A blue curse on the…

A blue curse on the corn

In a major corn growing area in Mexico, corn doesn’t grow well anymore and water is vanishing or becoming poisoned.  Why?  Too many manufacturing plants and no environmental safeguards.

Maize cultivation has flourished in the Tehuacán Valley for a millennium or more. After the Aztec conquest in the mid-14th century, the valley kept Tenochtitlan, the seat of the Mexican empire, well fed. Today, however, the tortilla basket of the Altiplano is drying up at a worrisome rate.

Mexico’s ancient crop is now cursed by a handful of brand names that are household words in many countries, including The Gap, Guess and Calvin Klein. In the Tehuacán Valley, at least 300 clothing assembly plants or maquiladoras crank out 5 million pairs of jeans a month for the US market. With 35,000 employees, of whom 80 percent are Nahua, Mazateca, Mixtec or Popoloca indigenous people, the industry now dominates the valley’s economy.

Tehuacán was once universally renowned for the purity of its water. The city’s name is synonymous with commercial mineral waters sold throughout Mexico. But now the region’s many springs and its deep aquifer are putting out far more of the precious liquid than gets put back in. Martín Barrios, director of a non-governmental human rights commission in the valley, says that some water sources are menaced by contamination due to the blue-jean boom.

With the maquiladoras guzzling up mammoth amounts of water, little is available for the valley’s farmland, and the water that remains is so laced with chemicals that it often comes out blue, Barrios says. He adds that 25 laundries, half of them illegal, wash a million pairs of jeans a week, sucking up hundreds of millions of liters of scarce water, none of which is treated or recycled.

Even the corn is going downhill, he says.  “I don’t know if it’s the chemicals in the water or if too much chemical fertilizer has burnt out the soil. The farmers have so little land now that they never let it rest. All I can tell you is that the yields are much smaller, the cobs are smaller and the kernels are not as big as before,” he says.

Ain’t globalization wonderful? (Thanks to BoInaRage for this link)