MEXICO- Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, recently announced that he will sign an agreement this week with tortilla makers in the country to ensure they only use non-genetically modified (GM) white corn while also setting new tariffs on imports of the grain.

Tortillas are a staple among the Mexican people, and the authorities have been wary about the safety of human beings when they consume GM corn, usually imported from other countries. 

According to the president, tariffs on white corn imports from countries that do not have trade deals with Mexico will promote more domestic purchases and ensure the production of tortillas using GMO-free corn. 

However, it is not clear whether the restrictions on white corn imports might push prices up. 

This result is, however, unlikely because Mexico, being the birthplace of modern corn, is mostly self-sufficient in white corn but imports massive quantities of yellow corn for livestock.

Mexico is also in the middle of a trade dispute with the United States over President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s decree to limit the use of GM corn, particularly for human consumption, since nearly all the imports come from U.S. suppliers.

The U.S. and Canada requested trade dispute settlement consultations, arguing that Mexico’s policies are not science-based and will hurt the North American market.

If the new round of consultations fails to resolve disagreements within 75 days of the June 2 request, Washington is free to seek a dispute settlement panel to decide the case.

However, Mexico said it was committed to “constructive dialogue” regarding U.S. concerns and to “reach a mutually satisfactory agreement.”

Lopez Obrador, who has questioned the impact of GM corn on human health, hailed the agreement’s assurance that only white, non-GM corn varieties would be used to make tortillas.

Lopez Obrador took particular exception with the traces of GM corn that have shown up in relatively small white corn imports from South Africa, one of the few alternative global white corn producers.

Mexico imports about US$5 billion worth of U.S. corn, the vast majority being GM yellow corn, used to fatten chickens, cows, and pigs plus other industrial uses. The ban on GM corn for human consumption is unlikely to affect this volume significantly, seeing that it is white corn that is used for human consumption. 

According to a report by Reuters, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office declined to comment on the new plans, noting the announcements would not likely affect the U.S.-Mexico corn trade.

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