Illinois corn growers optimistic about Mexico meeting

SPRINGFIELD – Corn farmers in Illinois are keeping a close eye on U.S. negotiations with Mexico over possible genetically modified corn restrictions.

Mexico has suggested a ban of genetically modified corn for human consumption and says it could eventually ban it for animal feed as well. The U.S. Trade Representative’s office announced this week it has called for consultations with Mexico over the dispute. If the issue isn’t resolved, it could lead to trade sanctions for violating the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.

Mexican officials have said that genetically modified corn may have health effects, but has not provided any evidence.

“When we first heard about it we thought they can’t be serious, because it is just an incredible potential change and would be absolutely devastating to the Mexican economy,” said Collin Waters, director of exports and logistics with the Illinois Corn Growers Association.

Mexico has been importing genetically modified feed corn for years, buying about $3 billion worth annually. Illinois is one of the leading corn producers in the country.

The Mexican economy minister, who spoke with the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office in February, has said Mexico already produces more of the white corn used for tortillas than it consumes, while corn imported from the U.S. is for livestock feed and industrial uses.

More than 90 percent of corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified, according to the National Corn Growers Association. U.S. officials have criticized Mexico’s new policy as not being proven, as GMO products have long been consumed safely.

“Illinois corn farmers are happy to see the USTR take steps to hold Mexico to the terms they agreed to when negotiating the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement for trade,” said Illinois Corn Growers Association president Matt Rush in a statement. “Resolution of this trade dispute will bring certainty to the marketplace that Illinois corn farmers need.”