Biden Administration Plans To Challenge Mexico's GMO Corn Ban

According to the USDA, the U.S. exports a lot of corn, and the top two destinations for that corn are China and Mexico. Exactly how much corn does Mexico buy from the United States? The New York Times reported that for the 2021-2022 marketing year, Mexico imported more than 20 million metric tons of the crop. However, that business could be threatened by Mexico's proposed ban on importing genetically modified (GM) corn.

The Wilson Center explains that President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced in 2020 that Mexico would cease importing GM corn by 2024. He cited that his motivation was a concern for human health and preserving Mexico's self-sufficiency as a food producer. Given that roughly 90% of the corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified, the result for U.S. corn growers could be devastating. reported that in late November 2022, Obrador told U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that Mexico would reconsider the ban on the country's imports of yellow corn, which is primarily used for animal feed, pending further study, but likely wouldn't back down on the 2024 date for banning imports of white corn, which is mainly used for tortilla production in Mexico. Vilsack's response: "There's no reason to compromise." Reuters reported in February 2023 that Mexico had backed down from its ban on corn imported for livestock feed and industrial uses, but the controversy is far from over.

On Monday, the Biden Administration announced their intent to challenge the corn ban

The New York Times said that on March 6, 2023, U.S. officials announced they'd requested meetings with Mexican officials about the ban, explaining that it doesn't conform to the policies agreed to in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which establishes that regulations be based on scientific research.

Officials from the U.S. and Mexico plan to meet within 30 days, and if those talks are unsuccessful, the U.S. may levy tariffs on Mexican products to hold Mexico to the terms of the agreement. Senior officials with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative indicated they hoped the talks with Mexico would produce a solution but that the U.S. would take formal steps to enforce the USMCA if necessary.

Mexico's Ministry of Economy said in a statement on Monday that its intention is to preserve the biodiversity of native corn varieties and that the new ban doesn't violate the regulations outlined in the USMCA, per the New York Times piece. Civil Eats says one of the reasons for the ban is a growing concern over GM corn cross-pollinating with native varieties in Mexico, as the growing of these crops has been prohibited for 25 years. The National Corn Growers Association called the looming ban "catastrophic for American corn growers" and says that the scientific community has determined the genetically modified corn currently on the market to be "safe and beneficial."