SPI’s Timothy A. Wise, director of the Land and Food Rights Program, just returned from Mexico, where he was following the promising new rural development initiatives of incoming president Andrés Manuel López Obrador. López Obrador and his Morena Party swept presidential and congressional elections July 1. The new congress was sworn in September 1 while López Obrador takes office December 1. The victory, which was partly the product of unprecedented support in rural Mexico, has raised hopes for policies that reverse 25 years of neglect by successive governments. (See Tim’s article on the election.) Already, López Obrador has named farm leader Victor Suárez to the new post of Subsecretary of Agriculture for Food Self-Sufficiency, promising to “grow what we eat” and to reduce the country’s rising dependency on imports. Last year, Mexico earned the dubious distinction of becoming the world’s largest importer of maize (corn), the national staple.
In Mexico, Tim met with farm leaders, government officials, and civil society groups. López Obrador has vowed to ban the cultivation of genetically modified crops, a key issue Tim has followed since 2014, when an injunction halted experimental planting by Monsanto and other seed companies. (See articles here and here.) The incoming president has been more muted on the negotiations toward a new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the draft of which has raised concerns among farm leaders that it will hamstring the new government’s food self-sufficiency efforts. Tim briefed farm leaders on those threats in Mexico City September 4 and was interviewed in the daily La Jornada on the issue. The online Imágen Agropecuario also interviewed Tim about the ways the draft treaty could hamper the new government’s regulation of GM seeds.
The new commitment in Mexico to smallholders, sustainable agriculture, and food self-sufficiency represents just the sorts of policies Tim argues for his forthcoming book, Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Battle for the Future of Food (New Press, February 2019). The book includes two chapters on Mexico, in addition to others based on Tim’s field work over the last four years in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania, India, and Iowa. Follow Tim on Twitter (@TimothyAWise) for updates on the book and the issues he covers. Tim will be back in southern Africa soon to follow up on land grabbing, seed policy, and agro-ecology.