On Monday, June 19th, Mexico’s president announced he will sign an agreement this week with makers of the country’s food staple tortillas that ensures they only use non-genetically modified (GM) white corn while also setting new tariffs on imports of the grain.
Tariffs on white corn imports from countries that do not have trade deals with Mexico will promote more domestic purchases, he argued, but without saying if the restrictions might push prices up.
Mexico, the birthplace of modern corn, is mostly self-sufficient in white corn but does import massive quantities of yellow corn largely used for livestock.
The country is also embroiled in a trade dispute with the United States over President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s decree to limit the use of GM corn, particularly for human consumption, since nearly all the imports come from U.S. suppliers.
The U.S. and Canada requested trade dispute settlement consultations, arguing that Mexico’s policies are not science-based and will hurt the North American market.
If the new round of consultations fails to resolve disagreements within 75 days of the June 2 request, Washington can seek a dispute settlement panel to decide the case.
Lopez Obrador, who has questioned the impact of GM corn on human health, hailed the agreement’s assurance that only white, non-GM corn varieties would be used to make tortillas.
Lopez Obrador took particular exception with the traces of GM corn that have shown up in relatively small white corn imports from South Africa, one of the few alternative global white corn producers.
“We have the proof,” he told reporters at a press conference.
Mexico imports about $5 billion worth of U.S. corn, the vast majority being GM yellow corn, used to fatten chickens, cows, and pigs plus other industrial uses.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s office declined to comment on the new plans, noting the announcements would not likely affect the U.S.-Mexico corn trade.
Mexico’s economy ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.