The United States and Canada continue their campaign to pressure Mexico to accept Genetically Engineered corn without restriction.
Mexico’s battle for food sovereignty took another step forward over the weekend as President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced a 50% tariff on white corn imports.
López Obrador, also known as AMLO, said the move was part of an effort to boost national production of corn and prevent the import of genetically modified corn. The tariff will be in place until the end of 2023, according to the Associated Press.
The move is the latest in a trade battle between Mexico and the United States with the majority of Mexico’s white corn imports coming from the US and South Africa. Under AMLO, the Mexican government has taken steps to eliminate GMO corn for human consumption and the banning of the cancer-linked pesticide glyphosate.
The US believes Mexico’s recent efforts to ban imports of US grown GMO corn will hurt farmers and run afoul of the US-Mexico-Canada “free trade” agreement. In early June, the US government announced they were seeking official dispute resolution with Mexico for their recent efforts to ban GMO corn. US Trade Representative Katherine Tai requested dispute settlement consultations with Mexico under the USMCA.
A panel will have six months to study the complaint and release their findings. If Mexico is found to have violated the agreement there could be economic sanctions.
Bloomberg recently reported that Canada is now joining the US government’s efforts to pressure Mexico to accept GMO corn without restrictions of any kind.
“Canada shares the concerns of the US that Mexico’s measures are not scientifically supported and have the potential to unnecessarily disrupt trade in the North American market,” Trade Minister Mary Ng and Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said in a statement.
The Canadian Trade and Agriculture Ministers will participate as a third party in the dispute settlement consultations initiated by the US government. Bloomberg notes that while Canada is not a major corn exporter, it is one of the world’s biggest producers and exporters of canola, the vast majority of which is genetically engineered. According to “people familiar with the matter,” Canadian officials have expressed concern about prohibitions on food produced using genetic engineering and biotechnology.
When it comes to the “why” behind the Mexican government’s action, look no further than the rise of childhood obesity and diabetes in Mexico over the last decades. Consortium News reports:
Mexico has displaced the United States as the world leader in childhood obesity as diets rich in native corn and other traditional foods have been replaced by ultra-processed foods and beverages high in sugar, salt, and fats.
Researchers found that since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was enacted in 1994, the United States has been “exporting obesity.”
The López Obrador government recently stood up to the powerful food and beverage industry to mandate stark warning labels on foods high in those unhealthy ingredients. Its restrictions on GM corn and glyphosate flow from the same commitment to public health.
We documented that in 17 of the 28 years since NAFTA took effect, the United States has exported corn, wheat, rice, and other staple crops at prices below what it cost to produce them.
That is an unfair trade practice known as agricultural dumping, and it springs from chronic overproduction of such products in that country’s heavily industrialized agriculture.
Officials with the US and Canadian governments continue to claim that Mexico’s decisions to ban or restrict the import of GMO corn are not “based on science”. In March of this year Mexico’s National Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT) hosted an online webinar laying out the science behind their decision.
CONACYT, the Mexican government’s senior science department, organized several presentations from Mexican scientists detailing the health concerns surrounding GM food and glyphosate, which is typically sprayed on GM corn produced by Bayer, formerly Monsanto.
For the Mexican farmers who have been cultivating corn for an estimated 8,000 years, GM corn represents a significant threat. GM corn can spread via the birds, bees, and wind, resulting in cross-pollination between traditional crops and GM versions.
During his presentation, Alejandro Espinoza Calderón, director of Mexico’s biosecurity agency Intersecretarial Commission for Biosafety and Genetically Modified Organisms (Cibiogem), noted that,
“Mexico has a rich store of exceptionally healthy varieties of corn. It is alarming to find that 90 percent of tortillas were shown to have traces of both glyphosate and transgenics. The biosecurity of Mexico is of utmost importance.”
National University biologist Ana Laura Wegier Briuolo, a biologist at Mexico’s National University made it clear that “without healthy corn we cannot have healthy people.”