U.S. ag trade officials reject latest Mexico proposal on GMO corn ban

By Timothy Eggert FarmWeek

Top U.S. ag trade officials recently rejected a compromise with the Mexican government over the country’s proposed ban on imports of genetically modified corn from the United States. (Photo by Illinois Farm Bureau photographer Catrina Rawson)

Warning that billions of dollars in bilateral trade are at risk, the top two U.S. ag trade officials formally rejected a revised proposal from the Mexican government to ban U.S. imports of genetically modified corn for food production.

USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis Taylor and U.S. Trade Representative Chief Agricultural Negotiator Doug McKalip announced the decision after meeting with Mexican government officials Monday in Mexico City.

Negotiators met to discuss and “address our grave concerns” with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s decree to phase out the use and importation of U.S.-grown biotech corn and other products by Jan. 31, 2024.

Mexico primarily imports feed corn from the U.S., which also provides white corn for food processors to use in tortillas and chips, for instance.

“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,” Taylor and McKalip said.

It was the third such meeting in the past three months between American and Mexican officials over the proposed ban, the terms of which have evolved since it was initially introduced.

In a Nov. 28 meeting in Mexico City, Obrador told USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack he’d consider delaying the ban on U.S.-grown feed corn while more studies were conducted, but that he’d be less flexible on imports of white corn, which is used in products like tortillas.

American officials largely rejected that proposal as well as an alternative framework offered at a December meeting in Washington, D.C., between Vilsack, USTR Ambassador Katherine Tai and Mexican officials.

And McKalip and Taylor rejected another counterproposal Monday to eliminate the proposed ban on imports of GMO corn for livestock feed, but to maintain the proposed ban on GMO corn for human consumption.

“… 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,” the pair said in a joint statement.

That move was welcomed by the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), which called the news a “significant development and good news for corn growers.”

NCGA President Tom Haag added that Vilsack and Tai “understand that banning biotech corn would deliver a blow to American farmers and exacerbate current food insecurity in Mexico by drastically raising prices for corn, basic foods and other critical products derived from corn in the Mexican economy.”

In addition to reiterating that they couldn’t accept terms of the proposals because they are “not grounded in science,” McKalip and Taylor also held firm that they might initiate a formal dispute challenge under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

“We appreciate our Mexican counterparts’ time and dedication in trying to hammer out a solution,” the pair said. “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.”

This story was distributed through a cooperative project between Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association. For more food and farming news, visit FarmWeekNow.com.