Genetically modified corn has always been contentious in Mexico. Maize, as it is known in most of the world, is the core of the country’s diet and cuisine. The global food crop was first domesticated in Mesoamerica, which now is home to the richest store of crop biodiversity in the world. Farmer, environmental and consumer groups successfully won and defended a 2013 injunction to stop agrochemical companies from planting GM maize in Mexico, arguing that it violated Mexicans’ constitutional guarantee of the right to a clean environment. That right was deemed to include protection of cross-pollination of native maize varieties by GM maize. In 2020, a presidential decree outlawed the cultivation of GM maize and announced the phaseout by 2024 of glyphosate, the toxic herbicide, and imports of GM maize. Agribusiness lobbies in the U.S. and Mexico have vigorously opposed the looming restrictions. For several months, some called on the U.S. government to initiate a formal trade dispute under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) — the new NAFTA.
On August 17, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) office escalated its complaint against Mexico’s ban on GM corn, asserting it as a potential violation of USMCA. USTR filed a request for the formation of a dispute resolution panel under the USCMA framework.
IATP has analyzed the USMCA and believes that USTR is exaggerating the economic impacts on U.S. producers and that the agreement permits such precautionary policies to protect public health and the environment. We continue to follow the ongoing controversy in close collaboration with allies in Mexico who seek to defend the country’s sovereign right to take measures to protect public health, the environment and its cultural heritage.