Uncertainty around the possibility of Mexico following through on a decree banning genetically modified (GM) corn continues, according to a World Grain report, as agriculture officials and trade groups outline the negative impacts of such a ban to the country’s leaders.

In a meeting in August with Iowa farmers, US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had downplayed the idea of banning imports, the 26 August report said, calling it a product of politics and a move to protect the country’s heritage.

The country takes pride in its white corn varieties and wants to maintain its heritage corn seeds, according to the report.

Vilsack was quoted as saying that he had told Mexican leaders that consumers could face rising food costs without US corn to feed livestock.

“That made an impression,” he was quoted as saying in the meeting. “And we’re in discussions about how we might get to a better place” on accepting biotech traits and continuing US corn sales to Mexico.

Issued by Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the decree came into force on 1 January 2021 and called for glyphosate and GM corn to be phased out by January 2024, World Grain wrote.

Mexico imports approximately 17M tonnes/year of GM corn, with the USA the top supplier, according to the report.

In mid-August, a MAIZALL delegation had met with government representatives and industry stakeholders in Mexico to discuss the decree, the report said. MAIZALL includes members from the Brazilian Association of Corn Producers (Abramilho), the Argentine corn and sorghum association (MAIZAR) and the National Corn Growers Association and US Grains Council (USGC) in the USA and farmers from these countries produce 50% of the world’s corn and 81% of corn exports.

The group had pointed out that it was unlikely that enough non-GM corn would be available in international markets by 2024 to meet Mexico’s needs, leading to food insecurity and increased prices for many of the country’s staple foods, World Grain wrote.

The ban could increase Mexico’s food insecurity and add US$4.4bn to its corn import costs, according to a World Perspectives report in March.