LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- The U.S. Trade Representative is seeking consultation with Mexican authorities on the country's plans to ban genetically engineered corn from human consumption, USTR announced on Monday.
The USTR made the request with the Mexican government under the sanitary and phytosanitary measures chapter of the U.S.-Mexico--Canada Agreement.
"The United States has repeatedly conveyed our serious concerns with Mexico's biotechnology policies and the importance of adopting a science-based approach that complies with its USMCA commitments," Ambassador Katherine Tai said in a news release Monday.
"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. We hope these consultations will be productive as we continue to work with Mexico to address these issues."
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's original decree called on the country to phase out the use and importation of genetically engineered corn and other products by Jan. 31, 2024. Mexico then eliminated the ban on imports of corn on livestock feed but proposed to ban biotech corn for human consumption in products such as tortillas and chips.
In a decree issued in February, Mexico repealed the Obrador's original decree from December 2020. Yet, the Mexican government noted, "Mexico is the center of origin of more than 55 races of maize. The food security policy of the Government of Mexico consists of preserving this biocultural heritage. Likewise, the preservation of the agroecological practices of our peasant communities, the milpa and the gastronomic wealth are promoted."
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a statement the U.S. remains "committed to maintaining and strengthening" economic and trade ties with Mexico.
"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," he said.
The USMCA allows countries to initiate technical consultations to discuss matters that arise, such as the dispute on GM corn.
The U.S. sent a formal written request for the meeting back in January. According to USTR, Mexico provided a written response on Feb. 14, 2023.
"USTR and USDA urge all of the United States' trading partners to follow a science-based approach to biotech products, which help American farmers respond to pressing climate and food security challenges," USTR said in a news release.
"Mexico is a valued trading partner and the United States is committed to working with it to resolve these biotech issues and avoid any disruption in trade in corn or other agricultural products. If these issues are not resolved, we will consider all options, including taking formal steps to enforce U.S. rights under the USMCA."
U.S. Grains Council President and CEO Ryan LeGrand said a consultation is important because Mexico's plans to ban genetically engineered corn from human consumption "undermines" U.S. farmers' access to the Mexican market.
"We have had a long and productive relationship with Mexico," he said in a statement.
"It is our number one market for U.S. corn and we support this action because it will likely be the most expedient way to ensure that positive relationship continues."
Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, said trade agreements are "meaningless" if U.S. trading partners do not abide by them.
"Mexico's attempts to ban U.S. biotech corn is a clear-cut example of a partner going back on its word," Boozman said in a statement.
"We have an obligation to ensure American producers are given the fair access to markets they were promised. Ambassador Katherine Tai and her team ought to be commended for standing up for American farmers and taking the necessary actions to hold Mexico to the agreement they signed."
Read more on DTN:
"Mexico Corn Dispute and USMCA Rules," https://www.dtnpf.com/…
"Mexican Perspective on GMO Corn Ban," https://www.dtnpf.com/…
Todd Neeley can be reached at email@example.com
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