Mexico Takes a Stand Against U.S. Big Ag and GMO Corn to Protect Their Native Varieties of Mexican Corn

  • October 6, 2023

Comments by Brian Shilhavy
Editor, Health Impact News

Back in 2014 when my online food store, Healthy Traditions, started testing all of our USDA certified organic grains for the presence of the herbicide glyphosate, which is used in RoundUp and is the world’s most-used herbicide, we were shocked to find out that even our USDA certified organic grains were almost all contaminated with glyphosate, even though they were “certified organic.” See:

ALERT: Certified Organic Food Grown in U.S. Found Contaminated with Glyphosate Herbicide

We found out that the NOP (National Organics Program) allowed for small amounts of pesticides and herbicides in certified organic products, and so we stopped buying grains based on organic status, and also stopped “certifying” our own products as “organic,” since it now has almost no meaning anymore. Big Food wanted in on the booming organic grocery business, and they have successfully watered down U.S. organic standards over the past decade or so.

Instead, we started testing all of the products we wanted to purchase for the presence of glyphosate, and if we carried a product that had a GMO equivalent in the marketplace, we also tested for the presence of GMO DNA.

It started a very long process for us to find grains that were not contaminated, and in most cases, we had to look outside the U.S. to find such grains that tested clean.

Corn was, by far, the hardest product to source that tested clean of GMO DNA, and we even purchased certified organic corn products off the shelves of stores like Whole Foods, that were also GMO “verified,” and all the samples we tested came back positive for genetically modified DNA.

We were unable to find a single supplier of organic corn in the U.S. who had corn that tested clean.

We finally found a supplier down in Central Mexico, in a Province that at that time had banned the planting of U.S. GMO corn, that finally tested clean of GMO DNA, and we have been selling corn from that region ever since, for almost 10 years now.

Now, Mexico has decided to ban U.S. GMO corn nationwide, as well as ban the use of glyphosate, and the U.S. and Canada are trying to bully Mexico into continuing to import GMO corn.

Aljazeera recently published an excellent analysis of this “corn war” between the U.S. and Mexico.

Why is Mexico standing up to bigger neighbours US, Canada on corn?

Mexico has barred the import of GMO corn for human consumption, raising the ire of exporter US where most corn is GMO.

by Natalie Alcoba
Aljazeera.com

Excerpts:

Corn is sacred in Mexico. Its roots can be traced to Aztec and Mayan creation stories that exalted the arrival of a crop that was key to their survival.

In modern times, maiz, as it is known in Spanish, maintains its cultural, spiritual and political prominence as a staple in Mexican cuisine – and, increasingly, a brewing trade dispute.

Mexico has drawn a line in the sand with the United States when it comes to genetically modified corn, barring its use and import for human consumption, and gradually phasing it out for livestock feed or industrial uses.

After months of negotiations, US officials announced last month that they were pulling a lever under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), seeking an intermediary to resolve the dispute.

For Mexico, the issue is multi-pronged, but rooted in ensuring the affordability and availability of a crucial crop, experts say. For the US, it is about business. Corn is its biggest crop and the vast majority of it is genetically engineered.

Far from a regional issue, it is a feud that could have wide-reaching implications for importing and exporting nations, as evidenced also by Canada, which has added its voice to the proceedings and backed the United States in saying that Mexico’s position on biotech is “not scientifically supported” and could “unnecessarily disrupt trade in the North American market”.

Mexico’s stand to protect small-scale farmers is one that others are watching closely.

“I would say Mexico is at the forefront of the world,” said Ernesto Hernández López, a professor at Chapman University in California, who specialises in international law and food law.

What is this trade dispute about?

It is illegal to grow genetically modified corn on Mexican soil. In 2020, Mexico expanded the prohibition with a decree banning all GMO corn, including imports, as of January 31, 2024, on the grounds that doing so protected its food security, its rural communities, its food heritage and the health of its people.

It also announced that it would impose strict limits on the import, distribution and use of the contentious herbicide glyphosate – widely used in GMO farming – culminating in its complete ban by that date. Glyphosate is a well-known weed killer whose potential to cause cancer is the subject of heated debate.

“Mexico is the centre of origin of more than 55 strains of maize. The food security policy of the Government of Mexico consists of preserving this biocultural heritage,” the government said in a statement, in addition to preserving the sustainable farming practices of peasant communities. “This has to do with consolidating sovereignty and food security in a central part of Mexican culture.”

The move rankled the US, which considered it an affront to the free trade rules of the region. After multiple meetings and consultations with Mexican officials, the US announced in August it would seek to establish a dispute settlement panel under the USMCA, arguing that the Mexican decree “undermines the market access” Mexico had agreed to provide.

Read the full article at Aljazeera.com.

Comment on this article at HealthImpactNews.com.

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