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Importing Corn, Exporting Labor: The Neoliberal Corn Regime, GMOs, and the Erosion of Mexican Biodiversity

Abstract

When genetically modified (GM) imported corn was found growing in Oaxaca and the Tehuacán Valley of Puebla, Mexico (2000–2002), it intensified the debate between activists, academics, and government officials about the effects of trade liberalization on Mexican corn farmers and maize biodiversity. In order to understand the challenges faced by corn farmers and in situ diversity, it is important to contextualize GM corn within the recent neoliberal corn regime and its regional manifestations. This essay offers a case study of how indigenous corn farmers from the southern Tehuacán Valley have adapted to such neoliberal reforms and economic crisis by combining local corn production with US-bound labor migration.

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Abbreviations

Bt:

Bacillus Thuringiensis

CBD:

Convention for Biological Diversity

CEC:

North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation

CECCAM:

Center for the Study of Change in the Mexican Countryside

CIBIOGEM:

Inter-Ministerial Commission on Biosafety

CONACYT:

National Council for Science and Technology

CNBA:

National Agricultural Biosafety Committee

DGSV:

General Directorate of Plant Health

GM:

genetically modified

GMO:

genetically modified organism

INE:

National Ecology Institute

LMO:

living modified organism

NAFTA:

North American Free Trade Agreement

UN:

United Nations

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Correspondence to Elizabeth Fitting.

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Elizabeth Fitting, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. She has published on globalization and the struggle for Mexican maize, and is currently preparing a manuscript on globalization and the struggle for Mexican maize. Her dissertation Corn and the Transnational Peasant Household of the Tehuacán Valley, Mexico received the Stanley Diamond Award from the New School for Social Research in 2004.

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Fitting, E. Importing Corn, Exporting Labor: The Neoliberal Corn Regime, GMOs, and the Erosion of Mexican Biodiversity. Agric Hum Values 23, 15–26 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-004-5862-y

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Keywords

  • GM corn
  • Maize under NAFTA
  • Neoliberal policies
  • Rural Mexico
  • Transnational households