Seed World

Canadian Ag Minister Responds to U.S. Call for USMCA Dispute Settlement

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau.

Following the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai’s call for a dispute settlement consultation with Mexico under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) on June 5, Canada’s Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau released a statement in response on June 9.

The U.S.’s call stems from a decision made by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Feb. 13, 2023, which would specifically prohibit the use of biotechnology corn in tortillas or dough. According to the USTR, though this is a gradual substitute of genetically modified (GM) corn out of these products, the U.S. believes it will eventually become a complete ban on the use of biotechnology corn in products for human consumption and for animal feed.

“[USMCA] is the most successful trade agreement in the world with over CA$2 trillion in trade flowing between our three countries every year,” Bibeau said in the release. “We have always been clear that Canada expects our partners to uphold their commitments under [USMCA] — including sanitary and phytosanitary measures.”

The Government of Canada is committed to science-based decision making, while keeping food, feed, and the environment safe and supporting the ability of farmers to succeed in an innovative and sustainable sector, Bibeau said.

“Canada shares the concerns of the U.S. that Mexico’s measures are not scientifically supported and have the potential to unnecessarily disrupt trade in the North American market,” she added. “Canada has decided to participate as a third party in the dispute settlement consultations initiated by the U.S.

“Canada will continue to work with Mexico and the U.S. towards an outcome that preserves trade predictability and market access for our farmers and exporters,” Bibeau said.

Keep This Background in Mind

Originally, in January 2021, Obrador issued a decree that would effectively eliminate the use of GM corn in Mexico by 2024. With pushback from the U.S., that decree was modified in February to lax the ban and focus primarily on keeping GM products out of food made for human and animal consumption.

“The Government of Mexico considers, according to many of the statements issued by the President, that genetically modified corn is harmful to people’s health, but up to now it has not been able to prove this,” Luis Alberto Osorio, executive director of Proccyt, told Seed World in a previous interview. “In addition, it states that the decision to prohibit its planting is ‘a special measure of protection for native corn, the milpa, biocultural wealth, peasant communities, gastronomic heritage…'”

“Mexico is one of our oldest and strongest trading partners. Their decision to ban GM corn is not only disappointing, it is not based in science and it is out of step with the commitments they agreed to under USMCA,” the American Seed Trade Association said, in an emailed statement to Seed World. “The United States has a long track record of using GM corn. Numerous studies have demonstrated that GM corn is safe for use in food and safe for cultivation in the environment. Mexico’s recent actions also contradict its previously long and predictable track record of approving GM corn products.”