Laurel Bellante, University of Arizona

Laurel’s dissertation research focuses on the impacts of drought, agricultural development, and sociopolitical change on corn farmers in Chiapas, Mexico, and the social movements emerging in response to these challenges. She has been involved in multiple research endeavors related to food security and climate justice, including work on alternative food networks in Mexico, poverty and climate change in the Southwestern U.S., and food and water security in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Laurel works passionately to understand the complexity of food systems and promote positive innovations therein. In addition to academic pursuits, Laurel is a member of multiple food justice groups and enjoys using digital storytelling to share research results in a more compelling format.



Food Security, Agro-biodiversity, and the State: The Struggle to Defend Native Corn Systems in Southern Mexico

The results of agricultural initiatives focusing on small farmers vary greatly depending on whether they originate from government policy, private enterprise, or civil society. Drawing on ongoing dissertation research, this paper traces the progressive decline of seed sovereignty in Chiapas, Mexico, as well as new efforts to defend and recover native corn varieties. It explores the increasing role of transnational corporations in corn systems and the difficulties encountered by groups intent on counteracting these processes. The paper contrasts the unique challenges confronting highland subsistence farmers with those facing lowland commercial producers. It evaluates how struggles over seeds are linked to a long history of inequalities wrought upon the small farming sector by the Green Revolution and the subsequent neoliberalization of agriculture. It discusses the challenges of developing culturally and environmentally appropriate rural extension models in Mexico, and how these local experiences relate to food security concerns and struggles on a global scale.