US Secretary of Agriculture Says Mexico’s GMO Ban Won’t Hurt Corn Exports | KCUR 89.3
American farmers rely heavily on genetically modified crops. Cultures contain DNA altered to resist viruses or voracious insects. Over 90% of the corn grown in the country is genetically modified.
And no country buys more US corn exports than Mexico, where consumer fears about genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, have led to the cultivation of these crops for human consumption being banned by 2024.
This has raised concerns among American farmers as to whether they could be on the verge of losing a huge market.
But on Wednesday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he was reassured by his Mexican counterpart that the country’s corn exports would not suffer from Mexico’s GMO ban.
“I was certainly delighted to hear from the secretary that while there may be decisions made in Mexico not to grow (genetically modified) corn, this does not limit Mexico’s ability to import. GM corn, ”Vilsack told reporters near Ankeny. , Iowa, “The reality is they can’t produce enough for their needs.”
His comments came as he and Mexico’s Agriculture and Rural Development Secretary Víctor Manuel Villalobos Arámbula together visited research sites and farmland in Iowa on Wednesday.
“How many tortillas do they eat per day?” Is it over a billion? Vilsack asked Villalobos.
“One billion a day,” Villalobos said.
“So there is obviously a need,” said Vilsack. “I certainly appreciate the fact that our corn still has a market opportunity in Mexico, which I think is important. “
On New Year’s Eve, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador banned the herbicide glyphosate as well as GMO corn by 2024. The country’s Supreme Court dismissed four appeals against the order.
This has fueled speculation that once GMO corn is phased out of Mexico, US grain exports would not be welcome in this large neighboring market.
Vilsack visited the Griffieon family farm, which has approximately 1,100 acres of owned and leased land. Nick Griffieon, the oldest son in the Griffieon family, said only 10% of the farm’s corn acres are GMO corn and help protect those acres from insects and other pests.
“We’ve always been a little heavy on the non-GMO side just because we have a diverse ranching business where we sell meat on the farm,” Griffieon said. “We breed cattle with non-GMO grain. “
But if Mexico ultimately decides not to take GMO corn from the United States, Griffieon said, “it would change everything for us.”
Seed industry consolidation
Vilsack told reporters his agency would soon start looking at consolidating the seed industry. President Joe Biden issued a Executive Decree in July calling for competition in the seed industry which, according to the decree, is largely controlled by four companies. Seed prices keep rising and farmers are limited where they can sell their seeds.
Vilsack said the USDA has yet to begin investigating seed industry consolidation because it has focused on food processors.
“But I think the presidential decree also mentions the need for us to review patent laws,” Vilsack said. “And that would be a starting point.”
Biden’s decree calls for action to help farmers have better access to markets and fair prices for their crops. Part of this is ensuring that patents do not reduce competition in seed markets.