CAMBRIDGE, MASS., Jun 06 (IPS) – On June 2, the U.S. authorities escalated its battle with Mexico over that nation’s restrictions on genetically modified corn, initiating the formal dispute-resolution course of beneath the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Settlement (USMCA).
It is just the most recent in a decades-long U.S. assault on Mexico’s meals sovereignty utilizing the blunt instrument of a commerce settlement that has inundated Mexico with low-cost corn, wheat, and different staples, undermining Mexico’s capability to provide its personal meals. With the federal government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador exhibiting no indicators of backing down, the battle could effectively take a look at the extent to which a significant exporter can use a commerce settlement to drive a sovereign nation to desert measures it deems mandatory to guard public well being and the atmosphere.
The Science of Precaution
The measures in query are these contained within the Mexican president’s decree, introduced in late 2020 and up to date in February 2023, to ban the cultivation of genetically modified corn, part out the usage of the herbicide glyphosate by 2024, and prohibit the usage of genetically modified corn in tortillas and corn flour. The acknowledged targets have been to guard public well being and the atmosphere, significantly the wealthy biodiversity of native corn that may be compromised by uncontrolled pollination from GM corn crops.
The place the unique decree vowed to part out all makes use of of GM corn, the up to date decree withdrew restrictions on GM corn in animal feed and industrial merchandise, pending additional scientific research of impacts on human well being and the atmosphere. Some 96% of U.S. corn exports to Mexico, almost all of it GM corn, fall in that class. It’s unclear how a lot of the remaining exports, principally white corn, are destined for Mexico’s tortilla/corn flour industries.
These have been vital concessions. In spite of everything, there is no such thing as a commerce restriction on GM corn. Mexico is just not even proscribing GM white corn imports, simply their use in tortillas.
Regardless of. Within the U.S. authorities’s formal notification that it will provoke consultations preliminary to presenting the dispute to a USMCA arbitration panel, it cites a scarcity of scientific justification for the measures, denials of some authorizations for brand new GM merchandise, and Mexico’s acknowledged intention to regularly change GM corn for all makes use of with non-GM varieties.
As Mexico’s Economic system Ministry famous in its quick response, Mexico will present that its present measures have little affect on U.S. exporters, as a result of Mexico is self-sufficient in white and native corn. Any future substitution of non-GM corn won’t contain commerce restrictions however will come from Mexico’s investments in lowering import dependence by selling elevated home manufacturing of corn and different key staples. The assertion additionally famous that USMCA’s atmosphere chapter obligates international locations to guard biodiversity, and for Mexico, the place corn was first domesticated and the weight-reduction plan and tradition are so outlined by it, corn biodiversity is a high precedence.
As for the assertion that Mexico’s considerations about GM corn and glyphosate will not be based mostly on science, the USTR motion got here on the heels of an unprecedented 5 weeks of public boards convened by Mexico’s nationwide science businesses to evaluate the dangers and risks. Greater than fifty Mexican and worldwide specialists introduced proof that justifies the precautionary measures taken by the federal government. (I summarized a number of the proof in an earlier article.)
Three Many years of U.S. Agricultural Dumping
These measures spring from deep concern in regards to the deterioration of Mexicans’ diets and public well being because the nation has regularly adopted what some have known as “the neoliberal weight-reduction plan.” Mexico has displaced america because the world chief in childhood weight problems as diets wealthy in native corn and different conventional meals have been changed by ultraprocessed meals and drinks excessive in sugar, salt, and fat. Researchers discovered that for the reason that North American Free Commerce Settlement (NAFTA) was enacted in 1994, america has been “exporting weight problems.”
The López Obrador authorities not too long ago stood as much as the highly effective meals and beverage business to mandate stark warning labels on meals excessive in these unhealthy elements. Its restrictions on GM corn and glyphosate circulation from the identical dedication to public well being.
So does the federal government’s marketing campaign to scale back import-dependence in key meals crops – corn, wheat, rice, beans, and dairy. However as I doc in a brand new IATP coverage report, “Swimming In opposition to the Tide,” low-cost U.S. exports proceed to undermine such efforts.
We documented that in 17 of the 28 years since NAFTA took impact, america has exported corn, wheat, rice, and different staple crops at costs under what it value to provide them. That’s an unfair commerce follow often known as agricultural dumping, and it springs from power overproduction of such merchandise in that nation’s closely industrialized agriculture.
Simply when NAFTA eradicated lots of the coverage measures Mexico may use to restrict such imports, U.S. overproduction hit a crescendo, the results of its personal deregulation of agricultural markets. Corn exports to Mexico jumped greater than 400% by 2006, with these exports priced at 19% under what it value to provide them. Once more, from 2014 to 2020, corn costs have been 10% under manufacturing prices, simply as Mexico started searching for to stimulate home manufacturing.
We calculated that Mexico’s corn farmers misplaced $3.8 billion in these seven years from depressed costs for his or her crops. Wheat farmers misplaced $2.1 billion from U.S. exports priced 27% under manufacturing prices.
To this point, the Mexican authorities has had little success rising home manufacturing of its precedence meals, although larger worldwide costs in 2021 and 2022 supplied a wanted stimulus for farmers.
So too have artistic authorities initiatives, together with an revolutionary public procurement scheme simply as the big white corn harvest is available in throughout northern Mexico. With corn and wheat costs falling some 20% in current weeks, the federal government is shopping for up about 40% of the harvest from small and medium-scale farmers at larger costs with the objective of giving bigger producers the bargaining energy to then demand larger costs from the big grain-buyers that dominate the tortilla business.
Swimming In opposition to the Neoliberal Tide
With its dedication to public well being, the atmosphere, and elevated home manufacturing of primary staples, the Mexican authorities is certainly swimming towards sturdy neoliberal tides. Remarkably, it’s doing so whereas nonetheless complying with its commerce settlement with america and Canada.
Earlier than U.S. commerce officers additional escalate the dispute over GM corn, they need to look within the mirror and ask themselves if three many years of agricultural dumping are in line with the principles of honest worldwide commerce. And why Mexico doesn’t have each proper to make sure that its tortillas will not be tainted with GM corn and glyphosate.
For extra on the GM corn controversy, see IATP’s useful resource web page, “Meals Sovereignty, Commerce, and Mexico’s GMO Corn Insurance policies.”
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