Published: February 7, 2023

Category: GMO News

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By Timothy Wise and Sharon Anglin Treat

A high-level delegation from the Mexican government visited Washington in January to discuss a series of bilateral trade issues, one of them being U.S. government and biotech industry claims that Mexico’s intention to restrict imports of genetically modified corn in 2024 violates the new Agricultural Biotechnology provisions in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) that replaced NAFTA in 2020. Three years ago, the Mexican government announced its intention to phase out the use of the herbicide glyphosate and the importation of GM corn, citing both public health and environmental reasons.

U.S. and Mexican agribusiness interests responded with a demand that the U.S. government threaten Mexico with a USMCA trade dispute, arguing that the new USMCA provisions guarantee their rights to export GM corn to Mexico. Mexico is the largest export market for U.S. corn, nearly all of which is genetically modified. The Mexican government has shown a willingness to negotiate the 2024 deadline, delaying the prohibition on GM feed corn imports, which constitute the vast majority of US exports to Mexico. Industry representatives continue to demand trade action from the U.S. government.

But does the Mexican action actually violate the Agricultural Biotechnology provisions of the USMCA? Senior trade attorney at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) Sharon Anglin Treat did a detailed textual analysis of the agreement earlier this year and concluded that Mexico is not obligated to accept GM corn exports from the United States if it has legitimate concerns about public health or the environment. In fact, the text of the USMCA’s new section on agricultural biotechnology is explicit:

“This Section does not require a Party to mandate an authorization for a product of agricultural biotechnology to be on the market.” [Art. 3.14.2]

Given the rising trade tensions over the matter, it seems an important moment to consider her analysis, which she summarizes here. And to ask industry representatives what exact provisions of the USMCA Mexico is violating.

Source: Institute for Ag and Trade Policy

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Organic & Non-GMO Insights, February 2023