February 23, 2023

Battle with Mexico over GMO corn continues

Battle with Mexico over GMO corn continues

By: Sydney Sheffield

The United States Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis Taylor and Office of the United States Trade Representative Chief Agricultural Negotiator Doug McKalip, met with Mexican officials to discuss the ongoing battle over genetically modified corn.

In late 2020, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced that his country would ban the import of GMO corn for human consumption by 2024. During a November 2022 meeting with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Mexican officials proposed some changes to Obrador’s decree. The Mexican president later added he might be willing to delay the ban for a year. Those concessions fell far short of American expectations.

The United States accounts for most of the Mexican corn imports. After the meeting, USDA and USTR officials described their concerns with Mexico’s farm policies as “grave”. Read more about the issue in this previous Taking Stock D.C. article.

“U.S. officials continue to engage with our Mexican counterparts at the highest levels to address our grave concerns with Mexico’s biotechnology policies. We appreciate the active engagement between U.S. and Mexican government officials following U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s trip to Mexico in November, and the proposed modifications to the presidential decree shared by Mexico at the end of 2022,” the statement said. “However, these changes are not sufficient and Mexico’s proposed approach, which is not grounded in science, still threatens to disrupt billions of dollars in bilateral agricultural trade, cause serious economic harm to U.S. farmers and Mexican livestock producers, and stifle important innovations needed to help producers respond to pressing climate and food security challenges.”

According to a report, the announced policy would aggravate current food insecurity by drastically raising prices for corn, basic foods, and other critical products derived from corn in the Mexican economy. The average cost of corn would increase by 19% and tortilla prices would increase by 16%. About 10% of the Mexican population lacks access to adequate food and under the policy ban, this level is expected to double or triple in the nine poorest Mexican states, mostly in the south. Additionally, price increases in corn protein, fiber, oil, and thousands of processed foods distributed by tens of thousands of Mexican food retailers would all suffer price increases.

“Our trip further underscores the importance of resolving this issue and we conveyed our continued commitment to strengthening our economic and trade relationship with Mexico. In our meetings today, we reemphasized the concerns previously expressed by Secretary Vilsack and Ambassador Tai. We appreciate our Mexican counterparts’ time and dedication in trying to hammer out a solution. We made it clear today that if this issue is not resolved, we will consider all options, including taking formal steps to enforce our rights under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement,” USDA and USTR officials concluded.