In response to pressure from the US, Mexico has pushed back a deadline to phase out industrial and animal feed uses of corn that is genetically engineered to tolerate the herbicide glyphosate. But Mexico is immediately banning imports of genetically modified corn for use in flour, dough, and tortillas, and it plans to phase out glyphosate by March 31, 2024.
Mexico has been planning to prohibit genetically modified corn and glyphosate for more than 2 years, citing risks to human health, the environment, and the country’s biocultural diversity. In December 2020, it set a deadline of Jan. 31, 2024, to replace glyphosate and phase out all uses of genetically modified corn.
In a decree published Feb. 13, the government of Mexico nixed that deadline and provided no new one for phasing out industrial and animal feed uses of genetically modified corn. Instead, the government plans to work with the private sector for “an orderly transition,” so that there is no disruption in the food supply, Mexico’s Ministry of Economy says in a press release.
The press release clarifies that only corn—not canola, soybeans, cotton, or other genetically modified crops—is subject to the new regulation. More than 55 types of corn originated in Mexico. Mexican officials seek to promote preservation of this biocultural heritage and the agroecological practices of native communities.
Mexico’s accelerated action on imports of biotech corn for food use infuriated US trade officials and corn growers, who have been negotiating with the country for months to fend off a ban. US corn growers claim the ban would be catastrophic for US farmers and the Mexican food supply. They also say it violates the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), a trade agreement between the North American countries.
“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,” Tom Haag, president of the National Corn Growers Association, says in a statement.
Environmental groups condemn the US for interfering with Mexico’s 2020 decision to phase out genetically modified corn but welcome the transition to more environmentally friendly farming practices. “The ban of GE corn is the first step to transform Mexico’s agriculture system from one industrialized, based on pesticides dependent on transnational corporations, to an agro-ecological system that offers solutions to soil fertility, local pest problems, allows crop diversification, protects biodiversity and health of farmers and consumers,” Viridiana Lázaro, food and agriculture campaigner at Greenpeace México, says in a statement.