“Mexico’s GMO corn ban presents an opportunity for U.S. farmers to supply non-GMO corn south of the border
While U.S. agribusiness groups are trying to pressure Mexico into abandoning their announced bans on glyphosate herbicide and imports of genetically modified corn by 2024, U.S. suppliers of non-GMO seed and grain see an opportunity to supply Mexico with non-GMO corn.
“Could we supply Mexico? Absolutely,” says Bill Niebur, president of High Fidelity Genetics, an Iowa-based non-GMO corn seed company. “In terms of acres, it’s not a problem. Instead of criticizing Mexico, let’s provide it to them.”
Ken Dallmier, CEO of Clarkson Grain, an Illinois-based supplier of organic and non-GMO grains, agrees. “Given time and focus, I think it’s completely feasible,” he says. “Mexico is a key trading partner, and all the logistics of Mexican grain import come through the U.S. It’s matter of planning and market.”
“An unbelievable proposal?”
There have been statements of impending doom in the U.S. agriculture sector since the government of Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador issued a decree last December calling for the replacement of controversial glyphosate herbicide and imports of GMO corn in the country by January 31, 2024.
The U.S. reaction may have been best expressed by Rich Nelson, chief strategist with Allendale Inc. “I almost refuse to even look at it because I think it’s an unbelievable proposal. I just don’t know what to say. I don’t,” he said in an interview with Western Producer.
At stake are 16.5 million metric tons of corn exports—virtually all GMO—to Mexico each year, which are worth $3 billion. Mexico is the U.S.’s second largest corn buyer after China.
A series of emails obtained using the Freedom of Information Act by the Center for Biological Diversitydescribe how pesticide industry lobby group, CropLife America, and pesticide and GMO seed producer, Bayer, are working with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to pressure Mexico into abandoning the bans on glyphosate and GMO corn. The USTR warned Mexico’s Economy Secretary, Graciela Marquez Colin, that Mexico’s actions threatened the “strength of our bilateral relationship.”
According to Vice Minister of Agriculture Victor Suárez, Mexico wants to phase out glyphosate and GMO corn imports because the Mexican government is “committed to a fair, healthy, sustainable, and competitive agri-food system” and to “intensively promote agroecological and sustainable practices and reduce the use of agrochemicals.”
Suárez says the main reasons for Mexico’s bans are growing concerns about the safety of glyphosate and GMO contamination threats to Mexico’s staple and sacred crop—corn.
He cites a growing number of published studies showing negative impacts of glyphosate. “There is rigorous scientific evidence about the toxicity of this herbicide, which demonstrates the impacts on human health and the environment,” he says.
Suárez says imported GMO corn poses several risks. “The risk is that imported (GMO) maize will be used as seed and can therefore contaminate the corn of neighboring farms. There is also a risk—and it is something that actually happens—that the imported transgenic yellow maize is used within the commercial and industrial businesses that should work with white (non-GMO) maize for human consumption.”
He also cites a study showing that 90.4% of corn tortillas consumed in Mexico contain GMO corn sequences, as did 82% of corn flours, cereals and snacks. He calls the presence of GMO genes in these staple Mexican foods “unacceptable.”