UN Promotes New Food Policy in Mexico as Hunger Persists and Obesity Rises

By Amanda Strickler

In July, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food Olivier De Schutter called on the Mexican government to adopt a national strategy that will promote the right to food by addressing poverty and inadequate diets simultaneously. Over 18 percent of Mexico’s citizens are food insecure while obesity now plagues other portions of the country’s population, according to the De Schutter. The prevalence of obesity in Mexico now falls second to only one other country in the world—the U.S.

According to Olivier De Schutter, Mexico will need to adapt a national strategy to improve nutritional habits. (Photo credit: Farmlandgrab.com)

De Schutter attributes the hunger-obesity paradox to mono-cropping and export-led agriculture—combined these farming practices result not only in poor dietary diversity, but also increase poverty by limiting economic opportunity for smallholder farmers. A new agrarian policy is necessary to rebuild local food systems and spur economic growth, according to De Schutter. “It {Mexico} should start by developing pro-poor agricultural policies: the current policies favour the richest states, the richest municipalities and the richest producers,” De Schutter said.

Promoting agroecological food production will also help to fight obesity by offering better local access to robust and nutritious foods. According to De Schutter, current agricultural and trade policies in Mexico are not created to do this. “Agricultural policies and social policies aiding consumers should be made mutually supportive and support local food systems that could present most benefits for consumer and small-scale farmers alike.

In his speech and report, De Schutter also discussed the need to reintroduce the ban on testing of GM maize. GM crops can easily overrun indigenous varieties and leave smallholder farmers vulnerable. “The introduction of GM maize in Mexico will pose a serious threat to agrobiodiversity, a crucial asset in the face of future threats and unpredictable changes brought about by climate change.”

This announcement came at the end of a week-long trip to discuss Mexico’s recent movement to adopt the right to food in the Mexican Constitution. By invitation of the government, De Schutter met with The Office of the Presidency, Mexican ministries, and government officials at federal and state levels. “The next step is for Mexico to adopt a national strategy for the realization of the right to food which can address the twin challenges of obesity and food poverty,” De Schutter said.

Amanda Strickler is a research intern with Nourishing the Planet.

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