U.S. Demands Formal Talks With Mexico Over Limits on Biotech Corn

This article is taken from NGFA's March 10 newsletter.

The United States requested formal trade consultations with Mexico this week over objections to the country’s limits on imports of corn produced through biotechnology.

“Mexico’s policies threaten to disrupt billions of dollars in agricultural trade and they will stifle the innovation that is necessary to tackle the climate crisis and food security challenges if left unaddressed,” U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said.

USTR announced on March 6 that it is requesting technical consultations with Mexico under the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Chapter of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). In a March 6 letter to Mexico’s Secretary of Economy Raquel Buenrostro, Ambassador Tai said the U.S. has engaged with Mexico on the issue for more than three years.

In January 2023, the U.S. requested an explanation from Mexico concerning its measures banning biotech products, but Mexico’s response “did not allay U.S. concerns,” Tai said.

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. The decree also said Mexico will 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% of the corn Mexico imports from the United States is used for human food products.

“While we appreciate the sustained, active engagement with our Mexican counterparts at all levels of government, we remain firm in our view that Mexico’s current biotechnology trajectory is not grounded in science, which is the foundation of USMCA,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on March 6.

USTR and USDA said they intend to reach a solution through the consultation process, but if the issues are not resolved, “we will consider all options, including taking formal steps to enforce U.S. rights under the USMCA.”

NGFA and 61 other members of the agricultural value chain signed a March 9 letter to President Biden supporting the administration’s request for consultations with Mexico.

“We are disappointed that Mexico’s revised decree maintains policies related to agricultural technology, innovation and trade that are out of step with its commitments under the (USMCA),” the groups stated. “We look forward to these consultations beginning promptly.”