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article imageMonsanto eyeing Mexico's indigenous corn varieties

By Karen Graham     Jan 16, 2016 in World
Mexico's unique and varied native maize varieties are under attack from Monsanto, the world's largest seed producer as it vies to plant genetically modified (GMO) corn in the country.
In August of 2015, a Mexican court overturned a September 2013 ruling that banned GMO corn. The latest ruling has opened the door to Monsanto and other Agrochemical companies, pending later favorable court decisions.
Monsanto was so sure of later positive court decisions, it bragged in October 2015 that it was seeking to double their sales in Mexico within the next five years, reports EcoWatch. While the ban on GMO crops remains, pending an appeal on the latest ruling, it is probable the case will end up in the Mexican Supreme Court.
Monsanto is seeking five permits to plant GMO corn in five areas in northern Mexico, claiming its genetically engineered corn will pull farmers out of poverty, claiming its corn will produce higher yields and more profit.
Maize in Mexico.
Maize in Mexico.
ETC Group
"It’s incredible that we are not giving [small farmers] the option to cross the poverty line,” Monsanto’s chief executive for northern Latin America, Manuel Bravo told the Financial Times on Friday. Bravo also added his company was having trouble winning over farmers, saying, "We’re good at talking to Petri dishes, but we were no good at communicating.”
Mexico's treasured indigenous varieties of maize under threat
Mexico has 59 varieties of indigenous corn, or maize as it is called in most parts of the world. Not only farmers but chefs are concerned over the possible loss of these special varieties of maize. Over 80 percent of Mexican chefs have joined in the opposition movement against Monsanto.
“If we allow all these varieties of corn to be lost, we’ll lose part of our identity,” Chef Pancho Ibanez of the world-renowned Pujol in Mexico City told EcoWatch. “It’s as if we were cutting off our feet, cutting off the roots of a tree. It’s something that could seem so simple, so basic but it’s our past, present, and future.”
Agribusiness giant Syngenta AG s  MIR162 genetically modified corn.
Agribusiness giant Syngenta AG's MIR162 genetically modified corn.
Strange as it may seem, Mexico imports its yellow corn from the U.S. and 90 percent of U.S. corn is grown from Monsanto's genetically modified seeds. So in a way, Monsanto dominates Mexico's yellow corn market. Mexico actually has two corn markets, one for white corn, for human consumption, and yellow corn, for animal feed.
But messing with the indigenous maize varieties is messing with a biological and diversified cultural heritage. Mexico can proudly claim that maize was first cultivated in theTehuacan Valley of Mexico, dating back to 2500 BC. Actually, a 2002 study by Matsuoka et al. demonstrated that all maize arose from a single domestication in southern Mexico about 9,000 years ago.
More about mexican corn varieties, Monsanto, genetically modified corn, 59 varieties
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