US seeks consultations with Mexico on GMO corn restrictions

The US government has escalated its trade dispute over proposed Mexican limits on GM corn, requesting formal consultations with Mexico on the issue on Monday.

The US Trade Representative’s Office announced it has requested consultations with Mexico on proposed rules that would ban GM corn for human consumption; Mexico says it could eventually ban it for animal feed as well.

The trade representative’s office said the ban could “threaten to disrupt billions of dollars in agricultural trade.”


Mexico is the top importer of US corn, most of which is genetically modified. Nearly everything is fed to cattle, pigs and chickens in Mexico, which does not grow enough feed corn to supply.

Mexico claims that GM corn can have health effects, even when used as a feedstock, but has not submitted evidence. If the issue is not resolved in the consultations, it could lead to a dispute resolution panel or trade sanctions under the US-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement, known as the USMCA.

“The United States has repeatedly expressed our serious concerns about Mexico’s biotech policies and the importance of adopting a science-based approach that meets USMCA commitments,” the US Trade Representative said in a statement. Catherine Tai.

“Mexico’s policies threaten to disrupt billions of dollars in agricultural trade and will stifle the innovation needed to address the climate crisis and food security challenges if not addressed,” according to the statement.

Mexico’s Department of Economy stressed in a statement on Monday that the matter is not yet a trade dispute, although consultations are the first step in that process, and expressed confidence it could be resolved.

Mexico's proposed ban on GMO corn has led the United States to seek opportunities for trade negotiations.

Mexico’s proposed ban on GMO corn has led the United States to seek opportunities for trade negotiations. ((Photo by Michael Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images))

Mexico had previously appeared eager to avoid a major showdown with the United States over the corn issue, but not eager enough to drop talks of any bans entirely.

In February, Mexico’s Department of the Economy issued new rules that canceled the date for import substitution of GM feed corn. Some of the imported corn is also ground into flour for use in corn chips or other snack foods.

Under an earlier version of the rules, some US growers feared a ban on GM feed corn could happen as soon as 2024 or 2025.

Though the date has been scrapped, the language has remained in the rules about whether to replace GM corn, something that could cause meat prices to skyrocket in Mexico, where inflation is already high.

US farmers are concerned about the potential loss of the largest export market for US corn. Mexico has been importing GM feed corn from the United States for years, buying about $3 billion a year.

The new rules still state that Mexican authorities will carry out “the gradual replacement” of GM feed and ground corn, but do not set a date for doing so and say that potential health problems will be studied by Mexican experts “with health authorities of other countries .”


“Regarding the use of GM corn for animal feed and industrial use, the date to ban its use has been eliminated,” the Department of Economy said in the statement. “Working groups with the national and international private sector will be established to achieve an orderly transition.”

Mexico was where maize was first domesticated starting about 9,000 years ago, and in order to protect its native varieties, the country will still ban imports of GM corn seeds.

Mexico will also ban the use of GM corn for direct human consumption, which in Mexico consists mostly of fresh white corn and white corn tortilla flour. Mexico does not need to import white corn from the United States, where most of the corn is yellow or sweet corn.

The United States has also been angered by Mexico’s limits on foreign and private power plants in Mexico, but the US government has not yet taken the matter to the USMCA’s dispute settlement process.


The United States says Mexico is unfairly favoring its state-owned electric and oil companies over American competitors and clean energy providers. Canada has also joined that complaint. Mexico says it is securing a majority share of its domestic energy market for the state-owned power company.


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