What does Egypt's food crisis remind you of?
During the past few weeks of Egypt's social unrest leading up to President Hosni Mubarak struggling to hang on to power, a particular topic has been on my mind: how food pricing, deregulated genetically-modified food, and corporate greed link together to result in social symptoms like what we're seeing in Egypt or like what we have been seeing on the immigration front right here in the United States. I blogged about this very same topic over at Project Economic Refugee, focusing on how food prices have contributed to social instability in Egypt and in Mexico. On that post, I referenced an article that was published on The Nation magazine on corn pricing's impact on migration from Mexico to the United States that referenced how:
By some estimates, dispossessed farmers account for almost half of the 500,000 or so Mexicans who, until the recent recession, immigrated illegally to the United States each year.
The reason why these already impoverished Mexican farmers ended up so dispossessed that they found no other option but to cross the border into the U.S. illegally was due to the flooding of cheap corn from the U.S. into the Mexican market ever since NAFTA went into effect in 1994. Basically, through NAFTA, U.S. corporations, with the abetting of the Mexican government, ended up displacing hundreds of thousands of Mexicans from their only source of subsistence, offering no alternative whatesover to make up for such a devastating loss. As if that were not enough, when genetically-modified corn (or as it is commonly called, "Genetically Engineered" or "GE" for short) started to get shoved down the throats of American farmers and consumers by big corporations like Monsanto, it also made its way into Mexico, sometimes, shall way say, in an "illegal" manner. Once there, it started to infiltrate that country, threatening to overrun and destroy the rich genetic diversity of its native corn, as The Nation's article highlighted:
[...] At the time NAFTA was negotiated, genetically modified corn had not been an issue, but as corn from the United States began to inundate Mexico, the Mexican government became concerned that it could crossbreed with Mexican landraces, possibly leading to hybrids that could overrun native corn. In 1998 the government issued a moratorium on planting genetically modified corn. By then, however, the United States was shipping millions of tons of corn to Mexico, any single kernel of which could be genetically modified. The moratorium proved unenforceable. (It has recently been rescinded--although only in areas deemed not to be "centers of origin" of corn.)
Since writing my original post, I have come across the film "The Future of Food", currently being shown on Hulu, that touches on this very same topic, with a special inclusion of the Mexican case towards the end of the film. The film itself is about an hour and a half long but worth watching; trust me, it will blow your mind: