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Corn Meets Maize

Food Movements and Markets in Mexico

Lauren E. Baker

This compelling book explores the intimate connections between people and plants, agriculture and cooking, and the practical work of building local food networks and transnational social movements. Lauren E. Baker uses corn and maize to consider central debates about food security and food sovereignty, biodiversity and biotechnology, culture and nature, as well as globalization and local responses, in Mexico and beyond. For the author, corn symbolizes the commoditization of agriculture and the cultural, spiritual, ecological and economic separation of people from growing, cooking, and sharing food. Conversely, maize represents emerging food movements that address contemporary health, environmental, and economic imperatives while rooted in agricultural and culinary traditions. The meeting of corn and maize reveals the challenge of, and possibilities for, reclaiming food from its commodity status in the global context of financial turmoil, food crises, and climate change. « less more »
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 200Size: 6 x 9 1/4
978-1-4422-0651-9 • Hardback • December 2012 • $87.00 • (£60.00)
978-1-4422-0653-3 • eBook • November 2012 • $84.99 • (£54.95)
Lauren E. Baker is the coordinator of the Toronto Food Policy Council at Toronto Public Health. She teaches at the University of Toronto and is a research associate with the Centre for Studies in Food Security at Ryerson University.
Chapter 1: Why Food? Why Maize and Corn?
Chapter 2: Milpas, Markets and Movements
Chapter 3: Nuestro Maíz
Chapter 4: Itanoní Tortillería
Chapter 5: The Michoacán Centre for Agribusiness
Chapter 6: Biocultural Agrifood Relations
The slogan ‘in defense of maize’ is used in Mexico to support local farming initiatives and agricultural knowledge to protect the diverse, multiple forms of this plant. Environmental studies scholar Baker uses corn (the English translation of maize) as a contrasting metaphor to refer to large-scale commercial food production. The book explores the relationship between local maize and commercial corn in contemporary Mexico in the context of a global food crisis, increasing use of genetically modified crops (including corn), and the government's dramatic reduction of support for small-scale farmers at the same time that these farmers compete with highly subsidized crops from the US under the North American Free Trade Agreement. The three rich case studies illustrate the possibilities of food sovereignty in contrast to neoliberal models. One case study is Itanoní Tortillería, a family-run restaurant in the city of Oaxaca serving maize-based dishes from crops grown by a network of regional farmers. . . . This valuable book will be of interest to scholars in food studies, Latin American studies, and environmental economics. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students, faculty.

Corn Meets Maize is a compelling look at the complex and contested terrain of the global food system through the interconnections between people and the various cultural and ecological worlds they inhabit. The book focuses on the ways that local food networks in Mexico are shaped by neoliberal policies and the geographical imaginations of place-based resistance efforts. The narrative weaves together the personal experiences and detailed research of Lauren Baker, an activist-scholar who spent many years working with sustainable food movements in Toronto, Canada. Baker’s analysis describes Mexican food networks as examples of biocultural agrifood relations, a concept she develops to explain the interconnections between ecology, culture, and local/global politics. . . . Baker’s Corn Meets Maize is a timely contribution to the scholarly literature in food studies and will have an impact on multiple fields within the social sciences from geography and sociology to anthropology and political science. It will also have significant implications for practitioners involved in global and local food system work. Its major contribution will be its contextual analysis of neoliberalism and the possibilities for food initiatives to transgress the alternative-conventional binary.
Agriculture and Human Values

A powerful and intriguing account of Mexican initiatives to promote maize agrobiodiversity through local marketing. Lauren Baker reveals the richness and resilience of maize culture over the corn mono-crop economy. Corn Meets Maize, juxtaposing extractive corn ‘economy’ with life-sustaining maize, is a potent metaphor for an age in which market price cannot match ecological value.
Philip McMichael, Cornell University

Corn Meets Maize offers interesting glimpses into some of the social relations and structures that are being created in Mexico in efforts to revalue nature and food, promote campesino agriculture, foster food cultures, and build viable livelihoods. The book sheds light on the cultural, ethical and ecological values driving the creation of alternative food networks while also signaling the constraints they face.
Annette Desmarais, University of Regina

Baker's concept of 'place-based but not place-bound' moves brilliantly beyond false dualities such as global versus local. The hope she offers is that a deep culture such as maize can adapt to new conditions, renewing all the maize varieties threatened by homogeneous corn. At the same time, Baker wisely draws on her Canadian experience as a pioneer of agrodiversity and cultural diversity to illuminate the work of maize innovators in Mexico.

Harriet Friedmann, University of Toronto

Lauren Baker has written an exciting and very well documented book that contributes to the complex and passionate debate on maize and corn in Mexico, central to food security, biodiversity, culture, and the future of the Mexican countryside. The author fluently analyzes the many challenges of the maize system framed by neoliberal policy at the national level and constantly contested by social movements, daily agricultural, and consumption practices from below. Three case studies offer unique insight as to how these responses by individuals and organizations are rescuing maize as Mexico’s food staple with its multiple cultural, social, and environmental meanings, creating new opportunities and potentials for a viable policy of food sovereignty.
Kirsten Appendini, El Colegio de México