A few Mexican farmers have grown biotech corn, but usually in temporary field trials and trivial amounts. Permits to grow GM corn have come slowly, often with useless and ridiculous restrictions. We’ve fallen behind on research as well.  This is not a problem of agriculture or science. It’s a problem of politics and government–and one that Peña Nieto, with his upcoming fresh start, has an opportunity to fix.

The spread of biotechnology through Mexico won’t require new spending, but it will demand tough decisions on regulatory approvals. Thankfully, Peña Nieto’s PRI has a tradition of biotech acceptance, dating back to Mexico’s earliest approvals of GM cotton in the 1990s.

Many of us would like to have full access to the yield-boosting varieties of GM corn that are now conventional crops in Canada and the United States, our NAFTA partners. When I travel north, in fact, I’m in awe of what our fellow farmers are able to accomplish with these amazing plants. I’m also jealous that we don’t share in this bounty–and wonder if domestic production can replace the roughly 10 million tons of corn we import for livestock consumption each year. Most of these imports, by the way, are the very types of GM corn we don’t grow ourselves.

I understand Mexico’s reluctance to welcome corn biotechnology with the fervor of other nations. Our ancestors domesticated the plant 10,000 years ago. Corn is one of Mexico’s great gifts to the world.

Biotechnology doesn’t change that, but it does mark an important turning point in the cultivation of this staple food. Either we accept a safe technology that boosts yield, reduces reliance on chemical sprays, and fights soil erosion–or we choose to watch farmers in other countries continue to pass us by.

Mexico deserves better. Peña Nieto must seize this unique moment and do what’s right for Mexico, its farmers, and its people.

Francisco Gurría Treviño is a veterinarian, a former Undersecretary of Agriculture and Livestock and Permanent Advisor to the Mexican Corn Producer Association in Miguel Hidalgo, Mexico. He is a member of the Truth About Trade & Technology Global Farmer Network.