Dear Friends and Colleagues
Free Trade Leads Mexico into a Junk Food Crisis
A report by GRAIN looks at how food companies target the poor in the Global South in order to increase their market share with catastrophic results. Taking Mexico as a case in point, it shows how these corporations infiltrate, inundate and take over traditional food distribution channels and replace local foods with cheap, processed junk foods, often through free trade and investment agreements.
Mexico has signed 12 free trade agreements with 44 nations, 28 bilateral investment treaties and 9 agreeญments of economic cooperation.NAFTA alone triggered an immediate upsurge of direct investment from the US into the Mexican food processญing industry. Mexico is now one of the 10 biggest producers of processed food in the world. Total sales of processed foods in Mexico was $124 billion in 2012, with corporations such as PepsiCo, Nestl้, Unilever and Danone making $28.33 bilญlion in profits.
These food corporations exercise a high level of control over food distribution. They started by colonising the existญing, dominant food distribution networks of small-scale vendors, known as tiendas (the corner stores) to reach poorer rural populations. By 2012, however, chain supermarkets, discountญers and convenience stores had displaced the tiendas as Mexico's main food retail sources, imposing the companies' products as the only food available.
Such corporate domination has brought about a shift of the Mexican diet away from traditional fresh fruit and vegetables towards highly processed junk food with disastrous effects on human health, including the development of children."Diabesity" (obesity and diabetes together) is a very serious health problem in the country. Although 78.5 million Mexicans suffer from food insecurity, 48.6 million adults, 29% of children between 5 and 11 years old, and 35% of those aged between 11 and 19 are overญweight or obese.In 2012, Mexico ranked sixth in the world for diabetes deaths.
GRAIN concludes that "nothing less than a complete overhaul of Mexico's disastrous trade and investment liberalisation polices and a new orientation towards support for the country's small farmers is necessary to effectively deal with its national food and health crisis".
The full report entitled "Free trade and Mexico's junk food epidemic" can be accessed at http://www.grain.org/article/entries/5170-free-trade-and-mexico-s-junk-food-epidemic