In 2020, President López Obrador stated that his government would work to gradually phase out genetically modified (GM) corn and glyphosate herbicides by 2024. Since then, different agribusiness companies have raised 26 amparos in court against this measure. What is more, farmers based in the US have asked their government to challenge the 2024 target. Meanwhile, supporters of the initiative explained that transgenic seeds can contaminate Mexico’s ancient native varieties and pointed to research showing adverse effects of glyphosate.
Currently, Mexico imports about 17 million tons of US corn every year and according to the Minister of Agriculture, Víctor Villalobos, imports of yellow corn destined for livestock will not be interrupted. On the other hand, corn for human consumption, including white corn used in food products such as tortillas, accounts for between 18 and 20 percent of total corn imports. Nonetheless, the Mexican president remains firm in his convictions: “We will not allow GM corn,” he said this September. Furthermore, he announced that the National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt) is already working on a substitute substance for glyphosate.
Meanwhile, Mexico’s health regulator, COFEPRIS, has not authorized the import of new strains of GM corn seeds resistant to glyphosate since 2018.
US corn producers are urging their government to challenge the Mexican ban on GM corn under a regional free trade agreement. Raúl Urteaga, Founder and Consultant, Global Agrotrade Advisors, warned that Washington could put up a fight over the ban, based on the agriculture chapter of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which stipulates the standard for cooperation between members regarding any individual government’s regulation of imports. Mexico’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (SADER) and the US Embassy in Mexico refused to comment on the issue.
The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), a representative of biotech companies such as Bayer, pointed out that it supports the US administration in taking enforcement actions following Mexico’s treatment of agricultural biotechnology if dialogue fails.
According to a report published by US consultant World Perspectives, the ban could cost Mexico US$4.4 billion over 10 years for corn imports, increase the price of tortillas by 42 percent by the second year and cause significant risks to food security. Meanwhile, the US agri-food sector could see a US$16.5 billion drop in economic output over 10 years.