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Mexico Softens Stance on GMO Corn Import Ban

Reuters writers Cassandra Garrison and Adriana Barrera reported this week that, “Mexico on Monday scrapped a deadline to ban genetically modified corn for animal feed and industrial use amid trade tensions with the United States, but retained plans to prohibit use of the grain for human consumption as well as the herbicide glyphosate.

The move, approved in a government decree, eliminates January 2024 as the date for the country to forbid GM corn for animal feed and industrial use, a statement by the Economy Ministry said.

Amid a brewing dispute over the possible disruption of billions of dollars worth of corn trade, U.S. officials and farmers had called for clarity on the ban from Mexico. The latter buys about 17 million tonnes of mostly GM yellow corn from the U.S. annually, most of which is used for animal feed.”

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.

Garrison and Barrera pointed out that, “Under the decree, the new measures take effect on Tuesday. A spokeswoman for the Economy Ministry did not immediately respond to a question about whether Mexico would begin revoking authorizations of GM corn for human consumption on Tuesday.”

The Reuters article added that, “Mexico and the U.S. have been at loggerheads over an original decree issued by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in 2020 that sought to phase out imports of GM corn and glyphosate by January 2024.

U.S. officials threatened to take action under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) over the potential disruption of the corn trade.

“The new U.S. agriculture trade chief last week told Reuters that he had given Mexico until Feb. 14 to respond to a request to explain the science behind Mexico’s planned bans.”

Also yesterday, Bloomberg writer Eric Martin reported that, “Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s government softened its stance on a planned ban on genetically-modified US corn after pressure from the Biden administration, offering a concession to try to diffuse one of the biggest trade irritants between the countries.

Mexico is scrapping a deadline to ban GMO corn for animals and manufactured products, according to a decree Monday, the economy ministry said in a statement. Instead, the phasing out will depend on supply and establishing working groups with domestic and foreign businesses for an orderly transition.

“But Mexico will still prohibit the importation of GMO corn for flour and tortillas, as well as glyphosate, a commonly used pesticide.”

Martin noted that, “The new decree ‘does not represent any impact on trade or imports, among other reasons because Mexico is greatly self-sufficient in the production of white corn free from transgenics,’ Mexico’s economy ministry said.

“It’s unclear if that will be enough to appease US industry.

“The National Corn Growers Association [NCGA] has pushed for an arbitration panel under the US-Mexico-Canada agreement on trade to settle the dispute, saying Mexico’s plans violate the deal. Last month, the group signaled there was no room for compromise, saying a ban would ‘deliver a blow to American farmers and exacerbate current food insecurity in Mexico.'”

A NCGA news release Tuesday noted that, “Mexico officials issued a new decree on Monday calling for a ban on imports of biotech corn used for certain purposes, effective today. The decree also indicated the Mexican government would continue to allow imports of biotech corn used as animal feed while exploring substitutes.

“NCGA expressed serious concern with the accelerated implementation timeline.

“‘The Biden administration has been more than patient with Mexico as U.S. officials have sought to enforce a rules-based trading system and stand up for American farmers,’ said National Corn Growers Association President Tom Haag. ‘The integrity of USMCA, signed by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador himself, is at stake. Singling out corn – our number one ag export to Mexico – and hastening an import ban on numerous food-grade uses makes USMCA a dead letter unless it’s enforced.'”

Also Tuesday, Reuters writer Leah Douglas reported that, “The United States said on Tuesday it was ‘disappointed‘ in the Mexican government’s announcement the previous day which walked back a deadline to ban genetically modified (GM) corn for animal feed and industrial use in the country, but retained its plans to ban the corn for human consumption.

“‘The U.S. believes in and adheres to a science-based, rules-based trading system and remains committed to preventing disruptions to bilateral agricultural trade and economic harm to U.S. and Mexican producers,’ Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.”

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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