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US seeks to halt Mexico ban on biotech corn imports

Corn growers and pesticide makers claim ban violates trade agreement

by Britt E. Erickson
March 8, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 9

A corn harvester shoots corn kernels into a tractor trailer.
Credit: Shutterstock
The US and Mexico are hoping to end a trade impasse over biotech corn through formal consultations.

US trade officials are seeking to resolve a dispute over Mexico’s ban on genetically modified corn imports and the country’s plan to phase out the herbicide glyphosate by 2024. On March 6, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) requested technical consultations with Mexican officials under the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), a trade pact between the North American countries.

The US claims that Mexico’s Feb. 13 ban violates the USMCA. Mexico says it wants to ensure that only corn native to Mexico is used to make tortillas there as part of an effort to maintain the biodiversity of corn in the country. Mexico is home to more than 64 types of corn, 59 of which are endemic, according to the country’s Ministry of Economy.

Pesticide makers and US corn growers are urging trade officials to take swift action under the USMCA. Mexico is one of the top markets for US corn.

“We are pleased USTR is taking the next step to hold Mexican officials accountable for the commitments they made under USMCA, which include accepting both biotech and non-biotech commodities,” Tom Haag, president of the National Corn Growers Association, says in a statement. “Mexico’s position on biotech corn is already creating uncertainty, so we need U.S. officials to move swiftly and do everything it takes to eliminate this trade barrier in the very near future.”

Mexico has been planning to phase out imports of genetically modified corn for several years. In a statement, its Ministry of Economy says it welcomes the opportunity to “demonstrate with data and evidence that there has been no commercial impact” and that the ban is consistent with the USMCA.



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