Reuters – The Mexican government’s push to wean itself off a massive dependence on genetically modified corn imports would upend the country’s food supply, including its big livestock sector, industry officials warn. A Dec. 31 decree banning the use of genetically modified corn over three years has sparked a frenzy of lobbying urging officials to reconsider.
Both the Agriculture and Economy ministries held high-level meetings with industry representatives, according to several participants.
The same decree also calls for a ban on the herbicide glyphosate, used in Mexico by thousands of small and big farms to boost crop yields.
While Mexico, the birthplace of modern corn, has never allowed commercial-scale planting of the grain using seeds containing genetically modified organisms (GMO), it imports millions of tonnes of such corn for its growing livestock sector, among many other industrial uses.
The decree does not detail how the country might replace the supplies.
Jose Cacho, president of Mexico’s corn industry chamber CANAMI, said the GMO corn ban is unworkable due to supply chains that for years have developed around them, from livestock to a dizzying array of condiments and sauces that use starches derived from the same corn.
“This decree is completely divorced from reality,” said Cacho, whose 25-company group includes top corn millers like Gruma and cereal maker Kellogg, as well as commodity trader Cargill.
A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this month described Mexico’s policy toward so-called biotechnology as “increasingly uncertain” under President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
Supporters of the decree argue that GMO seeds can easily contaminate native corn strains, and point to research showing glyphosate may cause cancer as well as elevated insect mortality.
Mexico is the biggest foreign market for U.S. yellow corn, which is nearly all genetically modified.
Cacho fears the government could interpret the decree to forbid the use of GMO corn in anything ultimately consumed by people, from beef to ketchup.