Price of tortillas could increase fourfold, law's opponents warn. Price of tortillas could increase fourfold, law's opponents warn.

Big hike in tortilla prices predicted as native corn debate continues

Law intended to protect native corn could threaten hybrid varieties

The price of tortillas could quadruple if Congress passes a law to protect native maize because it would pose a threat to the production of hybrid corn, farmers and lawmakers warn.

The Senate has already passed a draft version of the Federal Law for the Promotion and Protection of Native Corn but debate is continuing in the lower house.

Federal agriculture undersecretary Víctor Suárez Carrera said in September that the law won’t affect the production of corn using hybrid seeds, stating that the only prohibition will be on genetically modified corn.

However, the rural development coordinator at the Secretariat of Agriculture (Sader) acknowledged this week that the law could threaten production of hybrid corn and said that modifications are needed.

“The main mandate we have is to guarantee food supply for all Mexicans. It’s impossible to say that we’ll be able to produce 44 million tonnes of native corn,” Salvador Fernández said.

National Action Party lawmaker Absalón García, who is also a hybrid corn producer, said the native corn law could threaten 70% of national production. A reduction in corn production would logically cause prices of basic foodstuffs to go up, he added.

The National Agriculture Council (CNA) and some lawmakers warned that tortilla prices could increase from 15 pesos a kilo to 60 pesos if the law is approved.

CNA president Bosco de la Vega claimed that the legislation goes against the government’s own plans to support the achievement of food self-sufficiency.

“We’re working on the most important program that the president has approved, Maíz Para México, and it makes use of hybrid corn. This law places [the program] at risk because it’s ambiguous,” he said.

De la Vega said that Mexico currently produces 59% of all corn that is consumed domestically but explained that the figure falls short of the recommendation of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, which says that the country should aim to meet at least 75% of demand.

He said that Mexico should take advantage of scientific advances in corn production.

Ana Lilia Rivera, a senator with the ruling Morena party and part of the collective Sin Maíz No Hay País (Without Corn There Is No Country), denied that the law will affect hybrid corn production and push up tortilla prices as a result.

“People can continue producing hybrids, we’ve never been against that,” she said.

“Science can continue advancing but under the principle of precaution, you’ll have to prove that your seeds don’t do damage,” Rivera added.

The senator, one of two main proponents of the native corn law, said that hybrid seeds are often accompanied by the use of glyphosate, a controversial herbicide whose effect on human health is hotly contested.

Source: Milenio (sp) 

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