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Daily News Blog

20
Mar

Mexico Ban on Genetically Engineered Corn Imports Spurs Challenge from U.S. and Canada under Trade Agreement

A report unpacks the ecosystem and wildlife health impacts of genetically engineered (GE) corn in the context of Mexico’s import ban as of 2023.

(Beyond Pesticides, March 20, 2024) A report by CBAN unpacks the ecosystem and wildlife health impacts of genetically engineered (GE) corn in the context of Mexico’s 2023 decision to stop its importation into the country. The phase out of genetically modified (GM) corn imports into Mexico was immediately challenged by the U.S. and Canadian governments as a trade violation under the 2020 U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as the primary vehicle for North American trade policy. In August 2023, the U.S. Trade Representative set up a dispute settlement panel under USMCA to stop Mexico from going forward with its ban. There has been no public update from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative as of this writing.

The CBAN report highlights the scientific rationale underpinning Mexico’s decision to “safeguard the integrity of native corn from GM contamination and to protect human health” with this ban. In 2020, Mexico announced a four-year phase-out of the weed killer glyphosate, which along with other petrochemical herbicides is integral to GM corn production. When Mexico’s Minister of the Environment announced the phase-out, he said it is part of an effort to transform the country’s food system to one that is “safer, healthier and more respectful of the environment (más seguro, más sano y respetuoso con el medio ambiente).” The Minister said that Mexico would be looking to Indigenous farming practices as an alternative. In addition to traditional agriculture, Beyond Pesticides points to organic agricultural practices as a systems approach that simultaneously prohibits the use of toxic petrochemical pesticides such as glyphosate and genetically engineered crops.

The CBAN report explains the background on the USMCA trade deal:

“The United States and Canada are challenging the measures in Mexico’s Presidential Decree of February 13, 2023 that pertain to the use of genetically modified [corn]:

  • [A]n immediate ban on the use of GM corn for human consumption (white corn intended for use in dough and tortillas);
  • [T]he revocation of existing GM corn authorizations and a halt to future approvals; and
  • [A] phase-out of the use of GM corn for animal feed and processed food ingredients.

Mexico’s decree also phases out the use of the herbicide glyphosate but this measure is not being challenged by the US and Canada. Mexico already bans the cultivation of GM corn.”

The USMCA was adopted with the stated goal of creating “a more balanced environment for trade, will support high-paying jobs for Americans, and will grow the North American economy.”

In deciding to ban GE corn, Mexico compiled a database of scientific studies that document the health impacts to insects, pollinators, and animals fed GE corn, as well as the adverse health impacts of glyphosate on humans. In addition to herbicide-tolerant GE crops, the CBAN report states, “Most GM corn plants are genetically modified to kill insect pests. The GM plants express a toxin from the soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that is known to harm the guts of specific types of insects but not others. Farmers have long used Bt as a spray to kill pests but the Bt toxins in GM crops are different from this natural Bt in structure, function, and biological effects.” The report continues, “In fact, peer-reviewed studies across the scientific literature continue to find that Bt toxins in GM plants can harm insects (spiders, wasps, ladybugs, and lacewings, for example) that are not the intended targets.”

Similar to the threat of pesticide drift is the threat of genetic drift -typically pollen from a GE crop field being carried by wind or pollinators like honey bees, which are known to travel six miles or further. The National Organic Standards Board, in a unanimous vote in the spring of 2012, sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack saying, “We see the potential of contamination by genetically engineered crops as a critical issue for organic agricultural producers and the consumers of their products. There are significant costs to organic producers and handlers associated with preventing this contamination and market loss arising from it.” 

Within Mexico, there is over a decade of judicial and executive actions against the spread of GE and genetically modified crops, as well as the use of toxic petrochemical pesticides. As reported by Beyond Pesticides in 2013: “[A] judge in Mexico issued an injunction against the planting and selling of genetically engineered (GE) corn seed, effective immediately, within the country’s borders. The decision comes nearly two years after the Mexican government temporarily rejected the expansion of GE corn testing, citing the need for more research. The decision prohibits agrichemical biotech companies, including Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, Syngenta, PHI Mexico, and Dow AgroSciences, from planting or selling GE corn seed in Mexico.” Then in 2020, Mexico announced the phase out of glyphosate from use or importation into the country by 2024. Mexico joins several other nations that have issued bans, including Germany (the country where Bayer was founded), Luxembourg, and Vietnam. See Genetic Engineering for a list of resources regarding state and local action against GE crops and the corresponding section on Daily News.

The U.S. government and corporate agribusinesses have a history of intervening when other countries or advocates in the U.S. move to ban glyphosate use or advance restrictions on genetically engineered or modified crops. Farmers and environmentalists have taken action in an effort to prevent the proliferation of new pesticide products, including Enlist Duo (glyphosate and 2,4 D hybrid with inert ingredients). A 2017 Daily News reported that: “[A] coalition of farmers and environmental and public health organizations filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for approving agrochemical giant Dow Chemical’s toxic pesticide combo, Enlist Duo, among the newer more highly toxic pesticide mixtures used in genetically engineered (GE) herbicide-tolerant crops. Comprised of glyphosate and 2,4-D (50% of the mixture in the warfare defoliant Agent Orange), Enlist Duo is typically marketed alongside commercial crops like corn, cotton and soybeans that are engineered to withstand pesticide exposure, leading to problems of resistance and driving the evolution of super weeds.” A 2023 Daily News reported, “British biotechnology company Oxitec is withdrawing its application to release billions of genetically engineered mosquitoes in California, according to a recent update from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.” EPA approved the us[e of] a nucleic acid—double-stranded RNA (dsRNA)–called “interfering RNA, or RNAi—to silence a gene crucial to the survival of the Colorado Potato Beetle (CPB), the scourge of potato farmers around the world. (See Daily News.)

Beyond Pesticides continues to support advocates who are passionate in our mission statement of abolishing toxic petrochemical pesticides by 2032. In the spirit of human and ecological health, advocates in our network believe that organic land management and farming principles are the primary pathway forward to make these toxic practices obsolete. See Organic Agriculture and Keeping Organic Strong to learn about the health and environmental benefits of organic land management principles and opportunities to strengthen the National Organic Program as the next National Organics Standards Board (NOSB) meeting begins at the end of this month. See Parks for a Sustainable Future to learn more about the importance of organic land management principles in the context of public parks at the city and county level.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Canadian Biotechnology Action Network

 

 

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2 Responses to “Mexico Ban on Genetically Engineered Corn Imports Spurs Challenge from U.S. and Canada under Trade Agreement”

  1. 1
    Rick Says:

    Your otherwise excellent report on the U.S. and Canadian efforts to pressure Mexico to drop it planned phase out of GM corn fails to mention that the CBAN report you are drawing extensively from for this article was ‘un-invited’ from being able to be shared with the USMC dispute Panel. The U.S. and Canadian trade officials strong armed the Panel in to revoking an earlier invitation to two Canadian NGOs (CBAN and Council of Canadians) to submit their written opinions on the Mexican Decree to phase out GM corn (which would also have an impact on the use of glyphosate corn plantings and harvesting, in-country and from imported corn).
    The silencing of NGO voices in this manner represents a new low in allowing informed opinion to help improve such a Panel’s decision on matters of concern to human health.

  2. 2
    tosh myers Says:

    please stop poisoning people , soil and the food chain. Be responsible.

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