the rest—more than 11.5 million acres—was planted by campesinos, the researchers reported in August in Proceedings of the Royal Society. Using previous estimates, [the research team was] able to calculate that in 2010 alone family farmers in Mexico grew approximately 138 billion genetically different maize plants. The domestication of native maize across a wide range of temperatures, altitudes and slopes has allowed rare mutations to take hold that would otherwise disappear, Bellon notes. “Campesinos are generating an evolutionary service that is essential for them, for the country and, given the global importance of maize, for the world,” he says.

Scientists say this type of farming, fueled by traditional practices such as saving or sharing seeds from one season to the next, has resulted in Mexico’s 59 native maize varieties: a cornucopia of husks and cobs of all sizes and colors, from deep purple to creamy-white to pink to glowing orange. This diversity is rarely seen in the U.S.—the world’s largest producer of corn. “You go to a farm in Iowa and there may be three million plants, but they’re all genetically identical,” says Jeffrey Ross-Ibarra, a plant geneticist who studies the evolutionary genomics of maize at the University of California, Davis, and did not participate in the research. Because American farmers buy their seeds instead of cultivating their own, “there’s no chance for evolution to do its thing,” he adds.

Source: OEM

Mexico Daily Post