The government of Mexico has announced that it is relaxing its proposed ban on genetically modified (GM) corn imports in animal feed after the USA threatened trade retaliation, Reuters reported.

The decision would not affect Mexico’s plan to ban GM corn for human consumption, as well as any use of glyphosate, a controversial herbicide that the International Agency for Research on Cancer has labelled as “probably carcinogenic to humans”, the 16 February report said.

Other organisations, including the US Environmental Protection Agency, have stated that glyphosate was not likely to be carcinogenic to humans, Reuters wrote.

The US government had said that a full ban would break trade rules outlined in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) free trade agreement and could lead to legal action, the report said.

Mexico imports about 17M tonnes/year of GM corn from the USA, mostly yellow corn for use in animal feed products, according to the report. However, about 20% of its corn imports from the USA comprises white corn that is used in products for human consumption such as flour and tortillas.

Although the revised stance on GM corn for animal feed represented a degree of compromise by the Mexican government, US officials said it did not go far enough, the report said.

“The USA believes in, and adheres to, a science-based, rules-based trading system and remains committed to preventing disruptions to bilateral agricultural trade and economic harm to US and Mexican producers,” US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was quoted as saying.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced in late 2020 that he would implement a decree banning biotech corn imports into the country beginning in early 2024. The majority of US corn is genetically modified.

If Mexico had gone ahead with the full import ban, the economic consequences would have been devastating for US farmers and Mexican consumers, according to a recently released study by World Perspectives. The study found that the US corn industry would lose US$3.56bn in the first year following a full ban, followed by a US$5.56bn loss in the second year, according to the report’s estimates. Over the 10-year forecast period, the corn industry would have faced a US$13.61bn loss.