Canada Requests Formal Talks With Mexico Over GMO Restrictions
Canada has formally requested consultations under USMCA with Mexico regarding its limitations on genetically modified (GMO) agricultural imports. The request came a day after the US made a similar request for trade consultations over Mexico’s plans to restrict imports of GMO corn and other agricultural biotechnology products.
"Canada will always work with the US and Mexico to strengthen our trade relationship and grow a clean, green agriculture sector," a spokesperson for Canada's Trade Minister Mary Ng said in a statement, as reported by Bloomberg.
USMCA allows for technical consultations to better understand how policies are to be implemented under the agreement. The North American automotive industry has had its own treaty disputes in the form of rules of origin. In that case, after over a year of discussion, Mexico and Canada won their challenge to the US interpretation of content rules for vehicles assembled in the region, as reported by MBN.
The Government of Mexico has put forward an initiative to ban the import of GMO corn from the US, worrying its farmers about the potential loss of the single biggest export market for US corn. Mexico has been importing GMO feed corn from the US for years, buying about US$3 billion worth annually, according to AP.
While Mexico says that GMO seeds could contaminate the country's traditional native varieties and raise questions about their impact on human health, US officials criticize Mexico's plans as being unscientific and warn that any restriction on GMO corn could lead to a full-blown trade dispute under the USMCA.
Meanwhile, Canada is concerned about Mexico's prohibitions on biotechnology-based agriculture and its disregard for the USMCA, though it is not a significant corn exporter, reported Reuters.
The issue of GMO crops has long been controversial. Supporters argue that GMO crops can help boost yields, reduce pesticide use and provide other benefits. However, opponents argue that the long-term effects of GMO crops on human health and the environment are still unknown and that GMO crops could harm biodiversity by reducing the number of traditional crop varieties.
While corn does not play a major role for Canada’s economy, agriculture in general is vital for the country. It is the world's fifth largest agricultural exporter, with US$82.2 billion exports a year in agriculture and agri-food products. About half of everything produced in Canada is exported as either primary commodities or processed food and beverage products, according to the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA).
Canada is the world's leading producer and exporter of canola, a genetically modified crop used in cooking oils to salad dressings, and Mexico is one of the main buyers. Over 90% of Canada’s farmers are dependent on exports, according to CAFTA.