MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico appeared to abandon plans Monday to ban imports of U.S. genetically modified corn for animal feed.
Mexico’s economy department said a new regulation on the matter was published on Monday, rejecting any date to replace imports of GM corn for feed. Some imported corn is also ground into flour for use in corn chips or other snacks.
After the previous regulation, some US farmers worried that the ban on GM corn for feed could not come until 2024 or 2025. Mexico has claimed that GM corn may pose a health risk, but has so far provided no evidence.
US farmers are worried about the potential loss of the largest export market for US corn. Mexico has been importing GM corn from the US for years, buying about $3 billion a year.
The new decree still says Mexican authorities will carry out a “gradual replacement” of GM feed and ground corn, but does not set a date for that and says potential health problems will be the subject of a study by Mexican experts “with health authorities from other countries.”
“Regarding the use of genetically modified corn for animal feed and industrial use, the ban date for its use has been eliminated,” the Ministry of Economy said in a statement. “Working groups will be established with the domestic and international private sector to achieve an orderly transition.”
Mexico was where corn was first domesticated about 9,000 years ago, and the country will continue to ban imports of GM seed corn to protect native varieties.
Mexico will also ban the use of GM corn for direct human consumption, which in Mexico mainly consists of fresh white corn and white corn flour for tortillas. Mexico has no need to import white corn from the United States, where most corn is yellow or sweet corn.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s office said Mexico’s earlier position was “not based on science” and “threatens to disrupt billions of dollars in bilateral agricultural trade, causing serious economic harm to U.S. farmers and Mexican livestock producers.”
The U.S. Trade Office did not respond to requests for comment on the revised order released Monday.
There were fears that the ban could undermine the US-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement. Mexico hopes to prevent a full trade complaint under the corn deal, as well as a dispute over Mexico’s energy sector.
The United States says Mexico unfairly favors its state-owned power and oil companies over U.S. competitors and clean energy suppliers. Canada also joined the appeal.