Authors Archives: Bethany Turner

Corn Coalitions: Struggles for Food Sovereignty in Mexico


MEXICO IS THE BIRTHPLACE OF CORN and it is here that the world’s greatest biodiversity of this plant exists, largely under the guardianship of diverse indigenous farmers. The Maya of Southern Mexico have a particularly close spiritual and cultural connection with this plant, as their creation story details how their flesh is made from corn. However, the liberalisation of the Mexican economy, which has intensified since NAFTA came into effect in 1994, has resulted in a massive increase in the importation of cheap, mass-produced US corn into Mexico. The drive towards economic efficiency, at the expense of biodiversity and cultural sensitivity, is threatening the livelihood of many indigenous Mexicans. There are also reports that it has led to the unexpected arrival of GM cultivars in the region which threaten to contaminate and reduce the genetic variability of native corn, raising questions about food sovereignty and future food security. The presence of foreign GM corn in Mexico also poses a threat to the sociocultural identity of the Maya. In response to these occurrences, and encouraged by the Zapatista uprising, indigenous communities in southern Mexico and all over the country have been actively engaging in coalitional resistance movements which centre on a reappropriation of corn as a marker of cultural identity. These movements have positioned their struggle as one against neoliberalism and they have courted the support of international civil society to strengthen their resistance.

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