With 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside the United States, agricultural trade is an important pillar in our farm economy. Strong trading partnerships are key to a global economy and worldwide food security. Unfortunately, a proposal by the Mexican government to ban the import of corn developed with biotechnology threatens to upset the balance of trade between our two nations.

Under Mexico’s original proposal, genetically modified corn for human consumption would be phased out by January 2024. What started as a campaign promise from Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is now a full-blown trade dispute. Mexico said the ban is not intended to hurt its trade partners, as most U.S. corn currently exported to Mexico is utilized for animal feed, not direct human consumption.

While Mexico has resisted the adoption of biotechnology for corn, the nation has become increasingly reliant on corn imports, particularly from the U.S. According to USDA, the annual value of U.S. corn and corn-based products exported to our southern neighbor increased by $1.8 billion from 2007 through 2017. In recent years, the U.S. has supplied more than 90 percent of Mexico’s total corn imports; shipping 13.8 million tons of yellow corn and 1.6 million tons of white corn to Mexico in 2022. For U.S. producers, any ban on corn exports to the country will have a massive impact here at home, with direct consequences on local prices.

Thankfully, Mexico has dropped its proposed January 2024 deadline following complaints from USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai. But, they have indicated they still intend to move forward with the ban and recently announced a 50 percent tariff on white corn imports for the rest of 2023. American producers and policymakers are scrambling to halt these misguided policies before they start all parties down a slippery slope against biotechnology and food products.

Missourians are leading the way on this issue. Missouri Farm Bureau and other agricultural advocates have weighed in with lawmakers and agency officials asking them to work together to find a solution. This spring, Congressman Jason Smith, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, led a bipartisan group of federal legislators to meet with top officials in Mexico City.

The bipartisan passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in 2020 paved the way for trading partners to address issues related to biotechnology practices, which prior to USMCA, no trade agreement formally addressed. On June 2, 2023, the U.S. requested formal proceedings under the authority of USMCA to resolve the dispute with Mexico.

U.S. farmers and ranchers produce the safest and most abundant agricultural products in the world, and strong trade relationships are key to our success. Biotechnology is blazing the trail for new varieties of crops that more efficiently utilize resources like water, fertilizer and crop protection products, all while improving the overall environmental impact of agriculture. We must continue to advocate for modern agriculture rooted in sound science, rather than emotion, and work to ensure our trade partners uphold their end of the bargain in these proceedings.