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U.S. initiates settlement talks with Mexico over biotech corn

by Compiled by Georgia Farm Bureau

Posted on Jun 07, 2023 at 0:00 AM

On June 2, United States Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai announced that the United States has requested dispute settlement consultations with Mexico under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).  These consultations regard certain Mexican measures concerning products of agricultural biotechnology.

The move drew praise from the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).

“The United States has repeatedly conveyed its concerns that Mexico’s biotechnology policies are not based on science and threaten to disrupt U.S. exports to Mexico to the detriment of agricultural producers, which in turn can exacerbate food security challenges. Mexico’s biotechnology policies also stifle agricultural innovation that helps American farmers respond to pressing climate challenges, increase farm productivity, and improve farmers’ livelihoods,” Ambassador Tai said. “We will continue to work with the Mexican government through these consultations to resolve our concerns and help ensure consumers can continue to access safe and affordable food and agricultural products.”

These consultations regard measures set out in Mexico’s Feb. 13 decree, specifically the ban on use of biotechnology corn in tortillas or dough, and the instruction to Mexican government agencies to gradually substitute—i.e., ban—the use of biotechnology corn in all products for human consumption and for animal feed.

In a June 2 release, AFBF President Zippy Duvall noted that Mexico’s ban of biotech corn ignores science and runs counter to the framework of the USMCA, which was finalized in 2018 and replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“The import ban hurts families in Mexico who rely on the safe and affordable food grown by America’s farmers,” Duvall said. “We encourage Ambassador Tai and Secretary [Tom] Vilsack to continue pressing forward to ensure Mexico lives up to its obligations under USMCA by allowing fair trade from the United States.”

The consultations also regard rejections of applications for authorization covering the importation and sale of certain biotechnology products. According to the USTR, Mexico’s measures appear to be inconsistent with several of its obligations in the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures and Market Access chapters of the USMCA.

“USDA supports success for all farmers, and that means embracing fair, open, science- and rules-based trade. In this spirit, the USMCA was written to ensure that producers in all three countries have full and fair access to each other’s markets,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “We fundamentally disagree with the position Mexico has taken on the issue of biotechnology, which has been proven to be safe for decades. Through this action, we are exercising our rights under USMCA while supporting innovation, nutrition security, sustainability, and the mutual success of our farmers and producers.”

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