NAFTA And Corn: Destroying Mexico

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Mexican Corn Field

Yesterday, both the US and Mexico publicly praised NAFTA while Mexican farmers begged for help.  According to Reuters:

U.S. officials trumpeted an end to farm trade restrictions under NAFTA, the controversial North American trade deal, on Friday, while Mexican farmers vowed to take to the streets to protest liberalization they fear will run them into the ground. /snip

Mark Keenum, U.S. undersecretary for farm and foreign agriculture, said the agreement had been a win for farmers in both countries, “creating not only dramatic growth in two-way agricultural trade, but providing our farmers, ranchers and processors with the potential (for) new export opportunities.”

This is some kind of a malicious joke.  NAFTA is no “win win”.  It’s really a disaster for Mexican subsistence farmers, US immigration policy, and bio diversity.  The only winner is US agribusiness.

Join me across the Rio Pequeno.

Mexican Farmers And Immigration

Mexican farmers cannot see NAFTA as a win.  Not by a long shot.  They recognize it as a disaster.

[T]he changes [brought by NAFTA] are deeply unpopular in Mexico, where farmers fear unrestricted imports will depress prices and stir competition in producing white corn, which has been grown since the Aztec times.

Most of Mexico’s three million corn producers and half a million bean producers make a living on small farms that are a far cry from the sweeping, industrialized operations that characterize U.S. agriculture.

Corn tariffs have gradually been phased out since the trade deal was implemented, and imports of U.S. yellow corn to Mexico, mostly used in animal feed, have skyrocketed. They now account for close to 35 percent of Mexican consumption.

Some background:

*At the start of the year Mexico lifted 14 years of protection for corn, beans, milk and sugar under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that took effect in 1994. The regional trade pact groups Mexico, the United States and Canada.

*Mexican lawmakers demanded [on 1/4/08 that] President Felipe Calderon consider renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement and meet with farmers, who fear a flood of cheap U.S. imports.

*“This is a national security issue,” said Samuel Aguilar, of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, in a speech before the Congress. “The agricultural chapter of NAFTA could generate a social conflict.” /snip

Mexico may lose as many as 350,000 farm jobs this year because of competition from the U.S.

*Some Mexican farmers say competing against highly subsidized U.S. goods could put thousands out of work on top of about 2 million Mexican farm jobs lost over the last decade.

NAFTA is a recipe for complete disaster in Mexico:

Timothy Wise, a professor at Tufts University in Massachusetts, calls unblunted liberalization in those sensitive goods a “recipe for disaster” for those who depend on Mexico’s vulnerable farm sector.

“Just as the U.S. became the largest supplier of animal feed, it has the capacity to become a dominant supplier of dry beans and white corn, undermining markets in Mexico and creating a dependence on external sources for the two very clear main staple foods,” he said.

Of course, this economic disaster will lead directly to the displacement of small, Mexican farmers, and act as an incentive to those farmers’ forced migration to the US.  In short: NAFTA’s destroying Mexican subsistence farmers and forcing them through economic pressure to leave failing, subsistence farms and enter the US.  I’ve discussed this before here and here.

A Bio-diversity Disaster

But there are additional, heavy costs. NAFTA will have a gigantic, negative biodiversity impact. There are two primary kinds of corn grown in the US, white and yellow.  Yellow is mostly animal food.  And in the US, unlike Mexico, corn is a genetically modified crop. “In the US, by 2006 89% of the planted area of soybeans, 83 percent of cotton, and 61 percent maize was genetically modified varieties.” source.  Even before the end of NAFTA, genetically modified corn presented a problem in Mexico:  

Rural and urban activists throughout the Americas are calling on grain exporters, the biotech industry, and the US and Canadian governments to stop dumping untested and unlabeled genetically engineered corn on Mexico and other nations, where irreplaceable corn varieties are being damaged by “genetic pollution.”  In Mexico researchers have detected widespread contamination of traditional varieties of corn, caused by surreptitious imports of genetically engineered corn into Mexico by grain export giants such as Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill

source

And now, there is even greater reason to be concerned:

Those who want to introduce bioengineered corn in Mexico appear to be gaining an upper hand.

A law to allow experimental planting of GMO strains in northern Mexico was passed two years ago but was never signed. Agriculture Minister Alberto Cardenas said this week the law could go into effect in a matter of weeks.

“We don’t want to be behind. We have to start testing now,” said Catalino Flores, a geneticist working with Salazar’s organization in San Salvador El Seco.

Corn yields in the United States can be more than three times those in Mexico, according to Mexican growers.

“There will be drought resistant corn in 5 to 10 years. If you don’t plant something like that when everyone else is, you’ll be down the drain,” Flores said.

About half of U.S. yellow corn sent to Mexico comes from genetically modified seeds. Mexico’s agriculture minister reckons GMO seeds smuggled in from the United States are already being planted in northern Mexican states.

So what’s the big deal?  It’s fairly simple: GMO corn threatens non-GMO corn species, undermining bio-diversity.

[S]some farmers worry that introducing GMO seeds could contaminate hundreds of wild blue, red and multicolored corn varieties planted for centuries in Mexico.

“The farmers who want to plant transgenic corn are irresponsible, they don’t care if the are putting the genetic heritage of Mexico at risk,” said Victor Suarez head of a small farmers’ group that wants keep trade protections for corn and beans.

The ancient Maya, who lived in southern Mexico over 1,000 years ago, believed the gods made men from maize. The plant was adopted over 500 years ago by Spanish conquerors and spread to the rest of the world.

source.

So to make a long story short, not only will NAFTA destroy Mexican subsistence farming and contribute to migration from Mexico to the US for former subsistence farmers, it also will endanger the bio diversity of corn in Mexico (if not the entire hemisphere).

NAFTA is an unmitigated disaster for Mexico.  In the US, we don’t discuss its impact on Mexico, we only discuss how it opened the market in Mexico for US corn and other products.  There will be huge profits to agribusiness in the US from new markets.  But hidden from view in the traditional media, there will be economic devastation for small farmers in Mexico, displacement of families from their farms, and ecological destruction.

21 comments

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    • davidseth on January 12, 2008 at 8:23 pm
      Author

    Thanks for reading.

    I keep pounding away on this because I think it’s important and because I fear that if I don’t, the story will never surface and won’t be discussed.

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    What it’s all about.  

  1. There is INTENT to destroy the diversity of Mexican corn…the oldest and most varied in the world, with some incredibly rare types that have not yet been studied suffciently.

    The INTENT is to make all farmers have to BUY seed corn every year. It does not matter that ancient and hardy corn, perfectly suited to their various locations, will be destroyed.

    There is considerable evidence that GM corm has been smuggled in the past few years, and been spread through Mexico.

    Please remember that this corn is PATENTED!!!!

    This is criminal on a scale that is hard to even comprehend…and needs to be known. Truly a crime against humanity…against us all.

    • nocatz on January 12, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    trying to preserve the legacy.

    http://www.nativeseeds.org/v2/

    • Viet71 on January 13, 2008 at 1:56 am

    Nafta was all about big corporations.

    Big corporations, HRC supporters.

    Big fucking international corporations.

  2. we have created so much poverty there…..

    forcing migration to places that opportunity exists relative to where they are……

    we are slaves of capital unless we are accorded the same rights as it…..

    this is called wage slavery……

    it is offered as the replacement for the commons……

    privatize the commons and all social/common good and enact selfindentured servitude…..

  3. I have two simple takes on GMO corn.  The first is that grain culture is the foundation of civilization, because only with the domestication of grains did it no longer take the whole tribe, hunting and gathering, to feed the whole tribe.  With grains, a fraction of the population could feed the rest, which opened the possibility of other crafts (already in development) becoming specialized metiers, so that an artisan class (and others) could develop.  

    So then tell me why. in. Hell. are we doing a huge uncontrolled experiment which involves gaming, disturbing and deranging the heredity of our civilized foundation?

    Second point.  You cannot contain GMO pollen in the field.  Get over it.  Anyone who says different is stupid or lying.

    Oh and BTW: corn is a grass, and cross-pollinization is already leading to superweeds.  You can look it up.

    Full disclosure: Although it’s not what I do now, I trained as a nucleic acid physical chemist.  Most of my graduate school and post-doctoral cohort went on to work in biotech.

    Just sign me,

    Elmer Ph(u)d

  4. “Globalization” is a euphemism for the banking system to gain world control, of everything.  Control people’s food sources and they’re on their knees.

    Consider the “globalization” of finance.  The US spent what, 50 rotten years sending secret services all over the planet to collapse/manipulate governments everywhere, even starting a few publicity stunt mass weapon sales (sometimes called wars or police actions) in order to manipulate public opinion, all the while usually arming and training both sides.  

    Here we are, 50 years down the pike after, oh, slaughtering perhaps half a million people in Central America in the putative fight against communism… and suddenly we wake up to learn the US mortgage industry has been sold out to…

    drumroll…

    THE COMMIES!  OK, pardon me for aping speech from the age of McCarthyism, but does anyone think they would have suffered communist China to buy up our investment banks, our mortgage industry, our private capital groups back then?

    What ever happened to the knowledge of that other golden rule… he who has the gold wins?  If the communists own US mortgages, capital, water rights, mineral rights, ports and so on – and they do – and a huge pie slice of the public national debt – guess what kids… we’re under communist control, not to mention the mines etc. on US soil that have been sold to Russia.  It’s incremental, no one is announcing it on the big illusion, but it will be felt.

    Furthermore in the fire sale of all US assets to whomsoever, we recently read that the government of Panama declared it mandatory that schools teach Mandarin Chinese.  Which can only leave one guessing about the rights/properties previously held by the US which may have lately been sold off in Panama.

    All of the deaths in the 50 year US fight against communism worldwide were for nothing.  The leaky, rotted vessel of the US economy creaks along through treacherous waters steered by the rudder of communist financial support and control, kids.  Which leads me off my point, but I guess the US public owes the planet one huge apology for finally selling out the very nation’s assets to the “enemy.”

    Mexico?  The people have awakened to discover that “globalization” has brought them international financiers, money-masters whom they might rather not obey.  Mexico too is being sold out, and not just to US/Canadian interests.  Discussions are on about selling Pemex to private capital, and we see where this will lead.

    Oh that Mexico could learn from what is happening in the US.  Having read the Mexican constitution only last week, I hope they hold on to what it guarantees.  Thank God for the people of Mexico, who still have alert minds and a collective backbone, unlike the mostly brainwashed, drug and debt addled people of the US.  Mexico is perhaps the world’s best hope.  Pray for Mexico.

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