By Bryan Dorval
Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed by the governments of the United States, Mexico and Canada in 1994, millions of Mexicans have joined the ranks of the hungry. About one-fifth of Mexican children currently suffer from malnutrition. The Mexican government reports that the number of people living in food poverty, the inability to purchase a basic food basket of staple foods, has risen over the last few years from 18 million in 2008 to 20 million in 2010.
Farmers in Mexico protesting against the unfair regulations enforced on them by NAFTA. ( Photo credit: Denis Poroy)
To see the affect NAFTA has had on the local economy you need only look at their rising import costs. Forty two percent of the food consumed in Mexico comes from abroad. Before NAFTA, the country spent USD $1.8 billion on food imports—today it spends $24 billion.
The rise of imported corn has caused the price of locally grown corn to fall by half, which has forced nearly two million farmers off their land. With their livelihoods gone, the farmers are forced to look for work elsewhere in order to support their families. Many of these farmers seek refuge in the United States as migrant workers.
As more corporations replace small farmers, the impact of NAFTA on communities has been devastating. According to Jonathan Fox, an expert on rural Mexico at the University of California, Santa Cruz, “[NAFTA] unravels rural communities, separates families and makes it difficult for young people to see a future in their communities of origin.”
Have you heard of other ways NAFTA is negatively affecting trade?
Bryan Dorval is a media and communications intern for Nourishing the Planet.
To read more about NAFTA and migrant workers, see: Depending of A Global Workforce and Tapping into innovative practices to feed the world.