US Senators expressed concerns about Mexico’s plan to ban the import of genetically engineered corn during a Wednesday hearing on the 2023 farm bill, a piece of legislation that sets U.S. standards for agriculture and related policy.
In 2020, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced the country would prohibit genetically modified corn by 2024, prompting U.S. lawmakers to worry that the change would hurt American farmers and violate trade agreements.
Alexis Taylor, under secretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs for the Department of Agriculture (USDA), answered questions from lawmakers Wednesday about the response to López Obrador’s decree.
“As it is for many other genetically engineered products that have been studied for decades, the safety of these products are not in question,” Taylor said.
Congress must pass legislation known as the farm bill every five years to set standards for agriculture, nutrition, forestry and conservation. The Senate Agriculture Committee began the process last year by holding field hearings in Michigan and Arkansas.
The Wednesday committee hearing focused on trade and horticulture, with López Obrador’s announcement at the forefront of lawmakers’ minds.
Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) asked Taylor about the Biden administration’s response to the GMO corn ban and if they would enforce trade agreements between the U.S. and Mexico in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
“In the meantime, the administration has refused to trigger the USMCA to contest Mexico’s planned exclusion of American corn,” Marshall said. “What are we waiting for? What are we waiting for to trigger this mechanism? I mean, I’m tired of talking about it, forming committees and praying about it. We think it’s time for action.”
Taylor said she visited Mexico two weeks ago to highlight concerns about the ban and that officials are still working to find a solution, given the USDA said the ban could disrupt “billions of dollars” in trade.
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