Mexico Could Modify GM Corn Ban to Appease US, Canada and Avoid Tariffs

The country’s Agriculture Minister Víctor Villalobos said the government could modify the decree banning genetically modified corn imports in a bid to prevent the US and Canada from imposing tariffs

Víctor Villalobos
September 06, 2023 | 03:00 PM

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Mexico City — Mexico could modify the presidential decree that bans the import of genetically modified (GM) corn as a way to conciliate with its partners in the United States-Canada-Mexico free trade agreement (USMCA), and to avoid the dispute settlement panel set up under the agreement from touching tariffs, Mexico’s Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Victor Villalobos told Bloomberg Línea.

Villalobos stated that, personally, he regrets the fact that Mexico had reached the dispute settlement panel, however, once this mechanism of the USMCA was activated, the format of the panel should be used to present positions and reach a resolution, he added.

In the course of this process, Villalobos hopes that the panel will not necessarily reach a conclusion that could have possible implications for tariffs on Mexican products, he said in an interview following his participation in the annual convention of the American Society of Mexico.

“I hope we do not reach that level (of tariffs), we are hopeful that through these discussions we can reach a conciliation regarding the positions.”

Víctor Villalobos, Mexico's agriculture minister

Asked whether reaching a conciliation would imply a possible modification to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s decree that bans the import of transgenic corn, or even withdrawing the decree, Villalobos said that could be part of the conciliation.


“Yes, it could be part of it [modifying or withdrawing the decree], at the end of the day I am pleased that the president has expressed that he will agree with the recommendations that the panel may make, so I believe that this is a way for the president to express that he is open to what comes out of the panel’s discussions.”

Víctor Villalobos

On August 17, the United States challenged the measures set forth in Mexico’s February 13, 2023 decree, specifically the ban on the use of biotech corn in tortillas or dough, and the instruction to Mexican government agencies to gradually replace - that is, ban - the use of biotech corn in all products for human consumption and animal feed.

In Washington’s view, Mexico’s measures are not based on science and undermine the market access it agreed to provide in the USMCA.

The National Union of Poultry Farmers, which groups egg and chicken producers in Mexico, has said that the presidential decree does not guarantee access to transgenic corn or its future use despite the fact that its importation is permitted, and therefore considers it necessary to modify the decree to eliminate restrictions for livestock use.


The national livestock sector consumes more than 13.5 million tons of biotech corn per year and about 78% of the total is imported.

Villalobos commented that the debate that arises in the dispute settlement panel will be based on scientific knowledge and at the end of the day the positions will have to be presented.

In that sense, he said that, during the consultation period, that is, prior to the request for the panel by the United States and Canada, there were some consultations coordinated by the National Council of Humanities, Sciences and Technologies (Conahcyt), which will contribute to the positions not only of Mexico but also of the counterparts.

The official said that the Ministry of Economy and the Conahcyt are the government agencies that will participate in the panel, since the challenge of the commercial partners falls in the environmental and health nature due to the consumption of human consumption of transgenic corn.

He explained that the ministry of agriculture does not participate directly in the panel since the second decree published by the President in which GM yellow corn for animal consumption and for agribusiness was no longer included in the decree.