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Concern for canola

Mexico has become more hostile to genetically modified crops, agricultural innovations and pesticides, which could jeopardize Canadian ag exports to Mexico, says a biotechnology expert from the University of Saskatchewan.

Given changes in policy, there’s a chance that Mexico’s dispute with America about genetically modified corn could spread to other crops.

“It would be very prudent for the Canadian canola sector to be on top of what’s going on between the States and Mexico over corn,” said Stuart Smyth, a U of S agricultural economist.

“Mexico has demonstrated a willingness to try and prevent Bt cotton. They’ve got GM corn clearly in their sights. I think the canola export sector and the entire canola sector has to be very worried about Mexico’s ag and trade policies and the direction they’re heading in.”

For most of 2023, Mexico and the United States have been locked in a political battle over GM corn.

In February, Mexico announced a ban on GM corn use in tortillas and dough, with a plan to gradually substitute the use of biotech corn in all products for human consumption and for animal feed.

The U.S. pushed back against that decision and tried to convince the Mexican government to alter its position, to no avail.

On Aug. 17, the U.S. announced it would use the dispute settlement panel in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), to challenge the ban on GM corn.


“Mexico’s measures are not based on science and undermine the market access it agreed to provide in the USMCA,” the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said in a statement.

Smyth, who studies agricultural innovation and the regulation of ag technology, is concerned that Mexico’s policies have become more like Europe, where environmental organizations seemingly dictate policies around GM crops and pesticides.

As examples, Mexico hasn’t approved new Bt cotton varieties for several years. The government has also been phasing out the use of glyphosate, the most common herbicide in the world, and is planning a complete ban in March.

Last fall, the national legislature studied a bill that would prohibit 183 pesticides and encourage use of biological products, Reuters reported.

“Mexico, their regulations (were) solidly science-based,” Smyth said. “(But) in the past decade they’ve become very European, where they are precautionary based. Scientific evidence and data doesn’t play much of a role in Mexico’s current regulatory and policy framework.”

If Mexico’s rejection of ag technology continues, it could target other GM crops.

In 2022, Mexico was Canada’s third largest market for canola. It imported $1.2 billion worth of canola seed and $436 million worth of canola oil.

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