MEXICO CITY — Mexico appeared to have backed down Monday on plans to ban imports of U.S. genetically modified corn for animal feed.
Mexico’s Economy Department said a new decree on the issue was published Monday that drops any date for substituting imports of GM feed corn. Some imported corn is also ground into meal for use in corn chips or other snacks.
After a previous decree, some U.S. growers worried a GM feed corn ban could happen as soon as 2024 or 2025. Mexico argued that GM corn could represent a health risk, but has presented no evidence so far.
U.S. farmers have worried about the potential loss of the single biggest export market for U.S. corn. Mexico has been importing GM feed corn from the U.S. for years, buying about $3 billion worth annually.
The new decree still says Mexican authorities will carry out “the gradual substitution” of GM feed and milled corn, but sets no date for doing so and says potential health issues will be the subject of study by Mexican experts “with health authorities from other countries.”
“Regarding the use of genetically modified corn for animal feed and industrial use, the date for prohibiting its use has been eliminated,” the Economy Department said in the statement. “Working groups will be set up with the domestic and international private sector to achieve an orderly transition.”
Mexico was where corn was first domesticated starting around 9,000 years ago, and the country will still ban imports of GM seed corn to protect native varieties.
Mexico will also prohibit the use of GM corn for direct human consumption, which in Mexico consists mainly of fresh white corn and white corn tortilla flour. Mexico has no need to import white corn from the United States, where most corn is yellow or sweet corn.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said Mexico’s earlier position was “not grounded in science” and “threatens to disrupt billions of dollars in bilateral agricultural trade, cause 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 decree published Monday.
There had been fears the ban could violate the U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement. Mexico hopes to stave off a full-fledged trade complaint under the agreement on the corn issue as well as a dispute over Mexico’s energy sector.
The United States says Mexico is unfairly favoring its state-owned electricity and oil companies over American competitors and clean-energy suppliers. Canada also has joined in that complaint.