US seeks consultation with Mexico over GMO corn restrictions

Streaming HUBMarch 7, 2023

The US government escalated its trade dispute over a proposed Mexican border on genetically modified corn on Monday for formal consultations with Mexico on the issue.

The Office of the US Trade Representative announced that it has called for consultations with Mexico on proposed rules that would ban GM corn for human consumption; Mexico says it may eventually ban it for animal feed as well.

The Office of the Trade Representative said the ban “could threaten to disrupt billions of dollars in agricultural trade.”

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Mexico is a major importer of US corn, much of which is genetically modified. It is fed to almost all cattle, pigs and chickens in Mexico, which does not grow enough feed corn to supply itself.

Mexico argues that GM corn may have health effects even when used as feed, but has not presented evidence. If consultations do not resolve the issue, it could lead to a dispute resolution panel or trade sanctions under the US-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement, better known as the USMCA.

“The United States has repeatedly conveyed our serious concerns about Mexico’s biotechnology policies and the importance of adopting a science-based approach that complies with its USMCA commitments,” U.S. Trade Representative Catherine Tay said in a statement. “

According to the statement, “Mexico’s policies threaten to disrupt billions of dollars in agricultural trade and they will stifle innovation needed to address the climate crisis and food security challenges.”

Mexico’s economy department stressed in a statement on Monday that the issue is not yet a trade dispute, although consultations are the first step in that process, and expressed confidence that it can be resolved.

Mexico's proposed ban on GMO corn has prompted the US to seek opportunities for trade talks.

Mexico’s proposed ban on GMO corn has prompted the US to seek opportunities for trade talks. ((Photo by Michael Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images))

Mexico had previously appeared eager to avoid a major showdown with the United States over the corn issue — but not eager to drop talk of any sanctions altogether.

In February, Mexico’s economy department issued new regulations that removed the date for GM feed corn imports to be replaced. Some imported corn is also ground into a meal for use in corn chips or other snacks.

Under a previous version of the rules, some US producers worried that a ban on GM feed corn could take until 2024 or 2025.

While the date was dropped, language remained in the rules to eventually replace GM corn, something that could cause meat prices to skyrocket in Mexico, where inflation is already high.

US farmers are concerned about the possible loss of the largest single export market for US corn. Mexico has been importing GM feed corn from the US for years, purchasing about $3 billion annually.

The new rules still say that Mexican officials will conduct a “gradual replacement” of GM feed and milled corn, but do not set a date for doing so and say that potential health problems will be discussed by Mexican experts “with health officials from other countries”. Will be the subject of study. ,

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“With regard to the use of genetically modified corn for animal feed and industrial use, the date of the moratorium on its use has been expired,” the economy department said in the statement. “Working groups will be set up with the domestic and international private sector to achieve an orderly transformation.”

Mexico is where corn was first domesticated 9,000 years ago, and to protect its native varieties, the country still bans imports of GM seed corn.

Mexico will also ban the use of GM corn for direct human consumption, which in Mexico mainly consists of fresh white corn and white corn flour. Mexico has no need to import white corn from the United States, where most corn is yellow or sweet corn.

The United States has also been angered by Mexico’s limits on foreign and private electric power plants in Mexico, but the US government has yet to take that issue up in the USMCA dispute resolution process.

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The United States says Mexico is unfairly favoring its state-owned power and oil companies over American competitors and clean-energy suppliers. Canada has also joined that complaint. Mexico says it is deserving much of its domestic energy market for a state-owned power company.

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