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Vilsack: Mexico GMO corn ban won’t apply to animal feed

Mexico’s plan to phase out imports of genetically modified (GMO) corn will apply to grain used for food products and not livestock feed.

Photo by Andrea Gantz

US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said Friday that Mexico’s GMO corn ban won’t apply to animal feed, and that processes are in place to protect feed producers

Mexico’s plan to phase out imports of genetically modified (GMO) corn will apply to grain used for food products and not livestock feed, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said during a live stream hosted by the National Press Club on March 26, 2021.

“As I understand it, based on my conversations recently with Secretary Villalobos [Mexico’s secretary of agriculture], the importation only relates to corn used for food products. It does not include corn used in feed,” Vilsack said.

The Mexican government announced on December 31, 2020, its plan to ban GMO corn and phase out GMO corn imports and the use of glyphosate, a broad-spectrum herbicide, by 2024 in an effort to contribute to food security and sovereignty. In January, Mexican government officials met with supply chain and agriculture producers and further discussed that domestic supply to the livestock sector will be promoted, reducing the level of imports.

U.S. farm groups have pressed Vilsack about the announcement as well as other deteriorating trade conditions with Mexico. However, Vilsack stated that it is essential to understand precisely what Mexico has suggested it is thinking of doing.

“It’s important to distinguish between what Mexico is currently thinking about doing and the fact that it’s not going to have as great an impact as it would if it was everything all at once, all now,” he said.

Vilsack added that there is a process under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to resolve these issues, and he and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai have addressed the plan with Mexico. He is confident these conversations will continue to happen and concerns will be voiced.

“There are processes that could potentially be used,” Vilsack said. “We’re not anywhere near there yet.”

Building better opportunities

Mexico depends on imports of mostly GMO yellow corn from the U.S. for livestock feed. U.S. corn exports to Mexico in 2019 were US$2.7 billion, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agriculture Service data, making Mexico the U.S. feed industry’s largest export destination.

Vilsack added that the USDA is focused on the Build Back Better Program, the Biden administration’s economic recovery plan for working families, with the intent to transform the U.S. food and agriculture system into a system for farmers that creates more, new and better markets.

“As far as the better markets, we’re still committed to an export opportunity. We still think there is tremendous opportunity for the United States to have sales overseas. The key is to deepen our presence in all of those markets,” Vilsack said.

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