Mexico to relax restrictions on GM corn imports

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO — Mexico has announced that it is softening its proposed ban on GM corn imports, reversing course on plans to ban GM corn in animal feed after the United States threatened trade retaliation, Reuters reported.

The decision, announced earlier this week, does not impact Mexico’s plan to ban GM corn for human consumption as well as any use of glyphosate, a controversial herbicide that the International Agency for Research on Cancer has labeled as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Other organizations, including the US Environmental Protection Agency, have stated that glyphosate is likely not carcinogenic to humans.

The US government in recent months has ratcheted up its opposition to the proposed ban, saying that a full ban would break trade rules outlined in the USMCA free trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada and could lead to legal action.

Mexico imports about 17 million tonnes of genetically modified corn per year from the United States, mostly yellow corn that is used in animal feed products. However, about 20% of its corn imports from the United States involves white corn that is used in products from human consumption such as flour and tortillas.

Although the revised stance on GM corn for animal feed represents a degree of compromise by the Mexican government, US officials said it doesn’t go far enough.

“The US believes in and adheres to a science-based, rules-based trading system and remains committed to preventing disruptions to bilateral agricultural trade and economic harm to US and Mexican producers,” said US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced in late 2020 that he would implement a decree banning biotech corn imports into the country beginning in early 2024. The overwhelming majority of US corn is genetically modified.

If Mexico had followed through with the full import ban, the economic consequences would have been devastating for US farmers and Mexican consumers, according to a recently released study by World Perspectives, Inc. The study found that the US corn industry would lose $3.56 billion in the first year following a full ban, proceeded by a $5.56 billion loss in the second year, according to the report’s estimates. Over the 10-year forecast period, the corn industry would experience a $13.61 billion economic loss.

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