Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has a decree to ban biotech corn imports from 2024.
However, a few weeks ago, the Mexican president eased his stance, allowing GM corn import from the USA for feed manufacture as the country explores substitutes.
Mexico imports about 17 million tonnes of biotech corn annually from the United States- mostly yellow corn used in animal feed products.
Because the overwhelming majority of US corn is genetically modified, U.S. officials feel that Mexican plans put about US$5 billion of corn exports to Mexico at risk and stand to hurt biotechnology innovation.
“But Mexico will still prohibit the importation of GMO corn for flour and tortillas,” according to the decree. This white corn represents about 20% of its imports from the United States.
The step to have technical talks with Mexico is the US’ way of trying to pacify the situation before taking more drastic measures.
The discussions are based on the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Chapter of the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), and the parties must meet to discuss the issue within 30 days.
If unresolved, the United States could end up placing tariffs on Mexican products.
“The United States has repeatedly conveyed our serious concerns with Mexico’s biotechnology policies and the importance of adopting a science-based approach that complies with its USMCA commitments,” Tai said.
“Mexico’s policies threaten to… stifle the innovation that is necessary to tackle the climate crisis and food security challenges if left unaddressed,” she added.
While the USA feels Mexico is lagging in adopting biotechnology, the latter is concerned about the safety of GM corn.
Mexico proposed the ban because GM corn may have adverse health effects, even when used as fodder.
Even though the USA holds that Mexico is an important trading partner, the former holds that GM corn is vital to ensuring food security, mitigating the lingering effects of food price inflation, and helping to address the climate crisis.
“While we appreciate the sustained, active engagement with our Mexican counterparts at all levels of government, we remain firm in our view that Mexico’s current biotechnology trajectory is not grounded in science, which is the foundation of USMCA,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Representatives from the corn industry in the USA support the country’s position and the step to initiate talks to resolve the import dispute.
“We are pleased USTR is taking the next step to hold Mexican officials accountable for the commitments they made under USMCA, which include accepting both biotech and non-biotech commodities,” said Tom Haag, president of the National Corn Growers Association.
“We support this action because it will likely be the most expedient way to ensure that a positive relationship continues,” Ryan LeGrand, CEO US Grains Council, added.