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Mexico Delaying GMO Corn Import Permits

Mexico is delaying import permits for GMO corn, National Agricultural Council President Juan Cortina Gallardo told Reuters in an interview, even though the ban is not set to go into effect until 2024. Among hundreds of agricultural product import permit applications awaiting resolution, there are at least eight for GMO corn. Permit delays have also stopped shipments of glyphosate.

Cortina Gallardo said the country’s federal health risk regulator, COFEPRIS, which is responsible for approving import permits, is currently delaying approvals by up to two years, effectively bringing forward the ban.

“They’re not giving us extensions, there haven’t been any administrative changes, they just don’t respond,” Cortina Gallardo told Reuters. He stated that the farm industry would fight against the ban and predicted the legality of the ban would “probably” ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.

The Mexican government announced on December 31, 2020, its plan to ban GMO corn and phase out GMO corn imports and the use of glyphosate, a broad-spectrum herbicide, by 2024 in an effort to contribute to food security and sovereignty. In January, Mexican government officials met with supply chain and agriculture producers and further discussed that domestic supply to the livestock sector will be promoted, reducing the level of imports.

Agricultural leaders in both Mexico and the United States have been seeking clarity over what exactly the decree will ban.

In March, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he received assurance from Mexico’s secretary of agriculture, Victor Villalobos, that the ban wouldn’t apply to GMO corn used as animal feed. Cortina Gallardo said he hasn’t received any such assurance, telling Reuters he believed that the government was planning a blanket prohibition.

Mexico imports large quantities of GMO yellow corn from the U.S. for livestock feed. U.S. corn exports to Mexico in 2019 were US$2.7 billion, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agriculture Service data, making Mexico the U.S. feed industry’s largest export destination.

In a press release, Mexico’s National Agricultural Council emphasized that the decree will severely affect Mexico’s food production systems as well as dramatically upend the current grains trade between Mexico and the U.S.

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