Who doesn’t love a good tortilla? They make everything better.
— Scotty (@MarylandMudflap) April 6, 2017
They’re so popular, tortilla sales in the U.S. are expected to double by the year 2025.
This will put sales at a whopping $30 billion dollars, Reuters reports.
And Mexican farmers and scientists have a secret weapon to make big money: heirloom corn.
— Capt'n Arrr (@captnarrr) April 7, 2017
Unlike the majority of corn – a.k.a. GMO corn – found in the United States, heirloom corn is known for its rich, delicious flavor. Foodies are willing to pay more for tortillas made from these types of corn, which means the market has become more lucrative for Mexican farmers, Reuters reports. Heirloom corn can sell for as much as three times more than standard corn.
Heirloom corn is delicious and it is part of Mexico’s storied culture.
Oregon Department Of Ag / Eamon Bohan / Flickr
According to Eco Watch, Mexico has around 59 individual types of heirloom corn, which have been cultivated for more than 12,000 years. Unlike Mexican corn, most of the corn in the United States has been genetically altered for production, and as a result, much of the flavor has been lost.
Even chefs prefer the “Mexican Gold” standard for corn.
As Chicago-based celebrity chef Rick Bayless told Reuters, “I live in GMO corn-country and it is the most tasteless corn in the world.” However, when it comes to corn from Mexico, Bayless said, “It has taste. That’s the whole thing.” Scientists are currently developing a certification process that will ensure that consumers who buy heirloom based products are getting this “Mexican gold.”
As demand increases, certification of heirloom corn will ensure Mexican farmers are protected.
While many farmers have an intimate understanding of how to grow and cultivate corn, they don’t always understand the value of the corn they are making. Often times they put their trust in “coyotes” who act as salespeople for their products. If a coyote wants, they can easily exploit these farmers. Certification will give farmers information on factors like how much their corn is worth, making it harder for people to take advantage. Mexican farmers generally produce around 5 million tons of heirloom corn every year.
As farmer Octavio Tejeda told Reuters, “We’re going to keep our traditions alive and rescue the varieties of corn that are important to us.”