The Mexican government is delaying import permits for genetically modified (GMO) corn saying it intends to apply a GMO ban on grain used in animal feed, Reuters reported the head of the country’s main farm lobby as saying on 11 June.

National Farm Council (NFC) president Juan Cortina told Reuters that among hundreds of agricultural product import permits awaiting a resolution were at least

eight for GMO corn although the ban was not set to take effect for three years.

“They're not giving us extensions, there haven't been any administrative changes, they just don't respond,” Cortina said, referring to delays of up to two years from the Health Ministry's sanitary protection agency, COFEPRIS, which is responsible for approving the permits.

In response, COFEPRIS said it could not comment on specific cases, but added that it had been in touch with various business groups, including the NFCl, to seek faster processes without “sacrificing our scientific rigor.”

Late last year, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had issued an executive order phasing out GMO corn and the herbicide glyphosate by 2024, arguing that Mexico must attain food self-sufficiency without using toxic chemicals, Reuters wrote.

Industry leaders on both sides of the border had since been seeking clarity over how far-reaching the corn ban would be, according to the news agency.

Mexico's Agriculture Ministry had declined to comment, Reuters said.

Cortina said that the farm industry would fight against the government-ordered phase-out of GMO corn as well as a widely used weedkiller and predicted the legality of the ban would “probably” ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.

“We're fighting this in the courts and we're also fighting it in talks with the government,” he said, saying the policy would impose higher costs and was not supported by science.

Cortina’s comments contradicted the assurance that US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he had received from his Mexican counterpart that the prohibition would not be applied to GMO corn used for livestock feed, Reuters wrote.