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When scientists reported two years ago that genes from genetically modified (GM) maize may have been found in native Mexican species, it made headlines around the world – for a few days (see GM maize found ‘contaminating’ wild strains).

Not so in Mexico. In a nation where maize was originally bred from a wild plant some 7,000 years ago and where both civilisation and culture are intertwined with the crop, the possibility that genes from GM maize could have an impact on the immense variety of Mexican maize has remained a highly visible and charged issue.

This article – based around discussions at a workshop held by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology in September – looks at some of the issues thrown up by the controversy including the nature of the GM threat to Mexican maize, and other related factors such as loss of traditional behaviours and the prospect for Mexico's economy if it does not allow GM crops.

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