US-Mexican Corn Standoff

Mexico Tweaks Decree on Biotech Corn, Still Pushes to Ban Using Biotech Corn For Food

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Mexican officials on Monday dropped a deadline that would ban certain biotech corn products from entering the country. Still, Mexico called for a ban on biotech corn that would be used for human consumption but does not specifically ban imports. The move likely will still cause trade conflicts with U.S. corn farmers. (DTN file photo)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Mexico's government on Monday withdrew its earlier decree setting a date to ban glyphosate and genetically modified corn but issued a new modified stance to ban the use of transgenic corn for human food.

The new policy sets no new dates for bans and eliminates a 2024 deadline to stop importing biotech corn for "fodder and industry" in the new decree, "subject to the existence of a sufficient supply." Mexico stated, "Working groups will be set up with the national and international private sector to achieve an orderly transition."

The decree continues to be limited to white corn and "prohibits the use of genetically modified corn for dough and tortillas." In bold, the Mexican government stated this "does not affect trade or imports in any way, among other reasons, because Mexico is self-sufficient in the production of white corn free of transgenics."

The decree adds, "What it is about is consolidating such sovereignty and food security in a central input in the culture of Mexicans." The decree also sets up new research "on the possible impacts on people's health of genetically modified corn." The decree stated such studies will be carried out with health agencies in other countries.

U.S. corn farmers and trade negotiators with the Biden administration have been ramping up pressure for months, declaring that Mexico's initial decree on biotech corn risked putting billions of dollars of bilateral trade at risk with a rule that was not based on science.

Mexico's new move is unlikely to ease the concerns of U.S. corn farmers and others that the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) focus on science-based standards rather than cultural requirements to reduce imports of U.S. corn.

Mexico, in the current marketing year, remains the top export market for U.S. corn with more than 5.5 million metric tons (mmt) shipped and outstanding sales for another 6.5 mmt. Mexico purchased 16.4 mmt for the market year that ended Sept. 1.

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 came back and eliminated the ban on imports of corn on livestock feed but proposed to ban biotech corn for human consumption in products such as tortilla and chips.

In a decree issued Monday, 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."

The new decree "provides clarity in its objectives and regulatory certainty based on technical-scientific evidence," the Mexican government stated.

At a U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee hearing earlier this month, Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., pointed out Nebraska farmers grow about half of the country's food-grade white corn with Mexico being the top export market.

"I understand Mexico has claimed that there are cultural reasons for wanting to ban imports of white corn," Fischer said. "So can you assure us that when you say there is no compromise with Mexico and their attempts to ban biotech corn, that it also includes our food-grade white corn?"

USDA Undersecretary for Trade Alexis Taylor said in the hearing that conversations between trade officials in the two countries have been about both yellow and white corn.

"There are concerns on both and the science is fundamentally the same as it is for many other genetically engineered production that have been studied for decades," Taylor said.

Mexico's latest decree:…

See, "Senators Press USDA Official on Conflict With Mexico Over Biotech Corn,"…

See, "US Ag Trade Officials Reject Mexican Proposals for Biotech Corn,"…

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Chris Clayton