Mexico’s projected ban on GM corn could lead to US legal action

In 2020, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador decreed the country would start phasing out genetically modified yellow corn and glyphosate by 2024, which would drastically decrease Mexico’s corn imports from the United States. Tom Vilsack, U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary, is concerned the declaration could violate the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade pact and met with the Mexican officials on Nov. 28 to discuss the topic. Mexico’s Deputy Agriculture Minister Victor Suarez, said he does not believe the decree violates USMCA because they are under no obligation to buy or grow GM corn.

The following day, Lopez Obrador announced he was seeking a deal with Washington after the U.S. threatened legal action over the GM ban. He said the ban is only for GM yellow corn for human consumption and GM corn for livestock feed would be allowed after the decree, but the length of the extension has not been announced.

Mexico’s reason for banning GM corn is over fear it could contaminate Mexico’s native varieties. Lopez Obrador has also expressed concerns for its effects on human health, and called for additional research to be performed to validate its safety. Mexico is the second largest U.S. corn importer after China and imports 17 million tonnes of grain from the U.S. annually, and since 90% of the corn grown in the U.S. is biotech corn, Mexico will have to bridge the gap to satisfy the corn they use every year. Lopez Obrador’s administration is working to make Mexico self-sufficient and decrease their reliance on other counties for commodities and other necessities, such as energy.

Mexico plans to increase domestic production of corn and is considering direct agreements with farmers in the U.S., Argentina and Brazil to import non-GM corn. Suarez is confident Mexico can make up 8 million tonnes of corn and will not need to import corn from the U.S. by 2024. Corn growers in these countries are unconvinced Mexico will be able to secure enough non-GM corn for its needs. Mexican officials are expected to make more announcements about the ban in the second half of 2023.

Lacey Vilhauer can be reached at 620-227-1871 or [email protected].