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The Right to Food in Mexico

As the price of commodities has skyrocketed in recent years, a number of countries have seen citizens take to the street to let the authorities know of their displeasure at the price of their favorite grain -- whether it's rice in Asian countries, wheat in Europe, or corn in Mexico, where tortillas should accompany any meal. This week Mexico joined a smallish group of countries that provide for the constitutional right to food. (David Law wrote last year about a move afoot in India). According to a newly enacted revision to Article 4 of the storied Mexican constitution:

Article 4: Every person has the right to adequate food to maintain his or her wellbeing and physical, emotional and intellectual development. The State must guarantee this right.

Presumably, Mexican citizens already enjoyed this right by virtue of their country's signing of the International Covenant on Social, Economic, and Cultural rights, Article 11 of which includes this provision:

Article 11.1: The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international cooperation based on free consent.

Nonetheless, redundancy in rights provision between international treaty arena and the domestic law is a well-known phenomenon. Most constitution drafters writing after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its two legal arms (the covenant on civil and political rights and the aforementioned one on social, economic, and cultural rights) have seen fit to duplicate these international rights in domestic constitutions. For new constitutions, these international rights naturally make for a good place for drafters to start, especially when the country is already a signatory to the treaty (and theoretically already committed). However, it's less obvious that constitutions that have gotten by many years without the many rights spelled out in the treaties would be revised to include them.

Clearly, the Mexican constitution, which has proved highly accomodating of new constitutional technology, is one that would do so. Food interest groups in Mexico, many of which are aligned with the agricultural producers (big and small) in the country, have long recognized the flexibility of Mexican charter and have been pushing for a food right for at least 15 years. This week marks their success. I'm off to celebrate with a taco al pastor and an agua fresca (sandia, hopefully).

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