Is Mexico stalling GMO corn permits?


Mexico is holding up import permits for GMO corn, the head of the country’s main farm lobby told Reuters, saying the government intended to apply a GMO ban to the grain used in animal feed despite contrasting comments by a top U.S. official.

In an interview, National Farm Council President Juan Cortina said among hundreds of agricultural product import permits awaiting a resolution are at least eight for genetically modified corn even though the ban is not set to go into effect for three years.

“They’re not giving us extensions, there haven’t been any administrative changes, they just don’t respond,” said Cortina, referring to delays of up to two years from the health ministry’s sanitary protection agency COFEPRIS, responsible for approving the permits.

COFEPRIS did not respond to a request for comment.

FILE PHOTO: A farmer holds different types of corn cobs in Otzolotepec, on the outskirts of Mexico City, February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso/File Photo/File Photo

If the prohibition on GMO corn is implemented, it would dramatically upend the current multibillion-dollar grains trade between the United States and Mexico, forbidding some 16 million tonnes of annual U.S. yellow corn exports to its southern neighbor, nearly all of it GMO.

Late last year, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador issued an executive order phasing out GMO corn and the herbicide glyphosate by 2024, arguing that Mexico must attain food self-sufficiency without using toxic chemicals.

Industry leaders on both sides of the border have since been seeking clarity over how far-reaching the corn ban will be.

Cortina contradicted the assurance that U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he received from his Mexican counterpart that the prohibition would not be applied to GMO corn used for livestock feed, saying he had not received those assurances, and that he believed the government had no plans for carve-outs.

“Ideologically charged” officials were fighting for a broad interpretation, he said.

Cortina stressed that the lobby would fight against the government-ordered phase-out of GMO corn as well as a widely used weed killer in the courts despite a recent string of losses in the courts.

He predicted that the legality of the ban will “probably” ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.

“We’re fighting this in the courts and we’re also fighting it in talks with the government,” said Cortina, who argues the policy will impose higher costs and is not supported by science.

Judges have so far sided with the government against legal complaints to stop the decree.. However, Cortina said more than a dozen challenges launched by the National Farm Council as well as companies including German pharmaceutical and crop science giant Bayer AG will continue.

Earlier this year, Deputy Agriculture Minister Victor Suarez, a key architect of the bans, told Reuters that GMO corn and the glyphosate are dangerous and growing domestic output and sustainable farm practices must be prioritized.

Cortina argued that decades of scientific research has shown both GMO corn and glyphosate are safe, and warned of “huge damage” to Mexico’s trade relations with the United States if the bans are fully implemented.

Cortina noted that many of the permit delays have also prevented shipments of glyphosate even though the text of the planned ban states the government will first develop an alternative.

While Mexico’s science agency CONACYT has issued guidance on how glyphosate imports will be reduced this year, Cortina says no such guidance has been provided for GMO corn.

He said Mexican grains buyers, especially the country’s massive livestock sector, will not be able to replace current import volumes with alternative supplies by 2024.

Source: El Economista

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