Mexico wants to import non-GM corn and US farmers say they can deliver it

by Ken Roseboro

As US agribusiness groups try to pressure Mexico to abandon its declared ban on glyphosate herbicides and imports of GM corn by 2024, US suppliers of non-GM seeds and grains see an opportunity to supply Mexico with non-GM seed.

“Can we supply Mexico? Not at all,” says Bill Niebuhr, president High Resolution Genetics, Which is an Iowa-based non-GMO corn seed company. “In terms of acres, that’s not a problem. Instead of criticizing Mexico, let’s introduce it to them.”

Ken Dallmeier, CEO, Clarkson Green, An Illinois supplier of organic and non-GMO grains, agrees. “Given the time and focus, I think it’s totally possible,” he says. “Mexico is a major trading partner, and all the logistical services for importing Mexican grains come through the United States. It’s a matter of planning and the market.”

“An incredible suggestion?”

There has been data on impending doom in the US agricultural sector since the government of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador released. decree Last December he called for the replacement of the controversial herbicide glyphosate and imports of GM corn in the country by January 31, 2024.

Perhaps the best expression of the American reaction was Rich Nelson, chief strategist at Allendale Inc. “I almost refuse to even look at it because I think it’s an unbelievable proposition. I just don’t know what to say. He said.” Interview With the western product.

There are 16.5 million metric tons of corn exports – nearly all GMOs – to Mexico every year at stake, and it’s worth $ 3 billion. Mexico is the second largest buyer of corn in the United States, after China.

Series of Email messages Obtained using FOIA before Center for Biological Diversity Describe how the pesticide industry lobbying group, CropLife America, and producer Bayer of pesticides and GM seeds, is working with the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to press Mexico to drop the ban on corn glyphosate and GMOs. The Office of the United States Trade Representative has warned the Mexican Economy Minister, Graciela Marquez Cullen, that Mexico’s actions threaten “the strength of our bilateral relationship.”

According to Deputy Agriculture Minister Victor Suarez, Mexico wants to phase out imports of corn from glyphosate and GMOs because the Mexican government is “committed to a fair, healthy, sustainable and competitive agricultural food system” and “intensified promotion of ecological and sustainable agricultural practices and reduced use of agrochemicals.”

The main reasons for Mexico’s ban, Suarez says, are growing concerns about the safety risks of glyphosate and GMO contamination to Mexico’s staple and sacred corn crop.

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An increasing number of Published studies The negative effects of glyphosate appear. “There is strict scientific evidence about the toxicity of herbicides, which indicates their effects on human health and the environment,” he says.

Suarez says imported GM corn pose many risks. “The risk is that the imported (genetically modified) corn will be used as seed and thus could contaminate the corn on the neighboring farms. There is also a risk – something that is already happening – that the imported GM yellow corn will be used in commercial and industrial businesses that must work with the white corn ( Non-GMO) for human consumption. “

He also cites a a study It shows that 90.4% of the corn flakes consumed in Mexico contained GM corn strings, as did 82% of the cornmeal, grains and snacks. He describes the presence of GMO genes in these staple Mexican foods as “unacceptable”.

“It is expected to stimulate the import of non-GMO yellow corn”

Suarez says Mexico plans to increase production of local, non-GMO corn to compensate for lost US imports with the goal of achieving “food self-sufficiency”. The country now produces around 27 million tons of corn each year, most of which is white corn and around 3 million tons of yellow corn. White corn is used to make tortillas and other basic foods, while yellow corn is primarily used to feed animals.

Mexico will need to increase its corn production by about 30% to make up for the lost imports.

Suarez says Mexico will depend on its farmers to increase production of non-GM corn. “These efforts are specifically directed towards small and medium-sized producers who are showing significant growth potential in their yields per hectare,” he says.

These farmers represent 90% of all Mexican farmers.

But Suarez also says Mexico will be interested in importing non-GM corn from the United States. “Yellow maize imports will prevail for the time being, and the expectation is to stimulate imports of non-GMO corn,” he says.

Producers of non-GM corn in the United States could supply Mexico with non-GMO yellow seed, according to Greg Lectig, a longtime grain industry expert and consultant at Omaha Green. “There is no doubt that the United States can fulfill Mexico’s demand if it only seeks non-GM corn,” he adds.

Mexico’s need for 16.5 MMT, or 650 million bushels, of corn is less than 5% of the annual corn production in the United States, according to Lickteig.

Chris Weigert, Senior Supply Chain Officer at Healthy food ingredients, A supplier of specialty, preserving, organic and non-GMO ingredients, says meeting Mexico’s need for non-GM corn “is not a big problem. We are already growing large quantities of non-GM corn. In 2020, US farmers planted 7.49 million acres of GM” Non-GMO corn.

Dallmeier is confident that the United States can supply Mexico with non-GMO yellow and white corn. To meet Mexico’s demand for non-GM white corn, the United States will have to increase white corn production by 23% from the current 1 million acres to 1.23 million acres, which is not a big task, according to Dallmeier. “Given the appropriate market incentives, the United States can easily supply the growing Mexican demand for non-GM corn,” says Dallmeier.

Appropriate market incentives include premiums for farmers to grow non-GM corn, which requires more management than GM corn.

“Farmers need competitive seed varieties and stable logistics such as railways, trucks, containers, water transport, risk management tools and revenue premiums to motivate them to participate in a different market,” says Dallmeier.

Farmers may need to pay a premium to grow non-GM corn, especially now that commodity maize prices are now soaring.

Farmer George Naylor in Iowa, who has grown non-GM corn for many years, says the costs of growing non-GM corn are similar to those of GMOs. “I’m sure anyone can grow non-GM corn at the same cost to produce as GMOs. GM corn seed will cost more per acre,” he says.

to me Estimates by Non-GM Spectrum The Seed Company, the cost of non-GM corn seed is about half the cost of GM corn seed.

‘Premium non-GMO seed genes are present’

According to Dallmeier, the key to meeting Mexico’s non-GM demand is to produce enough non-GMO corn seeds. “The primary need will be to work with seed suppliers, such as Pioneer / Corteva and others to meet this new demand by supplying commercial non-GM seeds,” he says.

A large seed company would be needed for a project at this scale, according to Wiegert. “You’re switching out a supply chain like this, and you’ve got to stand behind you a big seed company,” he says.

According to Field trials Conducted by several non-GMO seed companies.

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“We are testing non-GMO hybrids and GMOs, and our non-GMO products work really well,” says Niebuhr, former global vice president of research and development at Pioneer Hi-Bred.

Lickteig is also confident that non-GMO seed companies can deliver. “There are excellent seed genes that are not GMO, and the seed industry is very capable of producing high yielding hybrids,” he says.

To meet the deadline in Mexico 2024, production of non-GM seeds must start this year. Dallmeier says that three years may seem like a long time to increase seed production, but it is not.

“The 2023 seed (the non-GM corn crop) should be planted in 2022, and this year is when the seed companies will need to make the parent seed (the corn seed that makes the corn seed) or they will be off-site,” he says.

Obstacle versus opportunity

A big question remains as to whether the import ban of GM corn in Mexico also applies to corn for animal feed. US Agriculture Secretary Tom Velsack was Quoted He said the ban applies only to corn as food, not fodder. But Suarez says Mexico wants to “stimulate” the import of non-GMO yellow corn, which is mainly used as feed. He also says that the interpretation of the decree on GMO nutrition is up to several Mexican government ministries. “The decree refers to the use of GM corn in the diet of Mexican women and men, and is not explicitly stated that it is done directly,” he says.

Regardless of whether Mexico needs non-GM corn for food or food and forage, US suppliers say they can meet the demand.

Niebuhr says the United States should view Mexico’s ban on glyphosate and GM corn not as an obstacle but as an opportunity to strengthen its trade relationship with Mexico.

“We need to tell them that we are very serious, respect their needs and challenges, understand better what they are trying to achieve, and work together to see how we can do it,” he says.

Source: Shared dreams

Ken Roseboro is the editor of the Organic and Non-GMO report.

Top image: A farmer harvesting fresh corn cobs from the field to his truck for Prairie Crossing, a community-supported organic farm in Grayslake, Illinois, USA. (Photo: © Ralf-Finn Hestoft / CORBIS / Corbis via Getty Images)

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