The National Corn Growers Association, along with a broad coalition of national and state agriculture and bioscience organizations, sent a letter to President Biden this week to thank the administration for beginning technical consultations with Mexico concerning its action to ban imports of biotech corn. The letter calls for those consultations to start without delay.
“We support your administration’s request for consultations with Mexico regarding its treatment of agricultural biotechnology and denying the use of certain crop protection tools, to provide a framework and timeline to resolve this issue,” the 62 groups wrote. “We look forward to these consultations beginning promptly.”
Technical consultations bring leaders from the involved countries, which now includes Canada as well, into formal discussions to resolve the dispute. If the talks are not successful, the U.S. can initiate a dispute settlement under USMCA.
The organizations expressed appreciation for the administration’s efforts over several months to resolve the issue through negotiations but indicated that the results, including a revised decree that Mexico issued Feb. 13, 2023, are inadequate, and now it is time for action.
The new decree, which the groups said drew a non-science based distinction between corn for food and corn for feed and industrial uses, is inconsistent with USMCA obligations. The new decree “continues to limit the use of innovative agricultural tools, extends restrictions on safe crop protection products, and enacts barriers to trade,” the groups wrote, and it “fails to establish a science- and risk-based regulatory approval process for all agricultural biotechnology products and ignores the immediate need to establish a risk assessment process for gene editing technology.”
The agricultural and biotechnology groups reiterated the importance of beginning the legal process to not only resolve the dispute with Mexico but also prevent other countries from following suit.
“The United States must use the dispute mechanisms afforded in trade agreements like the USMCA to ensure trade barriers or domestic policies do not limit the tools U.S. farmers have to sustainably produce food for our ever-growing world population,” the letter concludes. “Sending a strong signal on enforcement will serve as a critical precedent for other trading partners.”
Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador issued a decree in December 2020 to phase out imports of genetically modified corn by 2024. Mexico’s revised decree, issued last month, clarified that the ban applied to corn for food use effective immediately and could apply to feed corn in the future. Mexico is a top market for U.S. corn exports, which are mostly genetically modified corn.