MEXICO – The United States has denied a request by Mexico to jointly conduct scientific research on the health impact of genetically-modified corn, a Mexican government official said, a sign the two sides could be at the blink of a formal trade dispute by 16th August.

Mexico has repeatedly called on the U.S. to work together on scientific studies amid a conflict over the Latin American country’s plans to limit the use of GM corn. 

Mexico buys about US$5 billion worth of corn from its trade partner annually, most of which is GM yellow corn used for livestock feed.

The U.S., however, denied this request and made it clear it will not participate in new scientific studies with Mexico, Mexican Deputy Agriculture Minister Victor Suarez said in an interview with Reuters.

The two countries discussed Mexico’s request, including during a visit by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, but the U.S. will not oblige, Suarez said.

They did not want to establish a period in which the two parties agree to carry out impact studies on animal health and human health. Their science is the Word of God. That is not science, that is ideology,” Suarez said at his office on Wednesday.

According to the US, the country fundamentally disagrees with Mexico’s position on biotechnology.

Mexico wants to ban GM corn for human consumption in the food staple tortilla, which is mostly made of white corn, and eventually replace GM yellow corn used for livestock feed, arguing that biotech corn harms native varieties and may have adverse health effects.

However, the U.S. has argued that Mexico’s plan is not based on science and will hurt U.S. farmers.

In June, Washington requested a new round of trade dispute settlement consultations with Mexico under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which is underway. 

If the two sides cannot resolve the conflict within 75 days, which falls on Aug. 16, the U.S. can request a dispute settlement panel to decide the case. Canada also joined the consultations.

Suarez said the U.S. does not have the evidence to support its argument in a panel, but that Mexico would be ready.

If they establish the panel, we will defend ourselves. And if we defend ourselves, we think we are going to win,” Suarez said, adding that Mexico’s policy has no commercial impact on the United States.

Suarez estimated that between 10% and 15% of foreign corn, purchases could be substituted by domestic production by the end of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s mandate in 2024.

For all the latest grains industry news from Africa, the Middle East and the World, subscribe to our weekly NEWSLETTERS, follow us on LinkedIn and subscribe to our YouTube channel