By Laura Carlsen
A major battle in the movement against neoliberal globalization is being silently waged in Mexico. This battle does not take place in the streets of major cities, like Genoa, Prague or Seattle. It does not target multilateral organizations or groups of world leaders. Its activists do not buy plane tickets to voice their views.
They call their movement “In Defense of Corn.” Not nearly as in-your-face as “Abolish capitalism” or “Derail the WTO.” And yet, judging by the reaction of the powers-that-be, the movement is every bit as subversive as the most militant measures.
The discovery in 2001 that native corn had been contaminated with genetically modified (GM) varieties catalyzed the movement in defense of corn. This latest market offensive against the Mexican peasant economy has its roots in the rise of corn imports from the United States. Under the terms of GATT then later under the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Mexico has been importing an average of five million tons of corn a year. Since the U.S. widely cultivates GM corn, experts estimate that at least a quarter of Mexico’s U.S. corn imports are genetically modified.
GM corn from the United States rapidly found its way into Mexican cornfields. Since Mexico is a world center of origin for maize, the contamination became an international issue of food security. For Mexican indigenous and peasant communities, it became a question of survival.