Mexico Plans to Prohibit Genetically Modified U.S. Corn Imports
Mexico Plans to Prohibit Genetically Modified U.S. Corn Imports

Mexico Plans to Prohibit Genetically Modified U.S. Corn Imports

  • 20-Dec-2023 3:43 PM
  • Journalist: Kim Chul Son

With the onset of the new year just around the corner, Mexico is poised to fulfill its commitment to prohibit the import of U.S. genetically modified (GM) corn starting January 1, 2024. The decision, originally outlined in a 2020 presidential decree phasing out the import of GM corn for human consumption by 2024, was further solidified in 2023 when the decree was modified to an outright ban for human consumption. This prohibition extends to exploring substitutes for animal feed as part of the broader initiative to phase out GM corn.

Chris Cherry, President of the Indiana Corn Growers Association, expressed the likelihood of the ban facing challenges through a dispute panel under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). He suggested that the involvement of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) in potential disputes might lead to a reconsideration of the hard-and-fast January implementation.

Cherry, alongside Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, emphasized that there is no scientifically grounded reason for Mexico's ban on GM corn. Contrary to Mexico's stance, the European Union (EU) has approved GM corn, historically considered a challenging market alongside China. Cherry emphasized the acceptance of the science behind GM corn in regions like the EU.

Mexico's focus on white corn, constituting four to six percent of U.S. corn exports, is part of its import strategy. The country plans to offset the reduction in U.S. imports by primarily importing yellow corn from Brazil and Argentina. In 2022, the U.S. produced 13.7 billion bushels of corn, with Mexico accounting for three billion bushels, making it the top importer.

Cherry highlighted the significant impact of the ban on Mexico's overall grain exports, projecting a decrease of around 12-13% in 2023. This decline raises concerns about the future trajectory, particularly if the outright ban persists. He emphasized the role of GM corn in U.S. agriculture, citing its ease of cultivation and affordability. GM corn, requiring fewer pesticides and herbicides, offers environmental benefits by reducing the carbon footprint associated with agricultural practices.

Cherry explained that the reliance on GM corn is a practical choice for U.S. corn growers, as it streamlines cultivation with reduced dependency on pesticides. He underscored the importance of the ethanol industry in the Midwest, a significant consumer of corn products, which is expected to mitigate some of the price effects when the ban is implemented.

While acknowledging that ethanol producers will help maintain corn prices to some extent, Cherry anticipates a slight impact on prices. The broader concern remains the potential consequences of Mexico's ban on the U.S. corn industry, affecting growers who rely on GM corn for its efficiency and sustainability practices.

As Mexico moves forward with its ban on U.S. genetically modified corn, the situation underscores the complex interplay between agricultural practices, trade relationships, and differing perspectives on the use of genetically modified crops in global markets.

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