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Timothy A. Wise

Part of the Triple Crisis Spotlight G-20 series.

Leave it to Mexico to put surrealism on the agenda at the G-20 summit that opens today in Los Cabos, Mexico. Actually, the Mexican government seems not have put much of anything on the agenda, at least when it comes to food security, one of its stated priorities as G-20 president this year. What’s surreal is listening to Mexico’s Agriculture Minister, Francisco Mayorga, speaking last Wednesday to an international conference on “New Paradigms for Agriculture,” describe without a hint of irony or self-reflection his government’s “model program” for sustainable smallholder agriculture.

This from the country that is the world’s poster child for the failures of neoliberal agriculture policy. Surreal. Where’s Frida Kahlo when we need her?

We had come looking for “new paradigms” to fix our broken food system. By the end of our three-day conference, we’d found some. (Read one participant’s partial summary.) But first we got a display of Mexican surrealism from Secretary Mayorga.

He came waving a new interagency report on increasing smallholder productivity, this from the country’s fourth straight administration that has systematically dismantled support for small-scale farmers. Then the Minister of Agriculture known to some as “Secretary Monsanto” for his push to open Mexico to transgenic crops promotes his “Sustainable Modernization of Traditional Agriculture” program as a model to the world in conservation agriculture.

Let’s be clear: It is not Mexico’s fault that the G-20 will again fail to address any of the causes of the ongoing food crisis. Commodity speculation will continue unchecked, the use of food reserves to buffer price spikes will be ignored despite their widespread and effective use throughout the developing world, biofuels production will expand without a peep from the G-20 or the Mexican government, despite our recent report showing how much U.S. ethanol expansion has driven up the cost of Mexican corn imports. And small-scale farmers, despite the G-20’s own expert report that calls for expanded public investment in the sector, will hear from the kings and queens of the G-20: “Let them eat Public-Private Partnerships.”

That’s not the Mexican government’s fault. Mexico’s rural disaster certainly is.

More than half of rural Mexicans live in poverty, many are migrating to the cities and to the U.S. despite the dearth of decent jobs in either country. Mexico imports 42% of its food, while its own farmers can’t even get a loan, never mind basic extension services. Fewer than 5% of Mexican farmers have access to formal credit. 5%! The government crows to the G-20 about its Oportunidades anti-poverty program, yet no one asks how many people need that safety net because the Mexican model has sent them into freefall.

How surreal does Mexico’s free-market fundamentalism get? The Mexican government just approved the commercial planting of transgenic soybeans, which will happen in the mega-diverse southern part of the country. Mexico basically stopped growing soybeans after NAFTA, presumably because the country’s farmers could not grow soybeans competitively. What Mexicans can make competitively, however, is honey, mostly in the southern part of the country. Mexico is the third largest honey exporter in the world, with most going at high prices to European niche markets. Arguably, Mexican beekeepers are a free-trade success story.

In comes transgenic soy, despite widespread evidence that even with precautions bees will bring transgenic pollen back to their hives. The transgenes inevitably show up in the honey. European buyers, with their more refined tastes (and laws), refuse to buy honey contaminated with transgenics. So in one fell policy swoop, the Mexican government destroys an internationally competitive industry to bring in a crop it can’t grow competitively while putting its biodiversity at risk. (See coverage in Spanish.)

Winner: Monsanto. Losers: Mexico’s people and its environment.

The government even disregards its largest farmers, if there’s a multinational to please. After drought left Mexico short of white corn last year, Mexico imported one million tons of white corn – transgenic white corn, of course – from South Africa, which had a surplus and subsidized the exports, making them cheaper than market prices. As the ships crossed the Atlantic, Mexico’s largest corn farmers were getting ready to harvest their fall-winter crop, and it came in strong. Suddenly, one million tons of subsidized South African corn hit the market. The multinational corn buyers couldn’t have been happier. They took the cheap transgenic imports and refused to buy the suddenly-abundant Mexican corn.

But things can always get worse, and under the leadership of the Mexican government they often do. Now, South Africa has shortfalls in this year’s corn production. So they contracted for – you guessed it –Mexican corn. That may give Mexican farmers a market for their corn, but they are forced to sell it not at the record high prices on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange but at the new rock bottom price set by those subsidized South African imports.

Winners: grain traders, multinational livestock giants like Smithfield and Tyson, and the two Mexican firms that control 90% of the tortilla flour market. Losers: farmers in Mexico and, when the ship lands in South Africa, South African farmers whose buyers will offer them the below-market prices they originally exported across the Atlantic.

If the corn goes back to South Africa in the same ship, it could be a piece of globalization surrealism even Frida Kahlo couldn’t capture.

The Triple Crisis blog invites your comments. Please share your thoughts below.

4 Responses to “Spotlight G-20: Mexico’s Surreal Leadership on Food Security”

  1. The main objective of NGO’s approaching the G(XX) summits is money. They have been unsuccessful in making measurable impact in the amount of food that is available after the hundreds of millions of dollars they keep getting are spent. Time after time they keep telling us about new technologies and genetically modified seed, crop insurance for food that does not exist and similar diversions to keep people from realizing the simple fact that their efforts have failed. As we grow closer to the target date for the Millennium Development Goals, the worlds governments are frantically throwing more and more money into unproven programs and experimental technologies in their ever increasing hope that their people will not see that they have failed. They have no food in store.

    It is time the world faced some Food Security Realities. 1 min. 30 sec.

    Food Security Realities 101 – NGOs – What Have They Accomplished
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJMMqitZD-4

    1BLOOD Intentional has documented food security accomplishments.

    The whole story – A decade of documentation is available on line to see real food security accomplishments – YouTube – A Closer Look -1BLOOD
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_AlaWoZYNo

    6.2 million bushels of rice harvested. 470,000 bushels harvested using organic seed and manual labor alone, without government assistance. Come see the Rice.

    Iyel Bey
    Food Security Critic
    Internet Documentation Coordinator

  2. Nice article. Keep up the good work.

  3. Clayton Luce says:

    Iyel Bey, you are a fool and a con. You are no journalist. Period. You are a lacky for the hyprocrite, false apostle and con-artist Kenneth D. Jackson, Sr. You have participated in propaganda films, connived journalistic endeavors in a clearly biased and un balanced form of “journalism.” FYI- the real journalists who investigate these dictators write exactly the type of article published here…THE TRUTH! Jammeh is a murderer and a sociopath, just like Kenneth D Jackson and his half retarded son Smoke. They are drawn like flies to rotting meat to men like Jammeh, because “like attracts like.” You try to speak eloquently, reflecting the vernacular of your wicked handlers, but you are a fool, and an agent of evil, just like Jammeh. You follow blindly despite two sets of glasses. I have proven KDJ as a liar, over and over, with SOLID EVIDENCE. You cannot claim me to be a liar. Research on me will only uncover the truth. You are a blind follower of the blind, and you are a liar without even knowing it. You talk about being an independent journalist yet you participate in fully scripted films under the guidance of your master Kenneth D Jackson and are nothing more than a 1BLOOD lackey. The blood of KDJ’s victims will be upon your head. FAKE FAKE FAKE! Read the Bible before you attempt to live by it.

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