The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Rising price of corn brings protest

Feb 5, 2007

On January 31, a demonstration, reportedly about 100,000 people, filled Mexico City’s main square. Marchers protested the doubling of the price of corn, from which their staple food, tortillas, is made.

The price of corn on the world market is soaring, due to the U.S. government’s new interest in ethanol. Ethanol production is still very small, but already, speculators and grain dealers are taking all the profits they can.

Due to the impoverishment of the small farmers of Mexico, the buying up of their lands by large agribusiness, and the conversion of the land to cash crops for export to the U.S., Mexico now imports one-fourth of the corn needed to feed its population.

As a recent article in Scientific American pointed out, conversion to ethanol will do nothing to improve the environment or to decrease global warming. It takes as much or more energy, oil and natural gas, to grow the corn, harvest it and turn it into fuel at processing plants and then transport it as do conventional forms of fuel.

Using corn for ethanol will contribute to the further impoverishment of the Mexican population. It will contribute to the number of desperate Mexicans trying to leave their country. And it will contribute mightily to the profit margins of the world’s largest agribusinesses.