The US and Mexico are in a major row over corn, and US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack met Monday with Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to try to smooth things over. Per the BBC, Vilsack praised Obrador for continuing a productive dialogue but also warned that the US may be forced to take legal action if the two nations can’t find an "acceptable resolution." In a statement, Vilsack said, "We must find a way forward soon" and the US was prepared to "consider all options, including taking formal steps to enforce our legal rights under the USMCA," the free trade agreement between the US, Mexico, and Canada.
The issue revolves around genetically modified (GMO) corn, particularly the yellow variety, of which Mexico is one of the world’s largest importers, second only to China. Obrador campaigned on a promise to phase out GMO corn, and he issued a decree in 2020 calling for an end to GMO corn for human consumption by 2024. American farmers and corn-country officials have been distressed ever since. In the past, Obrador has said there’s a lack of scientific evidence supporting the safety of GMO corn, not only with regard to humans but also Mexico’s many native corn varieties.
Vilsack warned the ban could have dire consequences for US-Mexico relations, causing "both massive economic losses for Mexico's agricultural industries and citizens, as well as place an unjustified burden on US farmers," per Reuters. Vilsack also noted some progress was made during the talks, including a proposal for continued research and dialogue around "the safety of biotechnology products," per the Farm Journal. In a chat with Iowa Agrobusiness Radio Network, Ted McKinney, CEO of the National Association of the State Departments of Agriculture, said the ban will prove too risky to be implemented. "They need our corn and our soy meal," McKinney said. "They can't go anywhere else and get it for anywhere near the price of what it comes from the US, so it’s got to get fixed." (Read more USMCA stories.)