In response to the proposal by Mexico’s Agriculture Department to phase out the use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup Weed Killer, by early 2024, the country’s top farm lobby, the Mexico Farm Council, announced that it will likely introduce legal challenges to reverse the proposal.
The proposal would ban the import of genetically-modified corn as well as glyphosate; both would be gradually phased out over the next three years in Mexico, the country where maize (corn) was first domesticated.
The president of Mexico’s Farm Council (CNA), Juan Cortina, told Reuters he thinks the lawsuits are needed to get the government to back down.
“Unfortunately, I think there will need to be legal challenges brought by all the people who use glyphosate and genetically-modified corn,” Cortina told Reuters. Cortina also speculated that U.S. exporters, under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade block, will declare the ban illegal.
The U.S. imports more corn to Mexico than any other country. Each year, the U.S. sells, on average, 15 million tons of corn to Mexico, worth about $2.7 billion, according to The Western Producer. The proposed ban by Mexico’s Agriculture Department applies to both livestock feed and human food.
Rich Nelson, chief strategist with Allendale Inc., an agricultural market strategy and analysis company, told Western Producer the ban would be a “massive blow to U.S. agriculture because 92 percent of the country’s corn is genetically modified.”
Mexico’s Agriculture Department argued that the ban was necessary because of health risks, and in order to boost supply of traditional, domestic corn supplies.
Addressing the former concern, over 125,000 Roundup lawsuits have been filed in the USA, with plaintiffs alleging that glyphosate and other chemicals in the herbicide caused them to develop cancer. In 2015, a cancer research arm of the World Health Organization classified glyphosate as probably carcinogenic to humans. And in 2019, researchers reviewed a meta analysis of six studies, which concluded that exposure to glyphosate made people more likely to develop the cancer, and the more pesticide someone contacted, the higher their risk.
As for seeking to boost its production of home-grown corn, the proposed ban on imported GMO corn is part of a program called “Maiz para Mexico.” The program’s goal is to replace 30 percent of annual imports with increased Mexican corn production by 2024.
The other 70 percent of corn imports would have to be non-GMO, under the proposal. Per The Western Producer, the Mexican government said the ban is designed to protect “native corn, cornfields, bio-cultural wealth, farming communities, gastronomic heritage and the health of Mexicans.”
Mexico’s National Agricultural Council said the ban on GM corn and glyphosate poses a serious threat to the supply chain, potentially slashing the country’s corn production by up to 45 percent. Proponents of the ban on GMO-corn and glyphosate maintain that genetically-modified seeds contaminate strains of corn which are native to Mexico. This, the proponents add, harms crop biodiversity.
Whether or not the proposal becomes law, tortilla production will not be affected as this staple of Mexican cuisine is derived from white corn, of which Mexico produces a sufficient amount without the need of imports.