Mexico proposes amendments to biotech corn ban

On Friday, Mexican officials proposed amendments to the plan to ban imports of biotech corn from the U.S. and said they expect to reach “mutual understanding” by January, according to reports.

“There was candid conversation about our deep concerns around the restrictions of the importation of biotech corn and other biotechnology products,” said a joint statement from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai following their meeting with a Mexican delegation in Washington, D.C. Friday.

“The Mexican delegation presented some potential amendments to the decree in an effort to address our concerns,” the statement continued.

Under a 2020 presidential decree, Mexico plans to phase out biotech corn imports in 2024. The move is expected to reduce corn imports from the United States by half, harming both countries’ economies and food security, reports show.

Impact of the ban on GM corn on tortilla prices in Mexico
Impact of the ban on biotech corn on tortilla prices in Mexico (Source: World Perspectives, Inc.)

In addition, the proposed ban would violate the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), and require a legal response, said a letter last week from bipartisan lawmakers.

“Unfortunately, the Mexican government has not fulfilled its biotech-related commitments in the USMCA. Accordingly, we urge USTR to promptly request dispute settlement consultations with Mexico on these issues,” the letter said. The letter was led by U.S. Reps. Adrian Smith (R-NE) and Dan Kildee (D-MI) and signed by 24 members of the House Ways and Means Committee.

The letter also argues the “Mexican government has not maintained a science-based biotech regulatory system for the past four years and is moving forward with the implementation of a presidential decree to phase out the importation of genetically engineered corn by January 2024.”

New amendments to biotech corn ban to be reviewed

The details of the amendments to decree are still forthcoming. However, Vilsack and Tai said they will review the new amendments quickly.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the two sides were aiming to reach an agreement by the end of January, Reuters reported.

“Mexico, which imports about 17 million tonnes of U.S. corn a year, has said the decree focuses on corn for human consumption and that GM yellow corn for animal feed would be permitted,” explained Reuters.

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) reiterated its call for Mexico to “resume a science- and risk-based regulatory approval process.”

Otherwise, BIO said, the U.S. government should “begin taking enforcement action provided within USMCA to give a concrete process and timeline to resolve Mexico’s treatment of agricultural biotechnology.”

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