A Sad Day in Mexico

It’s not just tortillas.

Tamales, hauraches, atole, sopes, memelas and literally hundreds of other food options available in Mexico.

What’s the common link?

Corn… or as we say in Spanish, maiz.

A few of the many varieties of corn, or maiz, available in Mexico

A few of the many varieties of corn, or maiz, available in Mexico

Last Friday morning I was waiting to get my boarding pass in the Oaxaca airport. I was chatting with a young couple in line when the asked me what I did. I explained that part of what I do is help farmers increase their crop yields. As we talked, he finally asked the big question.

“So, what do you think of genetically modified corn?”

Here’s what I told him. It’s not going to help Mexico and if experience is any guide, the small local farmer is going to get creamed, so to speak, over this. He, or she, might see some short-term financial gain, and maybe even some crop yield increases, but at what cost?

My friends Bricia and Fernando Lopez of Guelaguetza in Los Angeles want people who eat at their restaurant to experience the authentic tastes of Oaxaca. They are so committed to this that Fernando has shared how they are trying to better source corn in the state to ensure a quality “Oaxacan” taste.

Recently, Chef Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill has weighed in on the topic of GMO Corn. As he is dedicated lover of the traditions of Mexican food, you know he’s not a fan.

Here’s a little of what he had to say.

In Mexico yesterday [August 21st, the day I had that conversation in the airport] turned out to be a very sad day–some would say a day of immeasurable cruelty. A judge overturned the 2013 ban on growing GMO corn, in the country [Mexico] that gave us corn, that offers us more corn diversity than anywhere on the planet. What do we have to look forward to now?

Several things, I think.

First, fewer of Mexico’s unique landrace varieties will be grown. GMO corn is so seductive to farmers. It’s usually easier to grow, more disease resistant and more productive. Why bother, then, with all the hundreds of local varieties, each evolved to provide Mexico’s grain staple for a unique parcel of land, a unique climate, a unique community?

If we’re only talking productivity, there’s little reason to bother with them. But a myopic pursuit of productivity hasn’t always proven wise. Especially when a crop is so thoroughly identified with a culture. As they say in Mexico, “Sin maíz, no hay país,” “Without corn, there is no country.”

Please take a few moments and read his entire article titled simply, “A Sad Day in Mexico.”

International Court Calls on Mexico to Ban GMO Corn

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