U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Tuesday that he is continuing to speak with officials in Mexico about the impending ban on genetically modified (GM) corn in that country, adding that it will be important to have clarity on the issue in 2023.
A decree issued in late 2020 by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador aims to phase out GM corn and the herbicide glyphosate by 2024.
The United States could refer to the USMCA to challenge Mexico’s policies if necessary, Vilsack said. Mexico is one of the main buyers of US corn.
“I recognize the importance of 2023 in terms of getting clarity on exactly where we are,” the official said in a live broadcast of a meeting with US state agriculture officials.
“We need to push the issue and this year we will take the necessary and appropriate steps to raise this issue by one or two points as we get closer to 2024.”
Some Mexican government officials, including Agriculture Secretary Víctor Villalobos, have indicated that imports of yellow corn for livestock feed will not be affected by the GMO ban.
US farmers, however, continue to view the matter with suspicion as no official document makes this point, according to a US agriculture official close to recent meetings with Mexican officials.
Vilsack said he told López Obrador during a meeting that an eventual halt to US corn shipments to Mexico to feed cattle would hurt Mexican consumers, particularly the poor. He did not specify when the meeting took place.
“I briefed him on the importance of understanding the role of biotech, the role of production and the connection to their livestock industry,” Vilsack said, adding that an inconsistent message from Mexico on biotech could dampen innovation in the sector.
Corn for human consumption, including white corn used in food products such as tortillas, represents between 18% and 20% of total US grain imports from Mexico. There are still questions about whether those GM imports will be phased out by 2024.