FARGO, N.D. — The U.S. Trade Representative announced today [June 2, 2023] that it is filing a dispute settlement under the U.S.- Mexico-Canada Agreement in response to the steps Mexico has taken to ban biotech corn for human consumption.
The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), which along with North Dakota Corn Growers Association and other affiliated state associations, has been leading calls for the Biden administration to act, praised the development.
“Mexico’s actions, which are not based on sound science, have threatened the financial wellbeing of corn growers and our nation’s rural communities,” said NCGA President Tom Haag, a grower leader from nearby Minnesota. “We are deeply appreciative of Ambassador Katherine Tai and USTR for moving this process forward and thankful for the efforts of Secretary Tom Vilsack and members of Congress for standing up for farmers in such a meaningful way.”
Under USMCA, once a dispute settlement is filed, a group of objective experts will be empaneled to hear the case and make final determinations based on the commitments both parties signed as part of the free trade agreement.
The dispute stems from a 2020 decree by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador that sought to ban imports of biotech corn beginning in January 2024. Mexico issued a revised decree in February of this year that banned biotech corn for human consumption effective immediately and left the door open for a future ban on biotech corn for feed.
Mexico is a top market for corn, the number one agricultural export from the U.S., which has led to strong concerns over how the ban would impact U.S. farmers, rural economies and food security for the people of Mexico.
Given the high stakes, NCGA and corn grower leaders across the country began sounding the alarm last fall and have been calling on the Biden administration to initiate a dispute settlement under USMCA.
North Dakota Corn Growers Association President Andrew Mauch, who farms with his family near Mooreton, ND said that corn grower leaders have been a constant, rational and persistent voice for this action to occur. “This is a first, but critical first step in effectively making the case that Mexico’s actions are not based on sound science and that there already have been numerous studies proving the safety of GMO corn for food and feed use,” Mauch said.
North Dakota Corn Growers Association board member, past president and current U.S. Grains Council Western Hemisphere Advisory Team member Rob Hanson echoed the sentiment. “GMO corn, which makes up more than 90 percent of U.S. production, is a safe and cost-effective resource to help meet Mexico’s growing demands,” said Hanson who farms with his family near Wimbledon, ND. Mexico’s own Health Department earlier this year reported nearly 44 percent of Mexicans live below the poverty line and 12 percent suffer from malnutrition.
“Aside from the serious matter of violating an international trade agreement, there are numerous problems with Mexico’s demands,” said Hanson. “Growers yields would diminish significantly with the shift to conventional corn and the infrastructure for local markets for GMO corn are severely lacking.” Said Hanson.
Mauch added, “We are thankful that our congressional delegation has been prompting this filing as was the Secretary (of Ag) Vilsack, and many others.”
The NDCGA is the farmer-led, grass roots membership organization focusing on public policy impacting North Dakota corn producers. Representing the 13,000 corn growers across the state, its board of directors consists of 14 growers from seven districts, three at-large directors and two industry representatives. Growers can become a member today at https://www.ndcorngrowers.org/.