Mexico is willing to make a deal to annually exempt U.S. feed corn from a coming ban on genetically modified corn, but no deal is being considered on white corn for direct human consumption, according to a statement issued by the office of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Obrador, according to the statement distributed in Mexico City, would be willing to delay the implementation of the decree on GMO only for dent corn while further studies are conducted to show that it does not represent a threat to human safety. The import ban is currently set to go into effect in January 2024.

The statement, which was translated by U.S. government officials, said U.S. feed corn – which Obrador calls yellow corn – has traditionally been fed to Mexican livestock, but "in that case Mexico is proposing that there should be a time to assess the composition of the yellow corn and determine that it is not harmful.” 

Obrador went on to say that “this takes time, so Mexico suggested extending the deadline for yellow corn used for cattle. He said that corn can be imported but not for human consumption.”

While that evaluation - which could happen in concert with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration - is taking place, Obrador said Mexico could accept importing corn for cattle feed "under an annual permit" that could be extended each year by Mexican authorities.  

The U.S. exports primarily feed corn to Mexico, but American farmers also supply plenty of white corn to Mexico’s food processors and tortilla makers. Much of that is also genetically modified, and the statement is adamant that the Mexican ban will prohibit its import.

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According to the statement, Obrador explained to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a Monday meeting “that his administration wants to make the U.S. understand that trade is one thing and health is another. And that if Mexico has to decide between trade and health, Mexico will opt for health.” 

Vilsack, in a statement of his own that he released after the Monday meeting, said there are no concrete proposals in writing yet and no agreements.

“We expect to have a proposal from the President’s team soon and we will evaluate closely,” Vilsack said. “While we do not have a solution in hand, we will continue to engage with Mexico on this important issue.”

Vilsack also made it clear that the U.S. would be willing to challenge Mexico under dispute resolution mechanisms in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Obrador, according to his statement, said Mexico was willing to take on a challenge through USMCA. The Mexican president said he was confident taking on such a challenge but also hoped it would not come to that.

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