Mexican Food Security At Risk Because of Ideologies

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“Prices may rise to the point that eggs become a luxury item” for many Mexican consumers, warns a new report.

This could be Mexico’s rotten future if it continues to push a bad idea.

Farmers around the world seek to embrace new technologies that can help us grow more food on less land than ever before—but here in Mexico, many of our political leaders are preparing to reject the future of food production, despite the dire consequences that surely will follow.

Last month, Victor Suarez, Mexico’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture, told Reuters that Mexico intends to meet a self-imposed deadline of 2024 for a total ban on imports of genetically modified corn. He added that corn imports from the United States next year will drop by half. This follows an earlier assurance from his boss, Agriculture Minister Victor Villalobos, that Mexico would not ban the imports.

“Because North America produces more than a third of the world’s corn and most of it is GM varieties, the impact of Mexico’s planned ban on GM corn would be felt deeply and broadly,” says a recent report from World Perspectives, an agricultural market analysis and consulting firm.

That sounds bad, but the specifics of what would happen in the next decade are worse. According to this economic analysis, the ban as proposed today, would slash Mexico’s GDP by nearly $12 billion. Economic output would shrink by nearly $20 billion. Mexico also would suffer annual losses of nearly 57,000 jobs and labor income would fall by $3 billion.

white chicken on gray concrete floor during daytime

Moreover, the cost of corn would rise by 19 percent and poultry prices would jump by two-thirds. This is on top of the inflation that’s afflicting the whole world. It explains why eggs could become too expensive for low-income Mexicans.

The ban is a dangerous decision not founded in science—and it is not necessary. Mexico would mandate this economic and nutritional misery upon itself.

I recently was invited to share my experience as a farmer with Mexican senators in an “Open Parliament about Pesticides and Fertilizers.” I spoke about a sustainable and resilient food system and the importance of farmers to have reliable access to safe crop protection technologies as fundamental to that transition. My farmer colleagues and I made an excellent case. Our side has the best arguments, but unfortunately our foes may have the most votes.

Our current government leaders seem to think that Mexico can grow enough non-GM corn for human feeding and to support our really strong and growing livestock industry. I believe that Mexican and international seed companies can keep developing excellent hybrid white corn materials (for tortilla) to feed Mexican people adequately. What they fail to understand is that if Mexico must also raise, instead of importing, corn for animal feeding (cattle, swine, poultry) we will have to sow corn or grain in forestry areas to expand the agricultural gaps, and that could be an obvious climate problem. It would also decrease the area where today we grow crops like berries, tomato, avocado, broccoli, barley, and wheat where we are more competitive.   Corn sufficiency could take four or five decades.

A destructive ban on GM corn imports also would launch a brutal trade war with the United States, our most important economic partner.

The World Perspectives report estimates the toll on our neighbors to the north: A reduction of more than $30 billion in GDP over ten years, plus losses in economic output of nearly $74 billion. Americans would lose more than 32,000 jobs annually and labor income would plummet by more than $18 billion.

Rather than meekly absorbing these blows, the United States and Canada would most certainly fight back—and it would start by declaring Mexico in violation of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the trade pact that took affect only two years ago.

It’s already started: After Mary Anastasia O’Grady wrote in the Wall Street Journal about the dispute over corn, the head of a major U.S. commodities group called for the U.S. trade representative to “intervene and file a dispute.”

This is how trade conflicts begin. Then they escalate, as the opposing sides impose sanctions and retaliate in a spiral of mayhem.  We have an agreement to be honored.  No one wins if this ban is implemented. 

The most baffling feature of this controversy is that Mexico should take pride in its history of agricultural innovation, from when our ancient ancestors first cultivated corn to our modern country’s work with researchers like Norman Borlaug and CIMMYT. Genetically modified crops belong in this amazing innovative technology tradition.

At the very least, though, we should refuse to make chicken, eggs, beef, pork, milk and even tortillas unaffordable to millions of Mexicans.

Guillermo Breton
WRITTEN BY

Guillermo Breton

Guillermo is a fifth generation farmer in Tlaxcala, which is in the center of Mexico. He is an agronomist and produces maize, triticale, sunflower, and vetch and rye grass forages. He is also now in the barley business in the seed program with Heineken.
Guillermo is focused on soil conservation since Tlaxcala has the lowest organic matter percentage in the country. He promotes conservation agriculture principles of crop rotation and residue management.
On the livestock side, he has 100 Angus and braunvieh cattle on 200 hectares. The challenges Guillermo is currently facing include climate, the hard winter, the cost of fertilizers and an unsupportive government.
He is currently promoting projects with a carbon capture perspective and also innovation for small farmer systems. Guillermo leads Fundación Produce activities and projects with farmers in his state. He’s an innovator on his own farm and then shares the technologies with groups of farmers.

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