U.S. must challenge Mexico’s GM corn ban, say farmers and biotech industry

The United States government is under increased pressure from U.S. farmers to challenge Mexico’s impending ban on genetically modified corn that could “cost the country $4.4 billion over 10 years for corn imports and cause major risks to food security,” Reuters reports.

Although it prides itself as the birthplace of modern corn, “Mexico imports around 17 million tons of U.S. corn per year,” with corn for human consumption accounting for between 18% and 20% of the total U.S. corn imports.

Mexico is set to ban GM corn by 2024. As Bio.News previously reported, the ban “acts as a trade protectionist measure” against farmers in the U.S. and other exporting countries.

“The proposed ban will force North American grain handling systems into two streams (GM and non-GM corn), an approach that is costlier, disincentivizes innovation and subjects supply chains to greater volatility,” found a June report prepared by World Perspectives Inc. for CropLife International.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack promised in April that his office is working to ensure Mexico continues to accept G.M. corn from the U.S., and Mexican government officials like Agriculture Minister Victor Villalobos signaled the ban would not disrupt imports of yellow corn for livestock feed.

Nonetheless, Reuters quoted Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador as saying, “We do not accept GMO corn.”

U.S. farmers represented by the National Corn Growers Association want the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) “to launch a dispute settlement proceeding under the USMCA trade pact, which includes Canada and Mexico.”

Last week, the USDA trade nominee Alexis Taylor joined trade and agriculture officials and nominees who have said they plan to engage with colleagues in the U.S. and Mexico on this issue.

“Should I be confirmed, I am very interested in engaging within the administration on what’s going on in Mexico around biotechnology and [with] my counterparts in Mexico to ensure we’re advancing science-based decision-making around the use of these critical tools,” Taylor told a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing.

BIO reiterates calls for enforcement action

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) reiterated its calls for the U.S. government’s actions, telling Reuters it supports the administration “taking enforcement action on Mexico’s treatment of agricultural biotechnology” if dialogue fails.

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.”

In her testimony to Senate Finance Committee on USMCA at the time, BIO President and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath noted that “if Mexico does not approve a new corn biotechnology product… this means, in effect, that Mexico determines which technology U.S. farmers can use.”

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