December 27, 2021

Bipartisan Request to Hold Mexico Accountable on Biotech Policy

Bipartisan Request to Hold Mexico Accountable on Biotech Policy 

By: Sydney Sheffield 

A bipartisan letter from more than 70 members of Congress was sent to President Joe Biden regarding the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The letter urges President Biden to pursue a declaration from Mexican President López Obrador that Mexico will follow the biotech provisions established in USMCA. Since 2018, Mexico has not approved biotech applications, which negatively impacts the corn, apple, canola, cotton, soybean, and potato industries. 

Mexico is the United States’ third-largest agricultural trading partner. In 2020, $18.3 billion of agricultural-related products was imported into the US from Mexico. The letter states that over 90% of corn, soybeans, and cotton acres are produced with biotechnology seeds, and the U.S. is the world’s largest producer of biotechnology crops. “As a result, Mexican agricultural biotechnology measures have a significant impact on our agricultural sector,” the letter explains.

Congressmen Adrian Smith (R-NE) and Jim Costa (D-CA) led the members in the letter. Smith stated in a press release, “Our farmers rely on biotech traits to increase yields, improve soil health, and improve input efficiency. We must reaffirm Mexico’s commitment to the biotech provisions in the USMCA and ensure President López Obrador’s policies to ban certain biotechnology does not come to fruition. The Biden Administration cannot allow for such requirements to be ignored by such an important trading partner.”

President Obrador announced earlier this year that he plans to phase out crops associated with glyphosate and genetic modifications by 2024 to encourage self-sufficiency within Mexico. Congressmembers are concerned for American farmers, stating in the letter, “This decree, which is not based on science, is particularly concerning because it signals the potential rejection of currently pending permit approvals and opens the door to revocation of existing biotech authorizations. Additionally, there is the very real possibility this decrease would impact corn intended for animal feed, even if it is not directly banned.”

The letter has support from those in the affected industries. Chris Edgington, President of the National Corn Growers Association, stated “America’s corn farmers are appreciative of Congressional leaders weighing in on this important issue and raising their concerns that Mexico is backsliding on its USMCA commitments. If Mexico’s actions go unchecked U.S. corn farmers run the risk of having to choose between losing what is typically our largest and most reliable export market or losing access to important production tools and innovation that are critical for deploying sustainable production practices.” 

House members requested that President Biden “use the enforcement tools made available under the USMCA to hold Mexico accountable” if President Obrador and the government do not stand by the biotechnology provisions expressed in USMCA. 

Read the full letter here.