WASHINGTON — The United States plans to request the formation of a dispute resolution panel under the US-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) to address its complaint that Mexico’s ban on genetically modified (GM) corn violates the free-trade agreement, Bloomberg News reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

In June, the office of the US Trade Representative sought a new round of trade dispute settlement consultations with Mexico under the pact following technical discussions on the GM corn topic in the spring. Aug. 16 marked the 75-day deadline for the two sides to resolve the conflict, after which the United States can request a dispute settlement panel to decide the case.

Mexico has said it will counter US arguments, Reuters has previously reported, but it also is committed to “constructive dialogue” and believes the countries can “reach a mutually satisfactory agreement.”   

The United States has engaged Mexico in numerous discussions about its biotechnology policies, which it has said are not based on science and threaten to disrupt US exports to Mexico.

This month, the United States denied a request by Mexico to jointly conduct scientific research on the health impact of GM corn, Reuters reported, a sign the two could be inching closer to a formal trade dispute. 

On Jan. 1, 2021, a decree by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador prohibiting the use of GM corn by 2024 entered into force. A later decree published this February pulled back on that initial policy, and calls for banning GM corn for certain uses, specifically consumption by people. Certain uses would include tortillas and dough, which is mainly made from white corn.

Mexico has said the ban was proposed because GM corn may have adverse health effects, even when used as fodder.

Mexico imports about 17 million tonnes of corn from the United States, most of which is yellow corn that primarily is used in feed production. About 5% of that total from the United States is white corn.

Mexico’s overall corn imports in 2022-23 dropped 3.8% year-over-year to 17.4 million tonnes due to export tariffs on white corn and the GM decree, according to a US Department of Agriculture report.

There’s also concern that if the decree on white corn stands, yellow corn could be next. 

Mexico produced 40 million tonnes of feed in 2022, according to the USDA. It will need an estimated 27.2 million tonnes of corn for feed production in 2023-24.