© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A worker holds GMO yellow corn imported from the U.S., at a cattle feed plant in Tepexpan, Mexico March 15, 2023. REUTERS/Raquel Cunha
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican authorities announced Monday a working group will investigate the impact of genetically modified (GM) corn imports on the country’s tortillas, a national staple typically made from cornflour, amid a trade dispute with the United States.
The United States has requested trade consultations with Mexico after its government moved to restrict imports of GM corn, arguing it can contaminate Mexico’s ancient native varieties and have negative impacts on human health.
The U.S., which says Mexico’s claims lack scientific backing, requested consultations under a chapter of the North American trade agreement on food security, which calls for a science-based approach to domestic regulations.
Mexico’s health authority Cofepris, together with its scientific council Conacyt, announced the creation of the working group in a statement, saying it will have a role in assessing the risks associated with consumption of GM corn.
The country said in February it would ban GM corn for consumption by people – including use in tortillas – backpedaling from previous plans that also clouded the future of imports for livestock feed, the destination of the vast majority of its imported corn.
Mexico produces mainly white corn, used to make tortillas, but has a deficit of yellow corn, used for livestock consumption and industrial applications.
The country imports about 17 million tons of corn from the United States each year.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the country’s annual exports to Mexico amounted to about $5 billion in 2022.