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Mexico scraps biotech corn deadline for animal feed, industrial use

New government decree eliminates January 2024 as the date for Mexico to forbid genetically modified corn.

2 Lisa Selfie December 2020 Headshot

On February 13, Mexico discarded a deadline to ban genetically modified (GM) corn for animal feed and industrial use amid trade tensions with the U.S., but retained plans to prohibit use of the grain for human consumption as well as the herbicide glyphosate.

According to reports, 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.

The change provides some relief to U.S. farmers, given that most corn exports to Mexico are of the yellow variety, primarily used as livestock feed, while Mexico grows its own white corn, used for tortillas and other dishes.

Mexico is the U.S.’s second-largest export market, buying about 17 million tonnes of mostly GM yellow corn from the U.S. annually, most of which is used for animal feed.

Mexico said it still plans to revoke and refrain from granting new authorizations for GM corn for human consumption, which the decree defined as flour, dough or tortilla made from the grain. The ban does not apply to GM corn used in the industrial manufacturing of products like cosmetics, textiles and paper, the decree said.

Decree has been a sticking point in trade relations between U.S., Mexico

The proposed ban has been contentious since President Andres Manuel López Obrador announced it in 2020. In November 2022, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack threatened the U.S. could consider legal steps under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade pact.

Soon after, López Obrador said he was seeking a deal with Washington, which could include extending the transition. Doug McKalip, the new U.S. agriculture trade chief, who previously served as the top trade adviser to Vilsack, said delays and more exceptions would not resolve "the underlying problem, which is that the science ought to drive the decisions on these products."

Last week, McKalip told Reuters that he had given Mexico until February 14 to respond to a request to explain the science behind Mexico's planned bans.

Related reading

Vilsack: No compromise with Mexico on biotech corn

Mexico to rework GMO corn ban

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