UN expert urges Mexican ‘state of emergency’ to battle food poverty and obesity

By United Nations

A United Nations food expert has called for a “state of emergency” in Mexico to battle both food poverty and obesity, and suggested that changes to the country's agricultural policies could tackle the two problems simultaneously.

Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, said that some 19 million Mexicans are food insecure, “but at the same time, Mexico is one of the country's most severely affected by overweight and obesity, second only to the United States.”

“A state of emergency should be declared,” he said at the end of a week-long visit to Mexico, according to a press statement released by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Mr. De Schutter said both under-nutrition and over-nutrition are the result of several factors, including mono-cropping and export-led agriculture at the expense of healthy and diverse diets, policies skewed towards the interests of rich farmers rather than smallholders, and marketing of energy-rich foods by companies.

“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,” he said.

“For instance, existing food aid programmes should source more of their food supplies from small-scale, local producers to increase their incomes and to ensure the provision of fresh foods to consumers.”

Mr. De Schutter also called for a moratorium on field trials of genetically modified (GM) maize and said the Government should prevent the introduction of transgenic maize, claiming they would not benefit most farmers since it would lead them to gradually depend on seeds protected by intellectual property rights that may make farming prohibitively expensive.

“The introduction of GM maize in Mexico will pose a serious threat to agro-biodiversity, a crucial asset in the face of future threats and unpredictable changes brought about by climate change,” he said.

The Special Rapporteur said agrarian reform “should focus on smallholders and aim at scaling up agroecological techniques.

It should start by developing pro-poor agricultural policies: the current policies favour the richest states, the richest municipalities and the richest producers.”

Mr. De Schutter, who serves in an independent and unpaid capacity, reports to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.