By KELIN DILLON
On Monday, March 6, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden announced that it had asked the Mexican government to conduct phytosanitary consultations to address Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) policy to eliminate genetically modified corn crop and corn grown with the use of glyphosate herbicide from the Mexican market by March 2024 – an initiative that has reportedly left the United States feeling as if Mexico has violated its end of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
The consultations were requested under the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Chapter 9 of the USMCA, revealed the United States Trade Representative Office (USTR), which would open up the door for the United States to make a more in-depth complaint against Mexico under the treaty later on, as it did in the case of Mexico’s ongoing energy policy controversy.
Considering that the United States exports tens of millions of units of genetically modified yellow corn to Mexico every year, and 90 percent of all of corn grown within the United States is genetically modified, AMLO’s stance on genetically modified corn has the potential to severely disrupt agricultural trade relations between the two neighboring countries.
“The United States has repeatedly conveyed our serious concerns with Mexico’s biotechnology policies and the importance of adopting a science-based approach that meets its USMCA commitments,” said United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai. “Mexico’s policies threaten to disrupt billions of dollars in agricultural trade and will stifle the innovation that is needed to address the climate crisis and food security challenges if left unaddressed. We hope these consultations will be productive as we continue to work with Mexico to address these issues.”
According to Tai, the formal consultations requested under Chapter 9 were sent by the United States on January 30 and received by Mexico, giving both countries another 180 days to resolve the matter together before the United States has the power to open up additional formal consultations under Chapter 31 of the USMCA.
However, despite the U.S. claims that Mexico’s actions against corn are without scientific evidence, López Obrador has maintained Mexico’s position that genetically modified corn and corn crop raised with glyphosate herbicide are damaging to the Mexican people, citing studies from the World Health Organization (WHO) about the “cancerous” nature of glyphosate.
Still, the AMLO administration has already softened portions of its genetically modified corn ban, allowing the crops and those grown with glyphosate herbicide to be used throughout industrial processes and in animal feed while retaining the ban against genetically modified corn for human consumption.
The Mexican Secretariat of Economy also responded to the request by the United States for consultations to prove that Mexico is operating within the bounds of the USMCA, saying that “Mexico will take advantage of this mechanism provided for by the USMCA to demonstrate with data and evidence that there has been no negative commercial impact and that, on the contrary, the decree is consistent with the treaty itself.”
Meanwhile, the United States’ issues with Mexico under the USMCA are growing outside of the realm of agriculture. According to a new complaint sent to Mexico by the U.S. Department of Labor, a Querétaro-based automotives plastic manufacturer is reportedly “obstructing the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining of its workers,” making it the seventh official complaint filed against Mexico by the United States under the international treaty.