By Carey Gillam
Amid a high-stakes stand-off with US trade officials over favored American agricultural products, Mexico is slashing the amount of glyphosate allowed to be imported into the country by 50% for 2023.
The move is no surprise; Mexico issued a decree in 2020 giving its farmers until 2024 to stop using the weed killing chemical. But coming amid an increasingly heated dispute with US trade officials, the action underscores Mexico’s commitment to free itself from a dependence on the synthetic pesticides and genetically engineered crops promoted by American interests.
Along with banning glyphosate, Mexico is ratcheting back imports of genetically engineered corn that is designed to be sprayed with glyphosate. Mexico says the changes are needed to protect the health of its population. The country has also signaled concerns about other GMO crops sprayed with glyphosate.
Glyphosate is classified as a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, and is linked to an array of other human and environmental health problems. It was introduced by Monsanto in 1974 and is the world’s most widely used weed killer, known best as the active ingredient in the Roundup brand. Monsanto developed genetically engineered corn, soybeans, canola and other crops to tolerate being sprayed with glyphosate, a trait that makes it easier for farmers to kill weeds in their fields.
Foods made with crops sprayed with glyphosate commonly carry residues of the weed killer, and people then consume the residues through their daily diets.
Mexico’s retreat from these types of agricultural products has triggered a firestorm of industry opposition in the United States. In response, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) and other US agencies are fighting Mexico’s efforts, alleging violations of trade provisions of the US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA) alleging violations of trade provisions of the US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA) with respect to Mexico’s restrictions on GMO corn.
Mexico’s policies “threaten to disrupt billions of dollars in agricultural trade,” the USTR said in a press statement last month. Mexico’s moves to limit GMO corn “will stifle the innovation that is necessary to tackle the climate crisis and food security challenges if left unaddressed,” the USTR said.
The two sides started “technical consultations” regarding Mexico’s measures to limit GMO corn by an April 5 deadline as a formal first step to try to resolve the dispute.