USDA warns Mexico of legal action over biotech corn ban

During their meeting yesterday in Mexico, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warned Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of legal action if he goes forward with his plans to outlaw the import of genetically modified corn from the United States by 2024.

“I emphasized in no uncertain terms that—absent acceptable resolution of the issue—the U.S. Government would be forced to consider all options, including taking formal steps to enforce our legal rights under the USMCA (trade agreement),” Secretary Vilsack said via Twitter (and later an official statement).


Nonetheless, Secretary Vilsack said some progress had been achieved, noting President Lopez Obrador’s recognition of the value of yellow corn for Mexico’s food security and his pledge to put out a procedure for discussion and exchange on the safety of biotech goods.

The 2020 Mexican presidential directive to gradually ban biotech corn imports might reduce corn imports from the United States by half, harming both countries’ economies and food security. U.S. Senators from Iowa joined the chorus of those calling for legal action earlier this month.

Asserting legal action has been a priority for the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO). The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) should be upheld at all costs, according to BIO, and banning the import of corn from the United States would be a breach of that agreement.

BIO has previously urged the Biden administration to pressure Mexico to reverse its decision and “return to timely and science-based risk assessments of biotech traits for agricultural products, consistent with its international obligations.”

“While we do not have a solution in hand, we will continue to engage with Mexico on this important issue,” Secretary Vilsack said yesterday.

Mexico’s corn ban is evidence of the need for agricultural trade negotiator

BIO, along with agricultural organizations and some of its members, has urged U.S. Senate leaders to approve two key administration officials: Doug McKalip as the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s chief agricultural negotiator, and Alexis Taylor as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs.

“Despite unanimous support by the committees and widespread and bipartisan support, the Senate has yet to confirm these highly skilled candidates,” wrote Farmers for Free Trade in a Nov. 28 letter. The Agriculture and Finance committees approved the nominations in September. “American agriculture needs experienced leaders representing us in international negotiations,” the groups added.

BIO has urged the Senate to confirm McKalip and Taylor.

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