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Food enterprise or food sovereignty?
In this essay maize/corn represents a broader social contradiction: the struggle between food enterprise and food sovereignty. Eric Holt-Gimenez of Food First, distinguishes between these two conceptions of food: food enterprise represents the discourse of a neoliberal corporate food regime that sees food as a commodity within a market-driven system while food sovereignty sees food as medicine and advocates for community-controlled food production, grounded in local ecologies and diverse cultural practices.
If we examine the essay on Our Roots in Corn through the lens of this contradiction, we can begin to understand the wheat embargo as reflective of a U.S. hegemonic corporate food system, where the export of wheat is not only an economic weapon to influence global politics, but also a process of replacing traditional food practices while burying the deep cultural meaning of corn for Mesoamerican peoples.
(Indigenous cultures in the Americas) worshipped gods and goddesses in religious festivals honouring and featuring corn. In fact, Central American Indigenous peoples still identify as “Children of Corn” and see themselves as deeply related to corn, even through their DNA. There were other cultural expressions of this identity created during the early years of the revolution in Nicaragua: visual arts, music, poetry.Food enterprise today
Doing further research on corn in the corporate food system reveals how central it is to a globalized diet.
Products made with corn derivatives
We have little idea of how much corn derivatives permeate industrially-produced foods, hundreds of foods and even containers and wrappers. Here are some of the ingredients to look for if you want to avoid corn derivatives: citric acid, confectioner's sugar, corn flour, corn fructose, corn meal, corn oil, corn syrup, dextrin and dextrose, fructose, lactic acid, malt, mono- and diglycerides, monosodium glutamate, sorbitol, and starch (baking powder usually contains cornstarch, by the way). Many vitamins also contain corn.
20 popular foods that are made with high-fructose corn syrup
70% corn produced in U.S. is genetically modified. The fight against GMO corn has been particularly strong in Mexico following NAFTA and the flooding of the country by cheaper GMO corn from the U.S. In the past two decades, Mexico has gone from being self-sufficient in corn to importing more that half of its corn; the milpa tradition of peasants and Indigenous communities has been threatened. And the original land race or criolle corn has become contaminated by the GMO corn not only imported but now cultivated in Mexico.
In fact, the defence of corn has ignited one of the major social movements in the Americas in the 21stcentury. Following the impact of NAFTA in Mexico, there was a major campaign entitled “Sin Maíz No Hay País” (With Out Corn There is No Country).
This campaign protested not only the contamination of criolle corn, the loss of peasant work and livelihood, and the degradation of traditional cuisine but also the threat to both biodiversity and cultural diversity.
In the 20thcentury, the diversity of sweet corn in the U.S., for example, diminished from 307 to 12 varieties. And with the loss of biodiversity comes the loss of cultural diversity, or the knowledges and practices developed in very specific ecological contexts and cultures. The corn mask below, created by Louise Casselman, communicates not only a variety of faces of corn, but also implies the spiritual qualities that many Indigenous cultures attribute to corn. The painting on the right was part of a mural produced in downtown Toronto by a First Nations artist reflecting a similar cosmovision.