A decree from Mexico’s government said they would ban GMO corn imports from the U.S. by January 2024. However, the government accelerated that timeline by implementing a partial ban on GMO corn for certain food uses on February 17.
Brian Kuehl, executive director of Farmers for Free Trade, says it’s a confusing situation. “On one hand, they seem to be walking back from the idea that they would prohibit GMO corn used for commercial purposes, so for feed or fuel, which is 80 percent of our corn exports. So that’s the good news. But the bad news is 20 percent of our corn exports to Mexico are for food, and they’ve just thrown a big monkey wrench in the works.”
If the ban is allowed to stand, anyone wanting to ship corn into Mexico will have to start over. Kuehl; “Mexico is saying people are going to have to reapply for the export permits that allow the corn to come into Mexico for food use, which means farmers who have corn in the bins here in the U.S. or who are trying to decide to plant this year, all of that’s now in turmoil because no one knows exactly what’s going to happen, and the risks are pretty substantial.”
He says this goes against everything in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement; “They’re risking a pretty significant trade war with the United States based on the fact that Obrador put his signature on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement. And the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement commits the three countries – U.S., Mexico, and Canada – to science-based standards, and it does not appear that Mexico is using science space standards here. It looks like they’re saying, well, we don’t like GMOs, and therefore we’re going to start interfering with your exports. And that’s not allowed under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement.”
If the full ban goes into effect, it will cost U.S. farmers a lot of money. But the impact won’t stop there according to Kuehl.
“We, in 2021, exported $4.7 billion dollars of corn to Mexico, so your low-end estimate would be 20 percent of that. So, just for rounding purposes, let’s say a billion dollars of corn is affected. But of course, the impacts are much bigger than that because you talk about supply chain disruption. If a farmer planted in 2021, let’s just say, and they still have corn in the bin, can that corn be put into a supply chain that ultimately ends up in Mexico? Well, no. And corn is not like selling an avocado, where you can trace where the avocado is going. I mean, corn gets blended in from multiple different farms and will go down to Mexico, and Mexico potentially will block it.”