NewsUSATransgenic corn places Mexico in the anteroom of a panel of controversies under the TMEC

Transgenic corn places Mexico in the anteroom of a panel of controversies under the TMEC

A farmer harvests a corn crop at a farm in Misantla, in the Mexican state of Veracruz, in July 2021.Hector Quintanar (Bloomberg)

For the United States, the changes that Mexico proposed to the decree that prohibits the import of transgenic corn are insufficient and it has once again threatened to take the issue to a panel of controversies, via the TMEC, to stop the initiative of President Lopez Obrador. The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has reported in writing this week that there is “serious concern” about the approach suggested by Mexico and the threat posed by the disruption of billions of dollars in bilateral agricultural trade. The US threat is supported by figures: Mexico is its main buyer of transgenic corn, with more than 16 million tons per year.

The US government has insisted that Mexico’s decision to phase out imports of transgenic corn would cause “serious economic damage” to US farmers and Mexican producers who in turn depend on this input to feed their livestock. After months of unsuccessful negotiations and half solutions, this Monday the US delegation has gone a step further and has put on the table that it will consider all its options, including taking the matter to a dispute panel under the protection of the TMEC. “Today we have made it clear that if this matter is not resolved, we are considering all options, including taking formal steps to enforce our rights under the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement,” the USTR said in writing. The Ministry of Agriculture declined to comment on the matter.

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President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador approved a decree at the end of 2020 to protect native corn and the health of the population against agrochemicals. The measure orders the revocation of authorizations “for the use of genetically modified corn grain in the diet of Mexican men and women” until their total replacement is achieved by January 2024. The ban, applauded by environmental organizations, has aroused resentment in the agricultural sector on both sides of the border.

A group of peasants collect corn in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, on February 7, 2021.
A group of peasants collect corn in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, on February 7, 2021.Mauricio Palos (Bloomberg)

Juan Carlos Anaya, director of the Grupo Consultor de Mercados Agricolas (GCMA), explains that currently there is no market that can substitute US corn imports, so there is great concern on the part of the livestock sector in the face of an inflationary risk derived from a future grain shortage. Anaya warns that the ban on importing corn will cause a problem in the domestic agri-food chain due to the difficulty of replacing the American yellow grain in the short term. “Transgenic corn has been used and there has been no impact. Non-transgenic production in the world is minimal”, he points out.

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Mexico is the main importer of US corn. In 2021, it bought 16.8 million tons from the US, worth $4.7 billion. The vast majority is yellow corn intended for animal fodder and for whose cultivation transgenics are used. Unlike white corn, which is intended for human consumption and where Mexico is self-sufficient, the Latin American country depends on imports to cover three quarters of its yellow grain needs. It is a thriving business, which has grown 86% in the last decade, according to data from the US Department of Agriculture, and which may now be threatened by prohibition.

“The threat launched by the US is very serious, because for the US the Mexican market is very important and there is currently no market that we can access that does not have a supply of corn that is not genetically modified. If this ban continues, it would also be disastrous for the country because we would be fighting over the domestic supply and there would be additional inflationary pressure”, he comments.

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At the end of last year, the Government of Lopez Obrador presented to the US a battery of modifications to the 2020 presidential decree that prohibits the import of transgenic corn as of 2023, with which it sought the approval of its US counterpart and thus settle the controversy. commercial. However, it is evident that the proposal has not been to the liking of the White House.

The director of GCMA assures that the rejection of transgenic corn by the current Administration has only ideological bases, since for more than two decades this type of grain has been imported without scientific evidence that it has caused damage to health. “I believe that they are taking ideological measures without taking into account the productive sectors and what is noticeable is that these issues must be prepared more so as not to provoke this type of controversy where no one wins,” concludes the specialist in agri-food issues.

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