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Business group urges Mexico to drop GM corn restrictions

Activists opposed to genetically modified corn accused the group of attempting to exert pressure on a matter of public policy and food sovereignty.

MEXICO CITY (CN) — Mexico's feud with the United States over genetically modified (GM) corn could hurt Mexico's own economy, the International Chamber of Commerce Mexico said Monday. 

“The dispute over genetically modified corn could affect the agri-food balance that currently favors Mexico,” the Mexico chapter of the world’s largest representative businesses group said in a statement. It called on the Mexican government to repeal its ban on GM corn, arguing the ban lacked scientific support.

The controversy stems from an executive order issued by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in December 2020 that restricted GM corn. A modification to the ban last February allowed for its use for livestock feed and industrial purposes, but kept the restrictions in place for corn used for flour, dough or tortillas.

The ban has led to an ongoing quarrel with the United States, a close trading partner with no such ban. On June 2, the United States announced it had initiated dispute settlement consultations under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) after talks in March did not lead to a resolution. 

The two countries have 75 days from that date to come to an agreement. If they don’t, the United States can request a panel for arbitration that could result in sanctions for Mexico. 

Even still, Mexican President López Obrador reasserted his refusal to back down during a morning press conference Monday. The president's office did not respond to a request for comment.

In its statement, ICC Mexico warned that sanctions against Mexico could put the country's $15-billion trade surplus with the United States in jeopardy. Mexico’s exports to the United States reached a record $44 billion in 2022, the group said, citing U.S. Census data, while imports totaled just under $29 billion.

The United States, Mexico and Canada should bring a “positive attitude” to GM corn talks, the group said, “with the objective of resolving differences and maintaining the commercial flow of the product without affecting any of the partners in the USMCA.”

Others in Mexico feel differently — viewing the statement not as an objective warning about harm to the Mexican economy, but as another case of business interests interfering in a decision that should be up to the Mexican government and citizens.

The ICC Mexico’s warnings of economic loss and its claims that the Mexican government has not presented scientific evidence are unfounded and untrue, according to Mercedes López López, a sociologist with the campaign No Country Without Corn, which presses for a GM corn-free Mexico. She said the group was trying to "exert pressure on what should be a sovereign decision for Mexico."

Should the dispute reach arbitration, López argued the Mexican government has found and presented more than enough evidence to prove that its ban is backed by science.

“Mexico has the data, but there’s another big problem here,” she said. “We know that there is a quote-unquote science tied to the interests of transnational companies.” Despite these powerful interests, she argued that other clauses in the USMCA protected the country's sovereignty in matters of food security. 

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Categories / Business, Environment, International, Law

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