Daily News Archive
From February 1, 2002

Genetically Altered Corn Invades Small Villages in Mexico

A genetically modified breed of corn has begun to invade a cluster of small mountain villages in Mexico, say scientists. Reuters reports that this invasion could wipe out the area's native corn, which is much sturdier than the GE corn. Already, 15 of 22 communities in the area contain genetically altered strains of corn.

In 1998, Mexico prohibited GE corn production. So how did the transgenic corn pop up in these villages? Mexico allows GE corn to be imported from the U.S. Corn that the mountain villages receive, in addition to their own native crops, comes from the government's basic food distribution program, Diconsa. Government trucks carry in "low-cost basic food" to the villages, and, in the process, spill kernels. This would explain the bizarre growth of corn in sidewalk cracks and along roadsides. However, officials from Diconsa claim the maize they issue is locally grown. Only if these supplies run out, they say, will imported food be used. Mexico imports 6 million tons of corn per year.

The villagers insist the corn is genetically modified. An agricultural laboratory in La Trinidad tested corn sold at local Diconsa stores and found transgenic strains. The difference is visible in the kernels: the invasive kernels are larger and are a different color. The new corn also creates more yield, a change some welcomed at first. One local began to harvest the new corn, until she found out it could not withstand the plague and plant diseases to which their native corn is resistant. Now environmentalists, scientists and locals are fearful the GE corn will wipe out the original sturdy crop.

For more information regarding genetically altered crops, please contact Beyond Pesticides.