U.S. farmers understand that the outcome of the dispute between the U.S. and Mexico over Mexico’s attempt to block imports of genetically modified corn could set a precedent that will be key for trade with other countries around the world, U.S. Chief Agricultural Trade Negotiator Doug McKalip said Thursday.

Famers, McKalip said during a symposium hosted by the U.S. Agricultural Export Development Council, tell him they know the U.S. dispute with Mexico is “incredibly important because whatever happens, the outcome here is going to send a strong message to the world and we need to make sure that folks don’t backslide on science.” 

Early last month, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai called for dispute consultations under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement with Mexico over the country’s efforts to ban GM corn and its history of rejecting biotech seed traits.

Mexico has prohibited millers and food companies from using GM white corn in the production of tortillas, a measure that is expected to effectively ban the importation of the corn from U.S. farmers.

Tai called for dispute consultations with Mexico after more benign technical consultations failed to resolve the matter. Dispute consultations can lead to a third-party dispute panel that settles the case.

McKalip stressed how impressed he was with the solidarity of American farmers in the face of Mexico’s corn barrier.

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“No matter what the farmer was growing — it could be almonds or maybe they were involved with layer eggs — they all said they were following closely what is happening with this Mexico biotech issue,” McKalip said.

Farmers, he said, know that if Mexico backslides “on science on biotech corn, they’re going to backslide on our products next and we’ve got to make sure we hold them accountable … That unity and selflessness of American farmers puts all of is a much stronger position in trade discussions.”

USDA Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis Taylor — also a speaker at the event — called Mexico’s biotech corn prohibition the type of obstacle that USDA and USTR are committed to overcoming.

“I hear our industry all over the country — not just the corn sector — with concerns about the erosion of the science-based global trading system and ensuring that we uphold the importance of that,” she said.

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