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'All options' considered in biotech corn dispute with Mexico

Next step for U.S. is a formal trade dispute panel as concerns over GMO corn ban continue.

2 Lisa Selfie December 2020 Headshot

The U.S. will consider "all options," including a formal trade dispute panel, unless Mexico addresses Washington's concerns over Mexico's plan to limit imports of genetically modified corn, a senior U.S. trade official told Reuters.

The U.S. has threatened a trade dispute panel under a trilateral agreement with Mexico and Canada over the plan, which would ban genetically modified (GM) corn for human consumption.

The latest U.S. comments came days after U.S. Agriculture Tom Vilsack said a trade dispute panel under the United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) agreement would be the next step if talks were not successful, followed by talks between top U.S. trade negotiator Katherine Tai and Mexican Economy Minister Raquel Buenrostro on February 24.

Illinois representatives urge action

Congresswoman Nikki Budzinski (IL-13) led a bipartisan letter with Representatives Darin LaHood (IL-16), Bill Foster (IL-11), Mike Bost (IL-12) and Mary Miller (IL-15) urging the U.S. trade representative to keep all options on the table to enforce trade commitments as Mexico considers the GM corn ban.

Illinois farmers are the second-largest producer of corn in the United States, with a large majority of such corn grown with GM seeds. Mexico’s ban is inconsistent with the terms of the USMCA.

“Mexico’s plan to impose an import ban can have long-term detrimental effects to local economies, family farmers and the corn industry here in Illinois,” wrote the lawmakers. “Furthermore, the choice to ban uses of GM corn but not other uses of biotechnology underscores the lack of scientific basis for the action. On the heels of the public health emergency and a war across the globe that has contributed to higher energy costs as well as disrupted supply chains, our farmers cannot afford additional challenges.”

Mexico scrapped deadline for biotech corn in animal feed

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.

The move, approved in a government decree, eliminated 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.

Mexico said it still planned 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 change provided 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.

Corn for food use comprises about 21% of Mexican corn imports from the U.S., according to a representative from the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).

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.

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