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Mexico supports the import of transgenic corn from the US until 2025.

Actualizado: 22 feb 2023

The Government of López Obrador and Biden postpone the discussion on imports of genetically modified grain from US territory. KARINA SUÁREZ

México - 21 DIC 2022 - 15:57 ART The United States and Mexico have agreed to a three-year truce in the war over GM corn. After weeks of tension and forced negotiations, the countries have agreed that Mexico will be able to import yellow corn from the United States until January 2025. With this postponement, the intention of the López Obrador government to prohibit the arrival of genetically modified grain from the neighboring country to the north. The Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development (Sader), Víctor Villalobos, has informed that if after that period the country does not achieve self-sufficiency, the issuance of a new presidential decree will be reviewed. "Our counterparts in the United States have considered this response satisfactory, we delivered a document for discussion, possibly in the second half of January, where this issue will definitely be resolved," he declared at a press conference in Sinaloa on Tuesday.

Villalobos acknowledged that, although this government has tried to prop up national production to replace said purchases, they have not been able to advance at the pace demanded by the companies. "We are advancing, but never in the possibility of being able to fully replace it," admitted the official. During the meeting with its US counterpart, Tom Vilsack, and Katherine Tai, the US trade representative, the Mexican government defended that transgenic corn cannot be for human consumption. The pulse for the transgenic grain rose after the issuance of a decree by the López Obrador Government, in 2020, which establishes the gradual elimination of the use of glyphosate and genetically modified corn in the diet of Mexicans. The document states that both the herbicide and the grain must be eradicated by 2024. Although the ban did not speak directly of purchases of yellow corn, a vital input for animal feed in the agro-industrial sector, the ambiguity with which it was drafted it turned on alerts from companies on both sides of the border. Mexico has a deficit in the production of yellow corn for agribusiness, which uses starch and grain for fodder, which requires importing more than 16 million tons of grain per year. Unlike white corn, which is intended for human consumption and where the country is self-sufficient, Mexican agri-food companies depend on imports to cover three quarters of their needs. A thriving business on the US side that was plunged into uncertainty after the publication of López Obrador's decree. Concern began to be echoed last November, when Republican lawmakers asked the White House on Monday to open consultations under the USMCA before a probable border closure to imports of transgenic corn by Mexico. In a letter to US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, politicians at the time pointed to multi-million dollar losses for farmers. This first letter was joined by the voices of US producer associations: "As leaders of corn producers in the United States, we are writing to express our concern about the threat by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to put an end to imports of biotech corn, the main agricultural export from the United States to Mexico”, they expressed in writing. The controversy over transgenic corn divided the debate. On the one hand, both the US and Mexican products warned that the closure of borders to imported corn would mean a drastic increase in production costs and a violation of binational trade agreements that would even lead Mexico to trade consultations under the TMEC. In the other trench, various environmental organizations opposed to the use of chemicals in agriculture asked the Mexican Administration not to give in to pressure from Washington. Juan Carlos Anaya, director of Grupo Consultor de Mercados Agropecuarios (GCMA), explains that this truce is a breath of fresh air for the livestock and industrial sectors on both sides of the border, an agreement in which TMEC played a crucial role. “The reality is that both countries require this trade agreement, in Mexico national corn production has not grown and for the US, Mexico is its main customer for corn. This opening of the Mexican government to present a new proposal is a good sign, which calms the uncertainty that existed in the sector, but there are still many details that need to be clarified”, he mentions. The specialist points out that for many years Mexican producers prefer to buy grain from the US rather than look for it in the domestic market because there is a greater supply available and lower transportation costs. "It is much cheaper to move corn from the United States to Veracruz or the Tamaulipas, Yucatan area, by ship, than to send it by truck from Bajío or Sinaloa," explained the specialist. According to the GCMA analysis, the transportation of imported corn is three times less than the transportation of domestic grain.

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