Mexico Adjusts Biotech Corn Ban as U.S. Considers Next Steps

This article is taken from the National Grain and Feed Association's Feb. 17 newsletter.

In a Feb. 13 government decree, Mexico lifted its January 2024 deadline for banning imports of biotech corn for animal feed and industrial uses. However, the country will move forward with a ban on biotech corn for human consumption.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador initially issued a decree in 2020 to phase out using and importing any genetically modified corn and other products by Jan. 31, 2024.

“Regarding the use of genetically modified corn for animal feed and industrial use, the date for prohibiting its use has been eliminated,” Mexico’s Economy Department said, noting the decree “prohibits the use of genetically modified corn for dough and tortillas.”

The decree also said Mexico will continue its plan to revoke authorizations and permits for the herbicide glyphosate with a transition period in effect until March 31, 2024.

Mexico is the largest destination for U.S. corn exports (followed by China), accounting for 27 percent of all U.S. corn exports in marketing year 2021/22 in terms of volume, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service. About 20 percent of the corn Mexico imports from the United States is used for human food products.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack expressed disappointment in Mexico’s announcement in a Feb. 14 statement. “The U.S. 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 U.S. and Mexican producers,” he said.

“We are carefully reviewing the details of the new decree and intend to work with USTR [the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative] to ensure our science-based, rules-based commitment remains firm.”

U.S. officials had given the Mexican government until Feb. 14 to explain the science behind its proposed bans.

USTR Chief Agricultural Negotiator Doug McKalip sent a letter to President Obrador on Jan. 30, demanding the country provide any risk assessments, international standards, guidelines or recommendations that support its proposal.

USTR is in the process of “analyzing the responses to those questions,” McKalip said this week.

In a January meeting with Mexican officials, USTR said it would consider officially challenging Mexico’s proposals under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

After Mexico’s announcement this week, National Corn Growers Association President Tom Haag said: “Singling out corn – our number one ag export to Mexico – and hastening an import ban on numerous food-grade uses makes USMCA a dead letter unless it’s enforced.”

NGFA will continue working with other agricultural stakeholders and U.S. trade officials to reach a resolution to keep this market open for NGFA members or enforce U.S. rights under the USMCA.