Farmer protests high price of corn in Mexico, January 2007
Farmer protests high price of corn in Mexico, January 2007 - 


Lisa Napoli: Short supplies and higher prices for corn are causing problems in Mexico, where the tortilla is a way of life. And some farmers are hoping to use genetically modified seeds to up their output.

Dan Grech reports from the Americas desk at WLRN — and then there's the opposition:

Dan Grech: Mexico is the likely cradle of corn cultivation. Scientists believe the grain was grown there as far back at 5300 B.C.

Mexicans with small farms, known as ejidos, prefer to grow the native varieties of corn. These small farmers fear a genetically modified seed would be less hardy.

Parr Rosson is an agricultural economist at Texas A&M University.

Parr Rosson: Their view is if they lose that variety, it's lost forever. It's lost not only to Mexico, but to the rest of the world as well.

That folk wisdom is coming up against a hard reality: The genetically modified seeds favored by big farms yield 20 percent more corn per acre.

Since 1998, Mexico's banned the modified seeds. But earlier this year, the country faced a severe corn shortage and had to import 800,000 tons at a sharp premium.

Now Mexico's congress has passed a law allowing genetically modified seeds. Experimental plantings will start this summer.

I'm Dan Grech for Marketplace.