U.S. farmers say they can meet Mexico’s needs for non-GMO corn
Mexico plans to contract with farmers in the U.S., Argentina, and Brazil to buy non-GMO yellow corn as the country moves closer to its scheduled ban of genetically modified corn in 2024, according to the country’s deputy agriculture minister, Victor Suárez.
Mexico to increase non-GMO corn production by 6 million tons
In an interview with Reuters, Suárez said Mexico is on schedule to cut its U.S. imports of yellow corn, used primarily for animal feed, by nearly half. The government is working to make agreements with the country’s corn growers to increase yellow corn production to 6 million tons.
“We do believe that we will achieve it,” Suárez said.
Mexico currently imports some 17 million tons of U.S. corn each year, most of it is yellow GMO corn.
Mexico is relying on its small- and medium-scale farmers who show significant growth potential in their yields per acre, Suárez says.
To make up the other 50%, Suárez says Mexico will look to contract with farmers in other countries, including the U.S., to grow non-GMO corn.
Last year, The Organic & Non-GMO Report described how U.S. farmers and grain suppliers said they can meet Mexico’s need for non-GMO corn.
Ken Dallmier, CEO of Clarkson Grain, an Illinois-based supplier of organic and non-GMO grains, said that the U.S. could supply Mexico with all the non-GMO corn it needs.
“Given time and focus, I think it’s completely feasible,” he said. “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.”
U.S. could supply Mexico non-GMO corn “with no problem”
Graham Christensen, a fifth-generation farmer in Lyons, Nebraska, said he would be eager to supply Mexico.
“I think that would be a good idea,” says Christensen, who grows non-GMO corn and soybeans. “If their farmers aren’t able to produce enough themselves and they need extra, that would be an ideal market to move that grain down south. There are a lot of farmers up here who could easily transition to non-GMO corn, and there are a lot of us that are looking for a solid marketplace.”
Chris Wiegert, chief supply chain officer at Healthy Food Ingredients, says the U.S. could supply Mexico’s need for non-GMO corn “with no problem” though he said the supply of non-GMO corn seed would need to be ramped up and that farmers would need to be paid a premium to grow non-GMO.
Dallmier says securing enough non-GMO seed will be a challenge, and there will be added costs.
“The non-GMO corn will need to be segregated from the commodity stream, which will increase farm gate, GMO testing fees, and segregated transport costs that will be passed onto Mexican customers,” he says.
Prices for non-GMO corn in October ranged between $7.55 and $7.80 per bushel according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture while prices for conventional/GMO corn were $6.97. This means farmers earned a per bushel premium of $.55 to $.80 for non-GMO corn.
Mexico is “under no obligation” to buy GMO corn
In December 2020, Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador issued a decree calling for bans on controversial glyphosate herbicide and imports of GMO corn in the country by January 31, 2024. He recently reiterated his country’s stance, telling Reuters: “We do not want GM… We are a sovereign free country.”
Vice Minister 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.
The U.S. response to the proposed bans has been—bullying. Agribusiness groups are angry that the U.S. could lose a multi-billion-dollar market for GMO corn—even if it gains a market for non-GMO corn. According to a doom and gloom, agribusiness commissioned report by World Perspectives, Inc., the U.S. corn farming sector would lose $13.61 billion over a 10-year period due to the bans. As a result, the National Corn Growers Association wants the U.S. Trade Representative to launch a dispute proceeding under the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement.
The group’s president Tom Haag wrote an editorial for The Hill, stating: “If the decree is enacted, the negative impact will be felt by farmers in the U.S. and by the people of Mexico. We’re now looking to the Biden administration to intervene to ensure that corn exports to Mexico don’t come to a sudden stop.”
Agribusiness groups argue that Mexico’s bans violate the USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement). But Karen Hansen-Kuhn, program director at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, says that’s not true.
“The language that’s in the agreement says they should exchange information on agricultural biotechnology, but I would say it would be a pretty hard case to make that this is a violation of what’s in the USMCA,” Hansen-Kuhn says.
Suárez also says Mexico’s decree doesn’t violate the USMCA, saying that the country was “under no obligation to buy and grow GM corn.”
“At the end of the day, this is about sovereignty and not about biology or economics,” Dallmier says
(Additional source: Reuters)