Canadian and US governments muzzle CBAN in trade dispute over GM corn

CSNN National Page > Canadian and US governments muzzle CBAN in trade dispute over GM corn

The US and Canadian governments have successfully overturned an earlier decision that allowed the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) and the Council of Canadians the opportunity to submit comments directly to the trade dispute panel in the US-Canada challenge to Mexico’s ban on genetically modified (GM) corn. Canadian NGOs are now denied status to submit comments to the trade dispute panel.

A decision announced on December 15, 2023 granted CBAN and the Council of Canadians leave to submit written comments to the trade dispute panel, with a deadline of January 12, 2024. But this decision was revoked on January 5th after a request from the US government, supported by the Canadian government. Click here to read and share today’s press release.

The US is challenging Mexico’s right to ban the use of GM corn, under the Canada-US-Mexico Trade Agreement (CUSMA). CBAN and the Council of Canadians were the only two Canadian NGOs given official status to comment in the dispute – the National Farmers Union requested this status but was denied. There are now eight NGOs left, in the US and Mexico, with permission to submit comments to the dispute panel.

Over the holidays, CBAN staff and Council of Canadians volunteers were working hard to prepare detailed legal documents in support of Mexico’s ban. This work will continue but will now be redirected to writing a more publicly-accessible research document arguing that Mexico has the right to ban GM corn and is justified in taking these measures.

“How is it possible that at the last moment the trade panel can withdraw their earlier invitation for Canadian NGOs to prepare written submissions? Muzzling these Canadian voices demonstrates once again that the United States, in league with the Canadian government, doesn’t want to allow points of views at odds with their brash promotion of genetically modified corn, despite the multiple possible consequences for Mexicans, their health, native corn biodiversity, historical cultural norms and food sovereignty.” – Alejandro Villamar Calderon of the Mexican Action Network on Free Trade (RMALC).

More Information

Mexico already bans the cultivation of GM corn but the new decree would impact GM corn imports from the US. Canada does not currently export any corn to Mexico.

The Mexican decree immediately bans the use of GM corn for human consumption (white corn intended for use in dough and tortillas) and orders a phase-out of using GM corn for animal feed and processed food ingredients. The decree also orders a phase-out of the use of the herbicide glyphosate but this aspect of the measures is not being challenged.

Corn is an important part of the Mexican diet, as well as Mexican culture, history, national identity, and Indigenous spiritual practice. Mexico is the global centre of origin of corn. As such, the preservation of corn biodiversity in Mexico a matter of unique global significance. Farmers in Mexico have, over millenia, developed and safeguarded native corn biodiversity by keeping thousands of traditional landraces under cultivation. The Government of Mexico argues that the ban on GM corn is needed in order to promote the preservation of this biocultural heritage and the agroecological practices of peasant communities.

Corn is a staple food in Mexico. On average, Mexicans eat one pound of corn a day, one of the highest consumption levels in the world. Unlike corn consumption in Canada and the US which is dominated by processed corn ingredients and the consumption of products from animals raised on GM corn in feed, corn in Mexico is commonly consumed directly, largely through the use of minimally processed white corn flour for tortilla.

Click here for background information on the dispute.