Corn Conflict Continues at BorderOn Jan. 12, 2023, there appeared an article titled “Mexico Cannot Be Forced to Import U.S. GM Corn, Study Says.” Written by Eliza Galeana, the article appeared on the website. Mexico wants to ban glyphosate and imports of U.S. genetically modified corn. The U.S. has countered by threatening to take action against Mexico under the USMCA. But a study from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and Mexico’s Laboratory of Analysis in Commerce, Economy and Business states that Mexico cannot be forced to accept GM corn exports from the U.S. 

Quoting Sharon Anglin, senior lawyer, IATP, “The section on agricultural biotechnology in the USMCA is clear and does not have enough legal base for the U.S. government to start a trade dispute against Mexico over this issue. As long as the Mexican government has legitimate concerns about public health or the environment, the ban on GM corn can continue as planned.” 

She explained that the pertinent section was written to promote the expansion of biotechnology in agriculture, but that the USMCA does not restrict national policy options. 

On March 6, we saw a New York Times article by Ana Swanson and Linda Qiu titled “U.S. to Challenge Mexican Ban on Genetically Modified Corn.” It read, “The Biden Administration said it would request talks with Mexico over a brewing trade fight.” On that date, these officials said they would initiate a challenge against the ban that Mexico has placed on shipments of GM corn from the U.S. American officials have complained to the Mexican government that its GMO ban could disrupt millions of dollars of agricultural trade and cause serious harm to U.S. producers. Biden officials said that the three nations, party to that agreement signed in 2020, had committed to basing their regulation on scientific research, and that Mexico’s ban on GMO corn did not conform to those promises. 

Quoting Swanson and Liu, “The consultations are the first step in a process that could lead to the U.S. bringing a formal dispute against Mexico. The parties must meet to discuss the issue within 30 days, and, if the talks are not successful, the United States could turn to a separate dispute settlement procedure under the trade agreement. That process could result in the United States placing tariffs on Mexican products, if no other resolution can be reached.” According to USDA, Mexico bought more than 20 million metric tons of corn from the U.S. in the 2021-22 marketing year, ending last August. 

The writers state also that it’s not known whether Mexican domestic corn production is sufficient to replace imports, the eventual goal of the Mexican government. Last year, Mexican farmers grew 27.3 million metric tons – about 38% below domestic demand. One analysis projected that, should the ban remain in place, corn costs could rise by 20% in Mexico and increase food insecurity. 

The EPA has said the glyphosate herbicides pose no risk to human health, but they do agree that overuse can wreak ecological havoc, where natural plant species are not resistant to the chemical weed-killer. Non-government organizations in both countries warned that glyphosate is harmful to pollinators like bees and butterflies. 

Now, the present: On June 2, on, Timothy Wise wrote an article titled “The U.S. Assault on Mexico’s Food Sovereignty.” He stated that the U.S. government escalated its conflict with Mexico over that country’s restrictions on GM corn, initiating the formal dispute-resolution process under the USMCA. With the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador showing no signs of backing down, the conflict may well test the extent to which a major exporter can use a trade agreement to force a sovereign nation to abandon measures it deems necessary to protect public health and the environment.