Seed World

U.S. Requests USMCA Dispute Settlement Consultation on Mexico’s Biotech Measures

On Friday, June 2, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced that the U.S. has requested dispute settlement consultations with Mexico under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), according to a release. The consultations are in regard to Mexican measures concerning products of agricultural biotechnology — a prime example being the ongoing ban of GM corn.

“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,” said Tai in the release. “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.”

The consultations measures set out in the latest update to Mexico’s decree — one released Feb. 13, 2023 — specifically, prohibits the use of biotechnology corn in tortillas or dough. The instruction to Mexican government agencies also is to gradually substitute the use of biotechnology in corn in all products for human consumption and for animal feed.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) says though this is a “gradual substitute” of GM corn out of these products, it will eventually become a ban of the use of biotechnology corn in the products.

“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,” the release says.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says that USDA is in full support of the USTR’s request for USMCA to intervene.

“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,” said Secretary Vilsack. “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.”

ASTA Praises Announcement

The American Seed Trade Association (ASTA), who’s been actively participating in and looking for solutions to the GM corn ban in Mexico, praised the decision by the USTR on Friday.

“The United States has a long track record demonstrating the safe commercialization of biotechnology crops, which contribute to agricultural sustainability and support food security in both Mexico and the United States,” ASTA said in a release. “Mexico’s recent actions have undermined the longstanding bilateral trade relationship between the United States and Mexico in these products, as well as Mexico’s own commitments under USMCA. The unpredictability resulting from Mexico’s current policies has eroded trust, delayed innovation, and threatens to increase costs to the detriment of U.S. farmers, U.S. businesses, and Mexican consumers alike.

“Farmers worldwide have adopted agricultural biotechnology products, due to the economic and environmental benefits that these innovations have delivered in a range of environments, countries, and contexts,” ASTA added. “These products not only deserve a level playing field globally, but are necessary to ensure that we can meet the sustainability and food security needs of a growing global population. The United States’ announcement sends a strong signal that we expect our trade partners to follow science- and risk-based policies.”