Experts fear Mexico’s GMO corn ban could hurt Nebraska farmers

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Experts at a UNL conference on trade raised alarm on Wednesday about how a trade dispute with Mexico could affect Nebraska farmers.

Christine McDaniel, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center, said the changing patterns of global trade could hurt the U.S. economy over the next few years.

“Most people don’t know it, but everything they eat, wear, what they use in their daily lives, has probably in some way crossed a border somewhere, at least once, or twice, or three times or more in the case of automobiles,” she said.

McDaniel said the top concern for farmers is Mexico’s ban of genetically modified corn and the herbicide glyphosate, which will fully implemented by 2024.

She says this is really concerning for U.S. farmers, as Mexico is their largest export market, and it would affect nearly all of Nebraska’s corn farmers.

“It could dismantle a lot of Nebraska’s farming sector,” McDaniel said.

Kenneth Smith, former chief negotiator for the North American Free Trade Agreement, said Mexico imports over 19 million tons of yellow corn from the U.S. and is a big importer of wheat, rice and meat products as well.

“The government there in place right now is taking an ideological position against genetically modified organisms,” he said. “So, anything coming from agricultural biotechnology — GMOs in corn, cotton seed, soybeans — is being challenged by areas of the Mexican government.”

He said Mexico has been importing genetically modified corn from the U.S. since the 1990s, and there hasn’t been any effects to environmental or human health.

With thousands of products derived from corn and corn syrup, Smith said it would be detrimental to both the U.S. and Mexico to have a dispute over agricultural exports when prices are already high.

“It’s very important for Nebraska because being such a breadbasket for the U.S. and the world, Mexico is the No. 1 destination for all of these products,” Smith said.

He said it’s important that free trade continues so farmers and processors can keep reaping the benefits of the 128 million people in Mexico buying products from Nebraska.

McDaniel said that if Mexico goes through with this ban, the short-term effect would be a surplus of corn here, which would lower prices for the next couple of years.

She also said that she and other economists are looking to the Biden administration to pressure Mexico to explain what its aims are and why it is so against GMOs.

McDaniel said the Russia-Ukraine war and China’s potential invasion of Taiwan are also going to make it difficult for farmers to plan ahead when it comes to buying and selling with foreign markets over the next few years.

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