Tests on treasured maize ignite fears in MEXICO
Posted: October 30th, 2009 - 8:21am
Source: The Age
As scientists race the clock to increase food production worldwide, new trials to plant genetically-modified maize have stoked anger in Mexico, the cradle of corn.
Many here are sensitive about meddling with maize, which dates back to pre-Hispanic times, when mythologies held that people were created from corn.
Some fear Mexico could one day lose the wealth of native varieties it still produces, including red and blue, to a few, tough breeds of GM maize, as well the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of subsistence farmers.
The government this month granted its first 22 permits to agribusinesses Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences and Pioneer to carry out tests on GM maize on farms in north and west Mexico.
Mexico is the number one producer of white maize, which is used to make its famous flat tortillas, but it imports increasing amounts of yellow maize from the United States, mainly for cattle feed.
The tests are part of efforts to help the country return to maize self-sufficiency and keep food prices down.
The price of maize has more than doubled since 2007, which prompted tens of thousands to protest the price of tortillas in Mexico last year.
"No country should be dependent for its food from other countries," Ariel Alvarez Morales, head of the Bi-Secretarial Commission on Biosecurity of Genetically-Modified Organisms, told AFP.