Ten thousand years ago, farmers in present-day Mexico selected kernels from corn plants for ideal taste and high yield. These farmers were among the first to have practiced artificial selection—a process where farmers select and propagate only plants with desirable traits. Thousands of selections have been made across varying climates, resulting in 59 unique varieties of Mexican corn. Now, genetic modification and advancements in biotechnology threaten Mexico’s corn diversity.
As in many developing countries, seed companies are trying to market genetically modified (GM) seeds in Mexico. Mexico passed legislation in 2004 to enact regulations on the production of GM corn. However, these regulations never came to full fruition, a situation compounded by a 2013 court ruling that banned GM corn planting. As a result, seed companies like agribusiness giant Monsanto were restricted from testing GM corn on plots in Sinaloa—a top corn-producing state in Mexico.
While the Mexican government continues to challenge GM seed penetration, multiple studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that GM corn may have already diffused across the US border. Researchers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico found transgenic corn DNA sequences in 90.4 percent of tortillas in Mexico in a August 2017 study. Some consider GM crops a threat to biodiversity, suggesting that native traits could be bred out through cross pollination with more dominant GM varieties. Yet the research surrounding the interaction is still ongoing. If Mexico wants to protect their corn diversity, they could enact stronger regulations to prevent further GM crop encroachment.
Because of the longstanding history of corn in Mexico, the crop is now ingrained in the country’s national ethos. Before the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Mexico was relatively self-sufficient in corn. In 1992, they produced 18.6 million tonnes and consumed 18.5 million tonnes. However, NAFTA opened the door to cheap, yellow US corn, and Mexican livestock farmers quickly took advantage.
Until 2002, sorghum was the main feed source for Mexican livestock, but the allure of cheap corn from across the border prompted Mexico’s producers to make the switch. Between 1994 and 2017, the use of corn for livestock feed increased by 18.9 million tonnes. Total Mexican consumption of corn rose from 20.3 to 42.3 million tonnes over that same period. Food consumption, however, only slightly increased by 3.2 million tonnes between 1994 and 2013. In particular, low corn prices over the past few years have accelerated Mexico’s use of corn for livestock feed.
Fresh Mexican tortillas are made from masa—a dough made from ground corn. The industrialization of the tortilla industry has encouraged Mexicans to stray from tradition, and now most tortillas consumed are made of rehydrated corn flour. Unlike in the traditional preparation of masa, this flour is not made from native corn varieties but rather from corn imported from abroad. As the country’s main vehicle for corn consumption veers from native varieties, Mexican farmers may be encouraged to do so as well to keep pace with other countries’ accelerating production.
The Mexican government first placed a moratorium on planting GM crops in 1998. However, various studies conducted between 2001 and 2003—most notably a report from Mexico’s Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources—found traces of GM corn DNA in native corn varieties.
Still, in December 2004, the Mexican congress passed a law authorizing the planting of GM corn contingent on pending regulations. Finally enacted in March 2008, the regulations required a permit filed with the agricultural and environmental ministries to plant a GM variety. They also restricted the introduction of GM crops from regions home to specific native corn varieties. Among others, Monsanto considered this law ineffectual claiming it might take years to receive permits. And they certainly weren’t wrong.
Monsanto applied for GM test plots in northern Mexico in 2011. Before they could get approved, a group of farmers, environmentalists, and scientists filed a lawsuit in July 2013 that challenged the 2004 law allowing GM corn planting. They won the lawsuit and effectively banned GM corn. Multiple appeals upheld the ban. The court stated they wanted to test the environmental impact of introducing GM corn to better protect native varieties.
GM corn already has a definitive presence in Mexico, whether through wind drift of corn pollen or GM corn imports. Genetically modified US corn ends up in most of Mexico’s livestock feed and increasingly in Mexican tortillas. Additionally, there is evidence suggesting that Mexican farmers are illegally planting GM corn seeds. They may feel it is the only way to remain competitive with farmers in Argentina, Brazil, and the US—heavy adopters of GM technology.
Mexico’s decision on whether to adopt GM crops will likely dictate the future of its corn industry. GM corn could spur Mexican production by boosting yields, which currently fall well below other corn producing countries in the Americas. Both Argentina and Brazil have seen significant yield increases in the last 10 to 20 years in large part due to GM technology. Argentina adopted GM technology in the mid-1990s, and their corn yield grew from 4.52 to 8.37 tonnes per hectare between 1995 and 2017. Brazilian corn yield boomed from 3.03 to 5.60 tonnes per hectare between 2005 and 2017, following legislation in 2005 permitting GM seed use.
Mexico’s top corn producing state of Sinaloa actually produces higher yields than the provinces of Buenos Aires in Argentina and Paraná in Brazil. However, the 2017 national corn yield in Mexico is 3.67 tonnes per hectare. Sinaloa, Jalisco, and Michoacán have each increased their yield since 2003, while Mexico’s other states have stalled at best.
If Mexico continues to restrict GM corn, yields will remain low and Mexico will have to import increasing amounts of corn to fuel their growing livestock industry. Importing corn almost exclusively from the US has Mexico vulnerable to the US’s renegotiation efforts of NAFTA currently underway, opening the door to Argentine and Brazilian imports. Brazil has exported modest amounts of corn to Mexico since August 2017. If transportation costs slide down and the future of NAFTA remains shaky, Mexico could look to Argentina and Brazil for corn. Monthly corn trade flows between Brazil and Mexico can be accessed on Gro Intelligence via Brazil-MDIC.
Mexican corn varieties are characterized by diversity, and corn is central to both the country’s history and culture. But having been challenged by an industry largely motivated by profit and rapid technological advancements, traditional varieties struggle to find their place in an increasingly globalized market. By employing a soft ban on GM crops over the past decade, Mexico has chosen to neither fully protect their genetic diversity of corn nor to join the growing chorus of countries fully embracing GM technology.
Some studies suggest that employing buffers and spatial aggregation could reduce contamination. Limiting GM corn production to certain areas appears to be the easiest way to police and protect native varieties. Monsanto and other seed companies will also be incentivized to make sure their corn doesn’t get into areas prohibiting GM production. While such regulations will not completely eliminate the chance of contamination and will be tough to enforce, they are an improvement on current strategies. And the longer GM crops go without firm regulation, the more that 59 native corn varieties remain threatened.
Until research is conclusive on whether GM crops have irreversibly adulterated native corn varieties, the Mexican government will drag its feet on implementing stronger anti-GM crop regulations. Currently the ban is doing little to prevent further introduction of GM genes into Mexico’s environment. As Mexico struggles to implement regulations that allow for smarter GM integration while also protecting native corn varieties, Gro Intelligence can provide subscribers with the data and analytics necessary to stay ahead of developments in Mexico’s corn industry.
Receive our research in your inbox
Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter!
What Information Do We Collect?
The information we gather enables us to personalize, improve and continue to operate the Services. We collect the following types of information from our users.
IP Address Information and Other Information Collected Automatically:
· We automatically receive and record information from your web browser when you interact with the Services, including your IP address and cookie information. This information is used for fighting spam/malware and also to facilitate collection of data concerning your interaction with the Services (e.g., what links you have clicked on).
· Generally, the Services automatically collect usage information, such as the number and frequency of visitors to the Site. We may use this data in aggregate form, that is, as a statistical measure, but not in a manner that would identify you personally. This type of aggregate data enables us and third parties authorized by us to figure out how often individuals use parts of the Services so that we can analyze and improve them.
Information Collected Using Cookies:
· Most browsers have an option for turning off the cookie feature, which will prevent your browser from accepting new cookies, as well as (depending on the sophistication of your browser software) allowing you to decide on acceptance of each new cookie in a variety of ways.
We collect statistical information about how users collectively use the Services (“Aggregate Information”). Some of this information may be derived from Personal Information. This statistical information is not Personal Information and cannot be tied back to you or your web browser.
How, and With Whom, Is My Information Shared?
IP Address Information:
Information You Elect to Share:
We share Aggregate Information with our partners, service providers and other persons with whom we conduct business. We share this type of statistical data so that our partners can understand how and how often people use our Services and their services or websites, which facilitates improving both their services and how our Services interface with them. In addition, these third parties may share with us non-private, aggregated or otherwise non Personal Information about you that they have independently developed or acquired.
Information Shared with Our Agents:
We employ and contract with people and other entities that perform certain tasks on our behalf and who are under our control (our “Agents”). We may need to share Personal Information with our Agents in order to provide products or services to you. Unless we tell you differently, our Agents do not have any right to use Personal Information or other information we share with them beyond what is necessary to assist us. You hereby consent to our sharing of Personal Information with our Agents.
Information Disclosed Pursuant to Business Transfers:
In some cases, we may choose to buy or sell assets. In these types of transactions, user information is typically one of the transferred business assets. Moreover, if we, or substantially all of our assets, were acquired, or if we go out of business or enter bankruptcy, user information would be one of the assets that is transferred or acquired by a third party. You acknowledge that such transfers may occur, and that any acquirer of us or our assets may continue to use your Personal Information as set forth in this policy.
Information Disclosed for Our Protection and the Protection of Others:
Information We Share With Your Consent:
Except as set forth above, you will be notified when your Personal Information may be shared with third parties, and will be able to prevent the sharing of this information.
Is Information About Me Secure?
We store all of our information, including your IP address information, using industry-standard techniques. We do not guarantee or warrant that such techniques will prevent unauthorized access to information about you that we store, Personal Information or otherwise.
What Information of Mine Can I Access?
You can access and delete cookies through your web browser settings.
California Privacy Rights: Under California Civil Code sections 1798.83-1798.84, California residents are entitled to ask us for a notice identifying the categories of personal customer information which we share with our affiliates and/or third parties for marketing purposes, and providing contact information for such affiliates and/or third parties. If you are a California resident and would like a copy of this notice, please submit a written request to the following address: 12 E 49th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10017
What If I Have Questions or Concerns?
If you have any questions or concerns regarding privacy using the Services, please send us a detailed message to email@example.com. We will make every effort to resolve your concerns.
Effective Date: March 11, 2014
b. You shall not (directly or indirectly):i. take any action that imposes or may impose (as determined by us in our sole discretion) an unreasonable or disproportionately large load on our (or our third party providers’) infrastructure;ii. interfere or attempt to interfere with the proper working of the Services or any activities conducted on the Services;iii. bypass, circumvent or attempt to bypass or circumvent any measures we may use to prevent or restrict access to the Services (or other accounts, computer systems or networks connected to the Services);iv. use manual or automated software, devices, or other processes to “crawl” or “spider” any page of the Site;
v. harvest or scrape any Content from the Services;
vi. otherwise take any action in violation of our guidelines and policies;vii. decipher, decompile, disassemble, reverse engineer or otherwise attempt to derive any source code or underlying ideas or algorithms of any part of the Services (including without limitation any application), except to the limited extent applicable laws specifically prohibit such restriction;viii. modify, translate, or otherwise create derivative works of any part of the Services; orix. copy, rent, lease, distribute, or otherwise transfer any of the rights that you receive hereunder.c. We also reserve the right to access, read, preserve, and disclose any information as we reasonably believe is necessary to:i. satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or governmental request;ii. enforce these Terms of Service, including investigation of potential violations hereof;
iii. detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues;
iv. respond to user support requests; or
v. protect the rights, property or safety of us, our users and the public.4. Third Party Services. The Services may permit you to link to other websites, services or resources on the Internet, and other websites, services or resources may contain links to the Services. When you access third party resources on the Internet, you do so at your own risk. These other resources are not under our control, and you acknowledge that we are not responsible or liable for the content, functions, accuracy, legality, appropriateness or any other aspect of such websites or resources. The inclusion of any such link does not imply our endorsement or any association between us and their operators. You further acknowledge and agree that we shall not be responsible or liable, directly or indirectly, for any damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on any such content, goods or services available on or through any such website or resource.5. Termination. We may terminate your access to all or any part of the Services at any time, with or without cause, with or without notice, effective immediately. All provisions of these Terms of Service which by their nature should survive termination shall survive termination, including, without limitation, ownership provisions, warranty disclaimers, indemnity and limitations of liability.6. Warranty Disclaimer.a. You release us from all liability for you having acquired or not acquired Content through the Services. We make no representations concerning any Content contained in or accessed through the Services, and we will not be responsible or liable for the accuracy, copyright compliance, or legality of material or Content contained in or accessed through the Services.b. THE SERVICES AND CONTENT ARE PROVIDED “AS IS”, “AS AVAILABLE” AND WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF TITLE, NON-INFRINGEMENT, MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, AND ANY WARRANTIES IMPLIED BY ANY COURSE OF PERFORMANCE OR USAGE OF TRADE, ALL OF WHICH ARE EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMED. WE, AND OUR DIRECTORS, EMPLOYEES, AGENTS, SUPPLIERS, PARTNERS AND CONTENT PROVIDERS DO NOT WARRANT THAT: (I) THE SERVICES WILL BE SECURE OR AVAILABLE AT ANY PARTICULAR TIME OR LOCATION; (II) ANY DEFECTS OR ERRORS WILL BE CORRECTED; (III) ANY CONTENT AVAILABLE AT OR THROUGH THE SERVICES IS FREE OF VIRUSES OR OTHER HARMFUL COMPONENTS; OR (IV) THE RESULTS OF USING THE SERVICES WILL MEET YOUR REQUIREMENTS.7. Limitation of Liability. IN NO EVENT SHALL WE, NOR OUR DIRECTORS, EMPLOYEES, AGENTS, PARTNERS, SUPPLIERS OR CONTENT PROVIDERS, BE LIABLE UNDER CONTRACT, TORT, STRICT LIABILITY, NEGLIGENCE OR ANY OTHER LEGAL OR EQUITABLE THEORY WITH RESPECT TO THE SERVICES FOR ANY (I) LOST PROFITS, DATA LOSS, COST OF PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES, OR SPECIAL, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, PUNITIVE, COMPENSATORY OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES OF ANY KIND WHATSOEVER, SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES (HOWEVER ARISING), (II) BUGS, VIRUSES, TROJAN HORSES, OR THE LIKE (REGARDLESS OF THE SOURCE OF ORIGINATION), OR (III) DIRECT DAMAGES IN EXCESS OF $50.00.8. Governing Law and Jurisdiction. These Terms of Service shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of New York, including its conflicts of law rules, and the United States of America. You agree that any dispute arising from or relating to the subject matter of these Terms of Service shall be governed by the exclusive jurisdiction and venue of the state and Federal courts of New York County, New York.9. Miscellaneous.a. Modification. We reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to modify or replace any of these Terms of Service, or change, suspend, or discontinue the Services at any time. Your continued use of the Services following notification of any changes to these Terms of Service constitutes acceptance of those changes.b. Entire Agreement and Severability. These Terms of Service are the entire agreement between you and us with respect to the Services, including use of the Site, and supersede all prior or contemporaneous communications and proposals (whether oral, written or electronic) between you and us with respect to the Services. If any provision of these Terms of Service is found to be unenforceable or invalid, that provision will be limited or eliminated to the minimum extent necessary so that these Terms of Service will otherwise remain in full force and effect and enforceable. The failure of either party to exercise in any respect any right provided for herein shall not be deemed a waiver of any further rights hereunderc. Force Majeure. We shall not be liable for any failure to perform our obligations hereunder where such failure results from any cause beyond our reasonable control, including, without limitation, mechanical, electronic or communications failure or degradation.d. Assignment. These Terms of Service are personal to you, and are not assignable, transferable or sublicensable by you except with our prior written consent. We may assign, transfer or delegate any of our rights and obligations hereunder without consent.e. Agency. No agency, partnership, joint venture, or employment relationship is created as a result of these Terms of Service and neither party has any authority of any kind to bind the other in any respect.f. Notices. Unless otherwise specified in these Term of Service, all notices under these Terms of Service will be in writing and will be deemed to have been duly given when received, if personally delivered or sent by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested; when receipt is electronically confirmed, if transmitted by facsimile or e-mail; or the day after it is sent, if sent for next day delivery by recognized overnight delivery service. Electronic notices should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. No Waiver. Our failure to enforce any part of these Terms of Service shall not constitute a waiver of our right to later enforce that or any other part of these Terms of Service. Waiver of compliance in any particular instance does not mean that we will waive compliance in the future. In order for any waiver of compliance with these Terms of Service to be binding, we must provide you with written notice of such waiver through one of our authorized representatives.h. Headings. The section and paragraph headings in these Terms of Service are for convenience only and shall not affect their interpretation.Contact. You may contact us at the following address: 12 E 49th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10017.