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Mexico and U.S. Reach for January Agreement on GMO Corn Imports, as ERS Highlights Importance of Mexico’s Corn Market

Reuters writer Valentine Hilaire reported late last week that, “Mexico and the United States aim to reach an agreement in January over a pending Mexican ban on imports of genetically modified (GM) corn, the Mexican foreign ministry said on Friday after officials from the two countries held talks in Washington.

“In a statement, the ministry said talks would continue in the meantime as the two sides worked to reach a ‘mutual understanding’ that gives ‘legal certainty to all parties.’

Mexico has a controversial presidential decree that is set to ban GM corn and the herbicide glyphosate in 2024.”

Friday’s article noted that, “U.S. officials have threatened to take action under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), arguing that the decree will harm U.S. farmers.

“‘The Mexican delegation presented some potential amendments to the decree in an effort to address our concerns,’ U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a joint statement released on Friday afternoon.”

In its monthly Feed Outlook report last week, the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) pointed out that,

Mexico is the largest destination for U.S. corn exports (followed by China), accounting for 27 percent of all U.S. corn exports in marketing year 2021/22 (September 2021—August 2022) in terms of volume.

“Given recent policy discussions in Mexico about the merits of genetically modified corn and the herbicide glyphosate, it is important to highlight market trends for exports of U.S. corn and corn-based products to Mexico.

Williams, Angelica, Claire Hutchins, Steven Zahniser, and Jayson Beckman, Feed Outlook: December 2022, FDS-22l, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, December 13, 2022.

Mexico relies heavily on imported corn from the United States, most of which is yellow corn used in livestock production. More than 90 percent of U.S. corn is genetically modified (USDA-ERS). Over the last 5 marketing years (2017/18–2021/22), yellow corn accounted for an average of 95 percent of U.S. corn exports to Mexico when distillers’ dried grains with solubles (DDGS) (a high nutrient dense feed ingredient sourced from corn- based ethanol production) are included.

Williams, Angelica, Claire Hutchins, Steven Zahniser, and Jayson Beckman, Feed Outlook: December 2022, FDS-22l, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, December 13, 2022.

Mexico, on the other hand, grows predominantly white corn that is allocated for human consumption (tortillas and other food staples of Mexican cuisine). Over the past 5 years, an average of 4 percent of Mexican corn imports from the United States have been white corn. More recently, in the 2021/22 marketing year, yellow corn and white corn made up 89 percent and 3 percent of these imports, respectively. This number is up from 86 percent for yellow corn and down from 4 percent for white corn in 2020/21. Little, if any, U.S. white corn is genetically modified.”

ERS added that, “From a demand perspective, livestock consume the largest portion of yellow corn in Mexico, followed by other consumption (primarily industrial and seed), with human consumption accounting for only a small portion of yellow corn. Conversely, white corn is predominantly consumed by humans, followed by other consumption, while livestock consumes the smallest portion of white corn.”

Recall that earlier this month, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers called on Ambassador Tai to start USMCA consultations over Mexico’s impending ban on GMO corn.

And on Thursday, a news release from Sen. Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.) stated that, “[Sen. Cramer] joined Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) in sending a bipartisan letter to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) expressing concern over Mexico’s efforts to ban importation of genetically engineered (GE) corn. Mexican President Lopez Obrador issued a decree in 2020 to phase out GE corn by 2024, an order unsupported by science and threatens to run the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) afoul.”

Meanwhile, a news release on Friday from Rep. Randy Feenstra (R, Iowa) stated that, “Today, [Rep. Feenstra] along with the entire Iowa House delegation, sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine C. Tai demanding that the Biden Administration hold the Mexican government accountable for banning biotech corn imports in violation of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).”

Also, DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported earlier this month that, “The National Corn Growers Association and its state affiliates are becoming increasingly concerned that Mexico will stop buying U.S. biotech corn in 2024 and want the Biden administration to consider launching a trade case against Mexico.”

Keith Good Photo

Keith Good is the Farm Policy News editor for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

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