NAFTA After 20 Years: “Celebrating” Mexico’s Dependence on Foreign Corn
By Ercilia Sahores
In early September, hundreds of people gathered in Mexico City, defying rain and the long commute to the UNAM campus to participate in The International Conference on Mexico’s Dependency on the United States Under NAFTA (Seminario Internacional Subordinación de México bajo Estados Unidos en el marco del Tratado de libre Comercio).
The conference, whose organizers included the Tribunal Permanente de los Pueblos and UNAM’s Department of Economics, attracted so many participants that at one point the college had to add more viewing rooms for the presentations, which were live video streams from the main auditorium.
Via Orgánica attended various conference lectures, among them, “The Destruction/Reconstruction of Agriculture Under NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement).”
Over the course of two hours, the knowledgeable panelists which included Ana de Ita from The Research Center on Change for the Mexican Farm (Centro de Estudios por el cambio en el Campo Mexicano) and Silvia Ribeiro, part of the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and [Resource] Concentration (Acción sobre Erosión, Tecnología y Concentración, or Grupo ETC), provided the audience with a plethora of information as they raced against the clock to explain the accumulated effects of NAFTA on Mexican agriculture.
Ana de Ita explained how the systematic dumping of corn from the US into Mexican markets was made possible by NAFTA and encouraged by the Mexican government. Corn was imported into Mexico at prices lower than the local Mexican market price. This undercut Mexican farmers, allowing transnational corporations like Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, Maseca, and Minsa to monopolize the market.
Silvia Ribeiro complemented de Ita’s presentation by detailing the genesis of NAFTA as an outcome of the Green Revolution.
According to Ribeiro, the Green Revolution is an enormous myth through promises of enhanced agricultural production and higher yields, was able to push genetically modified corn and wheat into Mexico (and rice in the Philippines) in the ‘40s and ‘50s. The Green Revolution, the mother of the GMO revolution of the 1990s, was established in Mexico in 1943 through an initiative of the Rockefeller Foundation and under the auspices of The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMTY) with the help of Norman Bourlag, Nobel prize winner and promoter of the Green Revolution, who lived and worked in Mexico for many years.
The Green Revolution and NAFTA, Ribeiro explained, created the first inroads for corporations to enter into the local market— previously decentralized and in the hands of small producers. That shift has produced a market concentration that in the last 35 years, according to Grupo ETC, has reduced 7,000 seed companies to 10—all multinational companies— that now possess 76 percent of the world market. Of these 10, six are also the largest producers of agrochemicals, like Monsanto, Dupont, Bayer, Syngenta, and Basf.
This month, as we celebrate Mexican independence and reflect on the past two decades under NAFTA, it is important that consumers recognize the political impact of their purchasing decisions on both policy makers and industry officials. Every time we purchase products made with Mexican corn, we are voting in support of Mexico’s food independence. ¡Viva México!