Canada has formally asked Mexico for “technical consultations” regarding the country’s effort to limit imports of genetically-engineered (GE) or modified crops.
Canada’s request was filed shortly after the U.S. Trade Representative’s office announced on Monday that it was calling for consultations with Mexico over a new rule that bans the use of GE corn for flour production, and potentially for animal feed in the future.
Technical consultations are seen as a first step in the process of resolving trade concerns between the members of the Canada-U.S.-Mexico (CUSMA or USMCA) trade agreement.
“Canada will always work with the U.S. and Mexico to strengthen our trade relationship and grow a clean, green agriculture sector. CUSMA has the ability to hold technical consultations to better understand how our policies are to be implemented under this agreement,” says Shanti Cosentino, press secretary for Mary Ng, Canada’s Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development.
Unlike the U.S., Canada does not ship much corn to Mexico. However, Mexico is a significant market for Canadian canola, most of which is also genetically-engineered. In 2021, Mexico imported around $1.4 billion worth of canola seed, oil, and meal from Canada, according to Statistics Canada, making it the fourth largest export market behind only the U.S., China, and Japan.
In December 2020, Mexico’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), published a decree citing protection of native corn varieties, biocultural wealth, rural communities, gastronomic heritage, and the health of Mexicans, as reasons for banning the import of GE corn by 2024.
Fast forward to this year, AMLO’s government announced a ban on the use of GE corn for human consumption (as well as an updated timeline for banning the use of the herbicide glyphosate) on February 13. The decree also aims to phase out GE corn use in feed and industrial applications.
The Mexican government has also been rejecting applications for approval of certain GE “events” in corn, canola, cotton, and soybeans going back to August 2021, according to the USTR. “In the context of Mexico’s regime governing GE products, this means it is illegal to import and sell in Mexico products that include the rejected events,” writes U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai in the Mar. 6 letter requesting technical consultations.
“The United States has repeatedly conveyed our serious concerns with Mexico’s biotechnology policies and the importance of adopting a science-based approach that complies with its USMCA commitments,” noted Tai.
Countries have 30 days to hold a meeting after a request for technical consultations is filed.