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State of Emergency for Mexican Maize: Protecting Biodiversity by Promoting Rural Livelihoods. Timothy A. Wise Global Development and Environment Institute Tufts University. State of Emergency. Crisis is real, not just economic but ecological Environmental consequences are global

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State of Emergency for Mexican Maize: Protecting Biodiversity by Promoting Rural Livelihoods

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State of emergency for mexican maize protecting biodiversity by promoting rural livelihoods l.jpg

State of Emergency for Mexican Maize:Protecting Biodiversity by Promoting Rural Livelihoods

Timothy A. WiseGlobal Development and Environment InstituteTufts University


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State of Emergency

  • Crisis is real, not just economic but ecological

  • Environmental consequences are global

  • Time to act is now

  • Delaying NAFTA implementation is warranted

  • Even under NAFTA, Mexican government has policy space:

    • US corn subsidies allow countervailing measures

    • Environmental agreements can open policy space

  • Political will is lacking.


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Map of Poverty Shadows Map of Biodiversity

  • Changes 1990-2000:

  • Most diverse producers (68%) show

    • Increased production

    • Highest poverty (70-80%)

    • Highest internal migration


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New Study from Veracruz: Impacts of NAFTA

  • Prices fell for maize (50%), coffee (66%), beans (44%)

  • Loss of local markets with rise of Maseca

  • Real household income fell 70%, 1993-2005

    • 90% earn less than Mexico’s poverty line (2 minimum wages)

  • Pressure on environment and agro-biodiversity:

    • Traditional maize on only 32% of land, from 50% in 1993.

    • Increased planting of hybrid monoculture, displacing milpa

    • Migration out of necessity affects 20% of families.

    • Expansion of cattle ranching –coping strategy to deal with seasonal loss of family labor.

    • Loss of diversity – drop from 12 indigenous varieties of maize in 1960 to just 3 in 2005.

    • Unsustainable resource extraction from the protected Santa Marta Biosphere Reserve.


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Globalization of Market Failure

  • US - Negative environmental externalities:

  • High levels of chemical use – water pollution

  • Increasing use of GM corn – question of risk

  • Biodiversity impacts – onto marginal lands

  • Unsustainable water use


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Environmental Costs in Mexico

  • Expansion of industrial agriculture

    • Input-intensive monoculture displacing low-input polyculture

  • Positive environmental externalities

    • Feared loss of maize diversity

    • Diversity is unvalued in the market

    • Prices do not reflect true value.

  • Unfair competition between the underpriced and the undervalued


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US Corn: Declining Prices and Dumping


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Decline in Mexican Maize Prices, 1993-2002


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Mexico: Declining Subsidies for Maize


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Trends in Mexican Agriculture:Declining Public Investment


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Three Policy Openings

  • Countervailing Duties Claim under WTO

  • Mexico is well below allowable WTO limit for trade-distorting subsidies

  • Environmental agreements, especially Cartagena Protocol


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Basis for a Countervailing Duties Claim

  • US subsidies are much higher than Mexico’s

  • US has exported at prices below costs (19%)

  • Material damage to national producers

    • Losses from depressed prices

    • Loss of domestic market share

  • WTO – Peace Clause has expired

  • NAFTA does not limit subsidies

    • Allows countervailing measures

  • Could join Canadian dispute against US


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Policy Space on the Environment

  • Cartagena Protocol – Mexico subscribes

    • Precautionary principle on GM imports

    • Mexico can enact national legislation for protocol

  • Mexico’s biosecurity law – “special regime” to protect maize

  • CEC study – strong recommendations on contamination

  • Convention on Biodiversity

    • March 2006 – Certificates of origin on genetic materials

  • “Law of the Seed”

    • Excludes 35 food crops and 29 forage crops from patenting

    • Promotes in situ conservation

    • Defends policies that protect agro-biodiversity

    • Mexico has not even signed this treaty.


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Policy Regime for Sustainable Maize Production in Mexico

Policies to address globalization of market failure:

  • Price differentials

  • Credit

  • Producer subsidies

  • Anti-trust enforcement; competition policies

  • Technical assistance, research & development

  • Crop failure insurance

  • National Maize Institute

  • In Situ conservation of maize genetic resources

  • Many would be illegal under NAFTA/WTO


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    Resilience of Peasant Economy

    • Maize diversity not lost yet.

    • Threats from both continued crisis and from improvement.

    • Even most resilient materials will eventually break

    • More information and publications:

    • www.gdae.org


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