The Effect of Economic Liberalization in Mexico on Corn Biodiversity and Mexican Culture
Mexico is dealing with widespread farm unrest. Last summer, there was a wave of protests in the Mexican states of Veracruz, Sinaloa, Oaxaca, Campeche, Nayarit, Chiapas, and Chihuahua. The farmers, most of them working on small plots of land distributed during revolutionary land reforms at the beginning of the century, are affected by a combination of circumstances, ranging from decreasing market prices, decreases in government support, and, many claim, the explosion of free trade partly due to the North American Free Trade Agreement. The changes have touched a variety of farmers, including producers of rice, coffee, sugar, and com.1 In July, com farmers in Sinaloa blocked access to gas depots to demand that the government impose higher tariffs on com imports from the U.S. Mexican com farmers have been overwhelmed by a 45 percent decrease in com prices since 1998. The farmers claim that NAFTA is directly responsible for their woes: U.S. com imports have increased 14% per year since 1994, leaving Mexican producers with 2.4 million tons of unsold com. In a February 2002 speech, agroeconomist Carlos Heredia Zubieta stated that “com growing has basically collapsed in Mexico. The flood of imports of basic grains has ravaged the countryside, so the com growers are [in the United States] instead of working in the fields.”2 After two days, the governor of Sinaloa declared a state of emergency because motorists were beginning to hoard gas, and businesses in Mazatlan, a tourist resort, were forced to reduce their services.3 The demonstration in Sinaloa highlights the discontent felt by farmers dealing with the rapid changes of economic liberalization.