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Flavour, culture and food security: The spicy entanglements of chile pepper conservation in 21st century Mexico

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jats:titleSocietal Impact Statement</jats:title>jats:sec<jats:label />jats:pPolitical interests and power structures shape state‐led crop conservation and food policy. As a crop that relates to culture and belonging, the chile crop is ideal for exploring how food security policy and crop conservation schemes integrate aspects beyond staple crops, calories and/or electoral incentives. What do these schemes mean for the food and ingredients we love? Reflecting from this perspective can be useful to grasp, re‐frame and create more effective and inclusive food policies—ones that embody and valorise flavour, identities and territories beyond statements on paper.</jats:p></jats:sec>jats:secjats:titleSummary</jats:title>jats:p<jats:list list-type="bullet"> jats:list-itemjats:pIn line with the Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) international action plan for crop genetic resources, the Mexican state inaugurated the National System of Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (SINAREFI) in 2002. In this paper, I explore SINAREFI's interest in landraces and in situ conservation through the case of chile pepper, set under the Ministry of Agriculture's interests of promoting industrial agriculture and paternalistic food security welfare programmes.</jats:p></jats:list-item> jats:list-itemjats:pThrough the analyses of existing literature on food security in Mexico state programmes, archival work and interviews, this article analyses how discourses on food security shape research trajectories, some of which are inevitably constrained by current market‐based agricultural systems.</jats:p></jats:list-item> jats:list-itemjats:pBy exploring the state's chile research and conservation programme, this work demonstrates the complexity of international food security discourse and its application domestically. Particularly, this analysis highlights the limitations of state crop research and conservation efforts imposed by contradictory agricultural policies. In the case of chile, its link to Mexican culture and diet uncovers an important, but often overlooked, aspect of food security: flavour.</jats:p></jats:list-item> jats:list-itemjats:pIn the case of chile, a non‐staple but culturally symbolic crop, welfare programmes remained paternalistic and focused on caloric intake despite the transformation of national discourse on food security towards the integration of landraces and local cultures through the inauguration of SINAREFI. This case study reflects on the limits of current framings and strategies regarding food security and the need to direct policies towards local food sovereignty to achieve the necessary stability for food security to endure.</jats:p></jats:list-item> </jats:list></jats:p></jats:sec>


Publication status: Published

Funder: CONACYT‐Cambridge Trust Scholarship


sovereignty, policy, security, conservation, food, Mexico, chile pepper

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Wellcome Trust (G101166)