Not just Mexico – US worries over barriers to agricultural trade across the world

By Johnathan Hettinger

From Algeria to Vietnam, Norway to Nigeria, and the European Union to China, regulation of agriculture biotechnology by countries around the world is creating increasingly concerning barriers to US agriculture and technology trade, according to a recent report from the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR).

The report shows the US government is highly concerned about what it sees as inconsistent and unscientific regulation of farm chemicals and genetically modified crops that are widely used in the United States but are subjects of concern abroad. Farmers in the United States annually spray millions of pounds of pesticides that are banned in other countries, including the EU, China and Brazil.

Among other concerns, the US cites “excessive” requests for data on certain products and expresses frustration that the EU seeks to ban pesticides until they are proven safe, instead of approving pesticides until they are proven unsafe.

In a 394-page report, the USTR detailed a range of concerns with specific countries, including those related to its ongoing bitter battle with Mexico over genetically modified crops (GMOs).

Mexico has not approved a new genetically modified cotton variety since at least 2018, the report notes, despite the cultivation of GMO cotton in Mexico for more than 25 years “with no evidence of adverse impact on the environment, biodiversity, or animal or plant health.” US officials are continuing to press the country on the issue, just as they are on Mexico’s restrictions on GMO corn. The US has also battled with Mexico over its efforts to ban glyphosate weed killer, developed by Monsanto.

In another example cited in the report, the US government complains that Taiwan’s decision to ban genetically modified food in school meal programs is not based on science.

Yet, the document makes it clear that the question of science is also a concern in the countries at odds with the US. Many other countries have expressed concern with what they see as the United States’ lax pesticide laws, driven not by science but by corporate influence.