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US Farmers Open to Mexican Restrictions on GM Corn

Among its efforts to restrict the importation of genetically modified (GM) maize, Mexico has discovered surprising supporters among a few American farmers who cultivate the crops.

Shivam Dwivedi
US Farmers Open to Mexican Restrictions on GM Corn
US Farmers Open to Mexican Restrictions on GM Corn

Farmers have long used seeds from businesses like Bayer AG, Corteva Inc., and ChemChina's Syngenta to sow GM maize, which resists insects and weedkillers. However, other proponents of the free market argue that rather than escalating a trade conflict over the idea, the United States should agree to supply Mexico non-GM maize because they might profit more from growing more conventional maize. Growing GM maize and soybeans near Yale, Illinois, Fred Huddlestun declared, "I'm all for free and fair trade."

"I have concerns about that when they get to the point where they're pressuring someone to buy something they don't want. The proposed limits pose a threat to some of the approximately $5 billion worth of corn- or 95% of Mexico's total corn imports- that the United States exports to Mexico yearly. Mexico is the country that purchases the most corn from the United States. Mexico said in February that it will forbid GM maize from being consumed by humans, reversing earlier intentions that cast doubt on the future of imports for livestock feed, the end use for the vast bulk of the country's imported maize.

Supporters of the strategy have questioned the policy's effects on human health and claim that GM maize can infect Mexico's traditional native types. The Biden administration demanded trade negotiations with Mexico last month in the first official step towards a request for a dispute resolution panel under the USMCA, claiming such limits would breach the agreement between the US, Mexico, and Canada (USMCA). Last week, American officials met with their Mexican colleagues.

According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture assessment, Mexico's planned ban on corn used for human consumption is anticipated to have an impact on imports of white corn, which is largely used for tortillas. Agriculture On March 30, Tom Vilsack predicted that the administration would "ultimately compel" Mexico to change its stance. He has claimed that the limitations are unscientific and violate a trade relationship based on rules. The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), which represents biotech industries, have urged U.S. officials to oppose Mexico's proposals.

The groups wrote to Biden in a letter complimenting Washington's move towards a settlement panel, accusing it of making a "safety distinction" between maize used for consumption and maize used for animal feed without any real scientific support. According to BIO, the U.S. should begin the formal dispute procedure "without delay" if consultations do not result in a decision that is supported by science. However, some American farmers believe the country should take a step back.

 Matt Swanson, a farmer who grows non-GM maize, stated on Twitter that NCGA was determined to "ram potential unwanted grain down our trade partners' (sic) throats." The development of GM crops and the defence of the safety of GM foods have cost companies like Bayer hundreds of millions of dollars. According to information provided by the USDA, four corporations sell more than 75% of the maize and soybean seeds produced.

US farmers and seed firms have a tumultuous history together. Agricultural technology that increases yields and kills pests benefits growers, but some are dissatisfied with the centralization of the industry and the influence that certain businesses have over American agriculture.

Greg Gunthorp, an Indiana pig and poultry farmer who feeds non-GM maize to cattle to produce premium meat products, said: "I feel like the secretary and this administration are not standing up for all farmers. The big companies are really what they are standing up for," Bayer claimed it collaborates with organizations like BIO, NCGA, and others to advance the need for a regulatory framework that is founded on research. The NCGA asserted that GM maize is secure and vowed to defend farmers against all unjustified trade restrictions.

Some industry experts have cautioned that if Mexico's limitations are put into effect, it may lead other nations to request bans. The beliefs of American farmers are not supported by any actual statistics, but according to around 10 producers and grain traders contacted by Reuters, the United States shouldn't continue to demand Mexico to buy GM maize.

Other farmers are concerned about the additional labour involved in growing non-GM crops rather than GM grain and the possibility that a future Mexican administration would change the law once more. However, if the price was right, many would consider producing additional non-GM maize. Illinois farmer Dave Kestel, who grows GM maize and distributes seed for Corteva, stated, "You need to make it worth my while. Probably the minimum premium would be twenty percent."

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