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February 7, 2023
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Iván Restrepo: Maize: changes of opinion

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that to the impulse in which the last agricultural products destined for the foreign market have been in Mexico for half a century, corn occupies the first place in importance. And this is so because it is essential in the diet of the majority of the population. Some studies indicate that around 75 percent of it, and especially that which inhabits the rural sector and a good part of the urban ones, has the highest proportion of calories and other nutrients in this cereal. Together with beans, chili and squash, they form the basic basket of millions of families.

Domesticated about 6,000 years ago, since then it has been the material basis of livelihood for most Mexican families, and therefore the need to guarantee it in sufficient quantities and of good quality. It is also from other countries, such as Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia and Peru. In all of them it plays an important economic and social role. Corn has another characteristic: it is a plant that is cultivated in hot, temperate and cold lands. And all over the country. For this, the most diverse techniques and varieties are used, adapted according to the natural conditions and the tradition that the peasants have preserved for generations.

Various are the government programs to achieve sufficient harvests and cover the demand of the population. The last half century, for example, the National Food Program (1970-76), the Mexican Food System, SAM, (1976-82); the National Comprehensive Rural Development Program, Pronadi, (1982-88), and others with some variations in the subsequent six-year terms. Recently, the head of government of Mexico City assured that in this six-year term food self-sufficiency was achieved.

Is not true. We are the largest importer of corn in the world. If in 2000 there were 5 million tons, last year they totaled 18 million, mainly genetically modified corn from the United States. The lack of an official policy to manage to harvest enough native maize has especially favored companies and farmers who plant transgenic crops.

To guarantee high harvests, they use an agrochemical arsenal, especially glyphosate, which is highly questioned in the world due to its negative effects on public health and the environment. It is worth noting the attempts to impose genetically modified seed sowings in our country. In some areas they succeeded, plus the opposition of agrarian communities, specialists and organizations defending the environment and native corn, managed to eliminate it.

With the purpose of putting an end to a policy that has led to the population’s main food being dependent on foreign markets and growing demand by agribusiness, by decree of President López Obrador, transgenic corn and glyphosate must be gradually eliminated by January 31, 2024. Imports of transgenic yellow corn for animal feed will be allowed after an annual permit from the Federal Commission for Protection against Sanitary Risks. The aforementioned decree aroused the disagreement of the United States, which sees in said measure violations of the trade agreement that exists between the two countries and Canada.

If the decree becomes effective, it would force the government to purchase non-transgenic corn in the neighboring country, Argentina and Brazil, for example. And fundamentally, to develop programs that prioritize the planting of the native. Today they do not exist, when the peasant and indigenous communities are the best allies in the task of obtaining food self-sufficiency.

Changes of opinion: yesterday, those who govern criticized the fact that the most destitute Mexicans were forced to leave their homes due to lack of employment in the agricultural sector. The reason: lack of support from the public sector to the field. They go to the United States and Canada where they perform the most varied and hard jobs. Today, however, the official world celebrates that migrants sent their families 58.5 billion dollars last year. If it were not for that enormous sum, the situation of poverty and marginalization in the rural sector would be worse.

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