The Second of Reality Arrives for Mexico’s Anti-GM Corn Legal guidelines


This can be an essential battle for Massive Ag lobbies and biotech corporations however it’s an existential one for Mexico, for whom corn is the cornerstone not solely of its delicacies and weight-reduction plan but in addition its tradition.  

Following months of failed negotiations, the U.S. authorities has escalated its meals battle with Mexico by calling for the formation of a dispute settlement panel underneath the USMCA North American commerce deal. The reason for the dispute is a decree handed by Mexico’s authorities that seeks to ban using genetically modified (GM) yellow corn for human use. Its causes for doing so embody defending the well being of the inhabitants, the atmosphere and Mexico’s genetic range of maize.

The U.S. Commerce Representatives Workplace, or USTR, argues that Mexico’s restrictions on GM corn imports aren’t solely not primarily based on “science” however “they undermine the market entry [Mexico’s government] agreed to supply within the USMCA.”

Mexico is the birthplace of corn in addition to the world’s richest repository of corn varieties. However additionally it is the second largest purchaser of US-grown GM yellow corn, which is used nearly completely for animal feed. That is thanks largely to NAFTA, which eradicated the Mexican authorities’s safety mechanisms for Mexican farmers whereas preserving U.S. corn subsidies for US farmers.

The most important purchaser, China, can also be making an attempt to wean itself off US corn, partly by shopping for from different main suppliers, resembling Brazil and Argentina, but in addition by increasing its personal cultivation of yellow maize. It has its personal set of causes for wanting to take action, together with its ever escalating commerce conflict with the US. If Mexico have been to do the identical, as it’s making an attempt to, US corn growers may have critical issue discovering alternative markets, with huge knock-on results for Massive Ag,  biotech companies and the 4 of 5 US states that rely closely on the corn trade.

A Lengthy, Authorized Battle

It is a battle that has been raging since no less than 2002, when transgenic traits have been present in native maize varieties within the southeastern state of Oaxaca. As Timothy A Smart, a senior analysis fellow at Tufts College’s World Improvement and Surroundings Institute and a senior advisor on the Institute for Agriculture and Commerce Coverage (IATP), recounts in chapter 7 of his ebook, Consuming Tomorrow, “Not solely had the transgene migrated on the wind, by maize’s open pollination, it had accomplished so regardless of a nationwide ban on the planting of transgenic maize.”

Since then the world’s greatest GM seeds firm have been making an attempt to get official approval for the experimental and industrial planting of GM crops, together with maize, in Mexican soil. In 2005, they lastly obtained what they wished when the Vicente Fox authorities lifted a seven-year moratorium on the cultivation of GM crops in Mexico. For the primary time ever, GM maize could possibly be planted within the nation, however solely in areas that weren’t thought-about “centres of origin for the crop.”

This stipulation would later turn into pivotal when new scientific analysis revealed that roughly all of Mexico, together with the fields earmarked for GM crop trials within the northern borderlands, have been centres of origin for maize.

Corn is the cornerstone not solely of Mexico’s delicacies and weight-reduction plan but in addition its tradition. In 2007, a mass social motion emerged bringing collectively greater than 300 peasant organisations, environmentalists, human rights defenders, small and medium-scale producers, customers, teachers, girls’s teams and cooks. They gathered underneath one unifying slogan: “Sin maíz, no hay país” (with out maize, there is no such thing as a nation). Their mission was (and nonetheless is) to protect Mexico’s native maize varieties in addition to avert laws that will apply brutally inflexible mental copyright legal guidelines to the crop seeds they’re able to develop.

In 2013, a collective of 53 scientists and 22 civil rights organisations and NGOs introduced a swimsuit in opposition to the GMO giants. And received. In September of that yr, Decide Jaime Eduardo Verdugo issued a precautionary injunction on all additional permits of GM crops, citing “the chance of imminent hurt to the atmosphere.” Shortly after that, one other courageous choose, Marroquín Zaleta, suspended the granting of licenses for GMO subject trials sought by Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, Pionner-Dupont and Mexico’s SEMARNAT (Surroundings and Pure Assets Ministry), as I reported for WOLF STREET on the time:

In defending his ruling, Zaleta cited the potential dangers to the atmosphere posed by GMO corn. If the biotech trade obtained its means, he argued, greater than 7000 years of indigenous maize cultivation in Mexico can be endangered, with the nation’s 60 sorts of corn immediately threatened by cross-pollination from transgenic strands. Monsanto’s response was as swift because it was brutal: not solely did it – and its lackeys within the Mexican authorities – enchantment Zaleta’s ruling, it additionally demanded his elimination from the bench on the grounds that he had already said his opinion on the case earlier than sentencing.

Nevertheless, Monsanto’s bullying ways didn’t impress the judges [of Mexico’s federal appeals court]. On August 15, the court docket convened to evaluation Zaleta’s alleged bias dominated in opposition to the US company’s authorized swimsuit. Additionally spurned by the Mexican courts was the world’s third largest GMO seed producer, Syngenta, whose reapplication for a license to run take a look at trials of its maize crops was rejected.

Phasing Out GM Corn Imports

Andrés Manuel López Obrador (aka AMLO) is the primary Mexican president in a very long time to have prioritised Mexico’s meals sovereignty. Even on the marketing campaign path, in 2018, he mentioned:

“We purchase over 14 million tonnes of corn. (…) It is a contradiction, an aberration. Corn initially comes from Mexico and it now seems that Mexico is without doubt one of the greatest importers of corn on the earth. This can’t go on.”

As soon as in workplace he started placing his phrases into motion. In late 2020, he handed a decree to part out all imports of GM crops, together with corn, and the herbicide glyphosate by January 2024. The decree loved the help of many agricultural, environmental, public well being and client teams.

Nevertheless it additionally prompted a concerted push again from Massive Ag lobbies and international biotech behemoths, which in the end prompted a partial retreat from AMLO. In February this yr he issued a brand new decree reiterating plans to dam GM corn imports for human consumption however eliminating the deadline for imports meant for livestock feed and industrial use, which encompasses nearly all US corn. The federal government reserved the fitting to substitute GM corn for animal feed a while sooner or later.

In different phrases, the method of weaning Mexico off GM corn would take longer than initially envisaged. One motive for that is that Mexico was struggling to construct up its personal manufacturing of non-GM yellow corn. What this meant is that the brand new decree would have minimal affect on US farmers, no less than for some years to come back, as Mexico progressively reduces its imports of . Solely 4 p.c of US corn exports are white corn, and most of that doesn’t go into tortillas. But even that didn’t placate the US authorities.

Final Thursday (Aug 17) the U.S. authorities introduced it’s formally requesting a dispute settlement panel in its ongoing confrontation with Mexico over its limits on genetically modified corn.


As I famous in a earlier piece, the end result of this dispute settlement panel may have international repercussions:

If the panel sides with the plaintiffs, as tends to occur in most of those instances, Mexico may face vital retaliatory sanctions ought to its authorities resolve to proceed with its ban on GM corn for human consumption. The message can be clear to governments worldwide: suppose twice earlier than adopting measures to guard public well being and the atmosphere, if these measures threaten in any means the financial pursuits of a significant exporter with whom you’ve signed a “free commerce” settlement.

An attention-grabbing working example proper now’s Colombia whose authorities is in search of to renegotiate its FTA with the US, signed in 2012. One of many major bones of competition are the FTA’s guidelines on agriculture, particularly corn. Nearly the entire corn Colombia now consumes comes from the US, whose corn producers obtain billions of {dollars} in authorities subsidies annually making all of it however not possible for Colombian farmers and campesinos to compete, and Canada.

“If I wished to exchange that corn with planted Colombian corn, I might have 1.2 million extra jobs and the Agrarian Financial institution must lend to these peasants and producers, however we might have 1.2 million extra jobs, which is figure, which in the end is wealth,” mentioned Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro in a speech to espresso growers a number of days in the past. “Why can’t I do it? As a result of the Free Commerce Settlement with the USA that [my predecessors] signed a number of years in the past prohibits me.”

Mexico’s authorities additionally seems to be in combative temper. The Economic system Ministry defined that it’s ready to defend the Mexican place earlier than the worldwide panel. Likewise, it indicated that Mexico will reveal: “1) that the nationwide regulation is per the commitments subscribed within the Treaty; and a pair of) that the contested measures wouldn’t have industrial results.”

As IATP famous in a report, the US authorities has demanded that the Mexican authorities present scientific proof to help its GM ban. But when the AMLO authorities invited its US counterparts to collaborate in joint analysis on the consequences of GM corn, they refused.

In response to U.S. officers’ critique of Mexico’s ban on GM corn as not based in science, the Mexican authorities organized a strong sequence of webinars this spring that offered substantive proof on the human well being issues surrounding GM meals. For years, Mexico’s nationwide science company has maintained a public database of proof underlying the issues about public well being and corn biodiversity from each GM corn and the herbicide glyphosate. A synthesis report of those scientific finds is due out shortly.

The U.S. authorities has refused Mexico’s provide to collaborate in an examination of the science, notably in relation to less-well-studied issues concerning the consumption of animal merchandise consumed GM corn and glyphosate. Victor Suarez, Mexico’s Undersecretary of Agriculture for Meals Self-Sufficiency, informed Reuters the U.S. thinks it could unilaterally decide the science of the difficulty.

The ultimate ruling of the dispute panel won’t be identified till March or April subsequent yr, however US lawmakers representing corn-belt communities are already discussing how massive a tribute to impose on Mexico when — not if — the dispute panel guidelines in Washington’s favour. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley has proposed a determine of $4 billion whereas Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer is asking for compensation of as much as $20 billion. Ultimately, it received’t be as much as them, or the US authorities’s commerce consultant, Katherine Tai, to resolve.

“Whatever the quantity claimed by the US authorities, the dispute decision panel can be in command of figuring out the ultimate quantity of compensation, which can be higher, much less, or equal to what the USTR requests, if relevant,” Jorge Molina, a public coverage and worldwide commerce advisor, informed the Mexican every day El Financiero.

Washington’s case in opposition to Mexico rests totally on article 11 of chapter two of US-MCA, which states that the Mexican authorities should deal with all corn imports in an identical means, no matter their sort or use. However Mexico’s authorities is assured it could win the panel dispute.

“We’re satisfied that our nationwide regulation is per all worldwide treaties, notably with the T-MEC, and that the measures taken wouldn’t have industrial results,” mentioned Mexico’s Economic system Minister Raquel Buenrostro. “We took nice care that it didn’t conflict with any worldwide treaty, notably with the T-MEC”.

That is nearly definitely true. And as Buenrostro provides, the February 2023 decree was not a prohibition or a violation of a commerce settlement, however reasonably a primary manifestation of provide and demand forces. Mexico produces greater than sufficient white corn in addition to corn of many different colors to feed its human inhabitants, so why use genetically modified yellow corn?

Crucially, the decree has had no materials affect on commerce between the US and Mexico. Roughly the identical quantity of US-produced yellow corn continues to cross the border into Mexico on a month by month foundation, the place it’s completely used as animal feed and for industrial functions. That Mexico desires to progressively — as in, over a interval of years — substitute GM yellow corn with non-GM corn, by discovering different sources in addition to increasing its home manufacturing of yellow corn, doesn’t quantity to a ban, says Buenrostro.

What’s extra, the principle motives for taking these actions are to guard the well being of the inhabitants, the atmosphere and Mexico’s genetic range of maize, which is a typical good that extends far past Mexico’s borders. And it isn’t as if Mexico’s authorities shouldn’t be giving US corn farmers loads of further time to rethink their enterprise mannequin, ought to they select to take action. As we reported some months in the past, some US farmers are keen to try this:

Increasingly US farmers are already questioning the established order, says Dale Wieoff, the communications director of the Institute of Agriculture and Commerce Coverage, a non-profit analysis and advocacy group that promotes sustainable meals, farm, and commerce techniques. Farmers are starting to speak concerning the well being of the soil, lowering the management of company monopolies, and diversifying the cultivation of meals in the USA, Wieoff informed La Jornada in December: Persons are starting to see the necessity to reassess the way in which we develop meals on this nation.

It is a level that AMLO raised final Thursday on listening to about USTR’s resolution to kind a dispute settlement panel:

I believe that is going to be essential as a result of this isn’t only a Mexican challenge. It is a matter that’s going to assist customers within the US and everywhere in the world. As a result of what we did was challenge a decree in order that yellow corn, which we think about genetically modified, shouldn’t be used for human consumption. It may be used as animal feed however not for human consumption.

He additionally emphasised that his authorities’s decree relies on scientific analysis, together with latest investigations which have proven that glyphosate has dangerous results on human well being, the atmosphere and organic range, and has been flagged as a doable carcinogen. AMLO mentioned he welcomed the dispute panel since it can give a chance to current proof on the matter freed from conflicts of curiosity. Crucial query, nevertheless, is whether or not the dispute panel itself is freed from conflicts of curiosity.

AMLO additionally reiterated his proposal to Mexico’s North American commerce companions, the US and Canada, to kind a bunch of researchers to analyze and decide, as soon as and for all, whether or not or not GM corn and glyphosate is dangerous to human well being and the atmosphere. Presumably, the US and possibly Canada will flip down the invitation. In any case, if such a committee have been shaped and really did its job, it may pose an enormous menace to the earnings and energy of the world’s greatest seeds and chemical substances producers.

In an identical vein, if Mexico have been to start supplanting its GMO imports with non-GMO varieties, it might ship a message to different international locations in Latin America, one of many world’s greatest markets for GMO crops, that there are options out there. And people options don’t provide the identical proprietary perks to Massive Ag and biotech firms as GMO seeds. As talked about earlier, Colombia’s authorities can also be calling for adjustments to its FTA with the US, which the US Ambassador to Colombia lately described as a win-win for each international locations.

Whereas the end result of this commerce dispute between Mexico and the US could also be essential for Massive Ag lobbies, biotech corporations and the handful of US states that closely depend upon the corn trade (onus on the phrase “trade”) and all the general public subsidies it receives, it’s an existential one for Mexico, for whom corn is the cornerstone not solely of its delicacies and weight-reduction plan but in addition its tradition.

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