NAFTA (The North American Free Trade Agreement or El Tratado de Libre Comercio de America del Norte in Spanish) has been deadly for many ordinary Mexicans who depend[ed] on their farms for their livelihoods. I have been a small voice among many talking about this over the years. Today in La Jornada there is an article on NAFTA's effects on traditional food and on the growth of the junk food market here in Mexico. I often wish I could beg the owners of the tiendas in our colonia to stop selling soda and chips and all the other crap that has so affected the health of my neighbors, but then they'd be done out of much of the small income they get as would the delivery men and line workers at places like Coca Cola. I do know that at least on special occasions, one of the shop owners sells home-made syrup for jamaica, the delicious local agua made from a local flower.
The translation of the article below is mine and is kind of loose to make it flow (I hope).
The North American Free Trade Treaty (with the US and Canada) has distorted Mexican eating habits. The use of transgenics and the importation of "junk food" [chatarra in Spanish] in local cooking and eating represents a danger to the national cuisine which is included in the list of the Non-material Cultural Patrimony of Humanity of Unesco noted Gloria López Morales, ex-official of the United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture (FAO).
Interviewed at the Mesoamerican Food Summit, she said that "the changes in food are a secondary effect [of NAFTA] on the availability of affordable local ingredients. The real danger for the Mexican kitchen is that they are losing these ingredients. There are a series of such products which, without adecuate farm policies, can be lost. This is going to mean we will have to give up a traditional balanced diet: varieties of corn and beans, many kinds of quelites [I think this is amaranth and related plants]. and wild and culivated greens and herbs.
Also the former director of the regional office for culure of Unesco for Latin American and the Carbbean, López Morales warned of the "enormous fragility" of the products of the milpa. [The milpa is the indigenous/traditional and effective small-scale method of farming corn, beans and squash together. The link is in Spanish but you can use google translate if you need help.]
"Everything has been distorted by the foodstuffs of the free market, and we import junk food, transgenic maize, all that is deterimental to the cultivation of our own products." Studies have been called for from biological and anthropological perspectives so that policies in defense of local products can be developed.
Sooner or later, she affirmed, governments are going to have to develop adequate policies for the preservation of our food system, "first, because we've already lost self-sufficiency and sovereignty and second, because we have already won the championship in obesity and diabetes. [These "championships"] also hit us hard in something that matters a great deal: our pocketbooks.
We are learning that we have to spend too much of our public budget to treat illnesses caused by malnutrition."
During the current transition [from the presidency of Calderón to that of Peña Nieto] the promoter of Mexican gastronomy suggested that citizen actions should be undertaken to attract the attention of the new government to the country's food problems.
At the gathering which took place in Mexico Ciy from the 25th to the 28th of July Guadalupe Latapi, promoter of organic products through her business Aires del Campo, emphasized that in Mexico the consumption of organic food has increased twenty percent (in the US it grew this past year by 9 percent) since more and more people are worried about health, flavor, the environment, the well-being of animals and the sustainability of the agricultural economy.
Me speaking again: the government takes a much more active approach in advertising issues of health and nutrition here than the US government does.