Delegation to Mexico
Topics: NAFTA -- Immigration -- Corn
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The first corn (maize) farming began around 3500 BC in Mexico.
It was not until 1520 that corn (maize) was established in the Mediterranean world. It was the first important crop from the Americas to succeed in Afro-Eurasia and became a staple in many parts of the Old World. In 1580 It reached West Central Africa.
In Mayan creation stories the Mayan people are made of corn.
Tortillas, a staple of the Mexican diet, are made of corn. Corn is also made into a nutricious alcoholic drink that is used in festivals.
Until 1994, the year NAFTA took effect, Mexico produced virtually all of the corn it needed. Mexico now imports a fifth of its corn from the U.S. The way of life in the countryside that is centered around the cultivation of corn is being destroyed as cheaper U.S. corn floods the market and drives the market value down (down 58% in the ten years from 1990 to 2000).
Mexicans have not grown a single strain of corn but hundreds of varieties that are adapted to specific areas and microclimates. The corn that is exported from the U.S. is less diverse. Often it is genetically engineered to resist certain pests, or some other purpose. If planted near native corn, the corn plants cross-pollinate, threatening the diversity of native corn. The genetically modified corn is bred to resist some known threats which give it an advantage that allows it to outlive or dominate native species. However, a single strain is inherently more vulnerable. If a disease attacks a single strain of corn, another variety may be found which resists the disease. But if fewer varieties exist, any single threat can be much more damaging.
The bottom line is that native corn adapted to the environment over thousands of years. Genetically modified corn did not. Perhaps the effects will be only the ones that were planned for. Perhaps not.
Another issue is that genetically modified seeds may be patented. This means that their use must be paid for, even if this use comes as a result of cross-pollenization and not because the farmer planted the seeds. This introduces an additional cost even as income from farming is decreasing.