Canadians support the right of the people of Mexico to determine their own relationship with corn

APRIL 8, 2024

In solidarity with Mexico, today 31 Canadian organizations stated their objection to Canada’s role in a trade challenge initiated by the United States under the Canada-US-Mexico trade agreement (CUSMA), which aims to end Mexico’s restrictions on the use of genetically modified (GM) corn for certain foods. Corn, also known as maize, is a staple of the Mexican diet, and is central to Mexican culture and agriculture, history and national identity, and is integral to Indigenous cultures and spiritual practices. The groups are calling upon Canada to respect the seed sovereignty of Indigenous and peasant farmers in Mexico and their pursuit of food sovereignty. 

On February 13, 2023, a presidential decree disallowed the use of GM corn in Mexico for making traditional foods, such as tortilla, that rely on minimally processed white corn flour. The decree also states the intention to eventually replace GM corn ingredients in processed foods with non-GM corn. These measures are the result of decades of struggle by farmers and grassroots communities in Mexico who are asserting their right to seed and food sovereignty.

“The NFU asked Trade Minister Ng not to bring Canada into this dispute. Canada has signed both the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the UN Convention on Biodiversity. Our commitments to these values should instead see Canada supporting Mexico’s efforts to protect its genetic and cultural heritage,” said National Farmers Union President, Jenn Pfenning. “Since these measures are strictly focused on corn, and Canada does not export corn to Mexico, Canada’s exports to Mexico are not affected.”

Mexico is the global centre of origin of corn. Indigenous and peasant farmers in Mexico have been stewarding life-giving corn biodiversity for thousands of years, building agroecological practices like the milpa to safeguard locally adapted landraces and ensure a resilient food supply for families and communities.

The decree says that Mexico is restricting the use of GM corn in order to uphold food sovereignty, including the Indigenous milpa; to protect native corn from GM contamination; to preserve Mexico’s biocultural heritage; and to take precautionary measures to protect human health.

Today’s statement of solidarity with Mexico is one way for people in Canada can show how we can work together to build a food system where family and co-operative farmers, and food workers, live in dignity, feeding everyone high quality, healthy, safe food using practices that protect our soil, water, biodiversity and other natural resources.

Read the statement