Mexico has officially banned GMO corn. A judge there placed an indefinite ban on genetically engineered corn last week, citing “risk of imminent harm to the environment.” This means that pro-GMO companies like Monsanto and DuPont/Pioneer are no longer allowed to plant or sell their corn within the country’s borders. And Mexico has over 20,000 varieties of corn that are grown and eaten through out the country — we’re talking huge amounts of corn.
This court action fell within days of the international March Against Monsanto, which was well-attended in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles and Mexico may have a disdain for GMOs in common, but there’s an even bigger cultural connector between the two: tortillas.
Tortillas are a way of life in Mexico. This ban should come as no surprise to anyone who has eaten a corn tortilla in Mexico, and experienced how seriously Mexico takes its prized whole grain staple. Tortillas are made freshly throughout the day, and eaten during breakfast (chilaquiles, tacos), lunch (tostadas, tacos), dinner (enchiladas, pozole), and dessert (nicuatole, polvoron de maiz), and in snacks (flavored corn chips) and even drinks (tejuino, champurrado). Maize was first cultivated in Mexico, after all.
The use of GMO corn in American-made tortillas is a tricky topic. A lot of mainstream companies aren’t so open about it, and not much information can be found online, even in Spanish. But I did manage to call and confirm that two local tortilla brands use non-GMO corn in their products. The first one is Diana’s, a family-owned company based in Norwalk that distributes to many Mexican supermarkets around Los Angeles, Ralphs, and Food 4 Less. I prefer their yellow tortillas over their white ones, since they taste more of pure corn and are a little thicker and chewier, more like handmade. (The confirmation call went this like: “Usan maíz transgénicos en sus productos?” The proud, almost insulted reply: “No, nosotros no usamos eso.”)
The second confirmed non-GMO tortilla company is La Fe in San Marcos. I’ve only seen their tortillas at Sprouts, and their tortillas are thinner and won’t fill you up too much, but the flavor is consistently amazing.
Maybe more American tortillerias can learn a thing or two from these two companies. Because, no matter how delicious taco fillings and toppings are, it’s all about the tortilla.