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GMO corn Canada and U.S. bully Mexico to use GMO corn due to biotech lobby groups

Submission on CUSMA dispute panel hearings into Mexico’s GMO corn laws

This brief has been prepared by the Trade Justice Group of the Northumberland Chapter of the Council of Canadians.

TMEC Secretariat, Mexican Section
Pachuca No. 189, 17th floor
Colonia Condesa, Demarcación Territorial Cuauhtémoc C.P. 06140, Mexico City
Telephone No.: +52 55 57 29 91 00 Ext. 15011 E-mail:

A Brief* towards a full submission – dated November 7, 2023 to the:
TMEC – USMCA – CUSMA dispute panel hearings into Mexico’s GMO corn laws

Dear Secretariat:

The trade dispute panel case being brought by the United States (with intervener status support from Canada) seeks to challenge Mexico’s corn laws. The U.S. and Canada claim that Mexico has no ‘science’ to back up its corn-related policy intentions. This submission/Brief would argue that the trade dispute panel should look closely at the ‘scientific’ validity of the evidence that the U.S. and Canada are putting forward to argue their case. Just how much of the ‘scientific’ evidence these two countries are relying on comes directly from industry sources? Have the relevant government departments in the U.S. and Canada the ability to independently review industry sponsored findings on, for example, risks posed to human health and on the environment given the risk of unregulated propagation of genetically modified organisms?

Canada is double-dealing when demanding ‘science’ from Mexico.

As Canada joins the U.S. in challenging Mexico to stop its planned phase-out of genetically modified (GM) corn for human consumption, a too-close collaboration between federal government departments and the biotechnology industry has been exposed. Recent media investigations have unearthed an email trail showing that the biotechnology and pesticide industry lobby group CropLife Canada was instrumental in Canada’s new decision to remove regulation from many coming gene-edited GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

Documents received via Access to Information show that Canadian federal government departments worked directly with CropLife Canada to design new regulatory guidance on genetically engineered foods and crops in a committee called the “Tiger Team”. The new guidance removes government safety assessments from many new gene-edited GMOs and allows companies to put these unregulated GMOs on the market without notifying the government.

This new regulatory decision that allows the sale of unknown, unregulated GMOs amounts to a biotech corporate take-over of the Canadian food system where companies will control all of the science and information about new GMOs. But the biotechnology industry also wants to force its products onto the market in other countries – and the Canadian government is in fighting form on the side of these corporate interests.

Dozens of Canadian organizations, including the Council of Canadians, the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network and the National Farmers Union, have asked the federal government to support the Government of Mexico in its action to phase out GM corn imports, to protect traditional maize from GM corn contamination. Instead, in August of this year, as urged by agribusiness exporters and the biotech industry, Canada announced it will participate as a third party in the dispute settlement proceedings initiated by the United States under the aegis of the Canada-U.S.-Mexico trade Agreement (CUSMA). Interestingly, however, the US and Canada are not challenging Mexico’s twin plan to phase-out the herbicide glyphosate.

Mexican maize varieties produced over millennia are safe – but GMO corn?

This Brief requests that the trade dispute panel weigh up the 9000 year history of the development and commercialization of maize varieties by indigenous and rural communities, over and against the three decades old industry experience with genome editing. As the trade panel will discover when it looks into genome editing, there are no standard protocols yet to detect off-target and on-target effects, nor to evaluate them, for instance for food and environmental safety.

Mexico is the world’s origin and cradle of maize (corn) production where indigenous farming communities have bred and shared a wide diversity of varieties (landraces) for many thousands of years. The future of corn in Mexico is key to food sovereignty. In fact, some small farmers have already had to work hard to eliminate previous GM corn contamination.

Contamination isnt just one more problem. Its an aggression against Mexicos identity and its original inhabitantsWe want our seeds and we are going to defend them and rescue them.Alvaro Salgado of the Center for Indigenous Missions (CENAMI), Mexico, 2004 .

The evidence is overwhelming for the adoption of the ‘precautionary principle’ when dealing with food sources that could negatively impact human heath. The chemical-heavy agro-industrial practices accompanying the usage of GMO corn can have a devastating impact on soil fertility, leading in turn to small farm holders in countries like Mexico having to migrate to cities or to other countries in order to make a living.

Precautionary measures are also merited in order to protect the maize diversity achieved by Mexico over the millennia. Studies have already identified cases in Mexico of GM cross-pollination threatening the country’s wealth of native maize diversity. The authors of this Brief suggest that the trade dispute panel refer to the January 2014 decision by Mexican judge Walter Arellano Hobelsberger whose ruling granted a precautionary injunction in response to a class-action suit brought by Demanda Colectiva (a collective of 53 people from 22 organizations) to stop multinational seed companies from planting genetically modified corn in Mexico. A recent court decision in Mexico coming after almost a decade of unrelenting pressure from corporate lobbyists overturned a portion of the 2014 ruling, but this recent ruling is now under appeal by Mexican NGOs.

Canada has other trade interests at play by seeking intervenor status here.

Canada has been granted third party intervener status in this trade panel dispute process with regard to Mexico’s curtailment of GMO corn imports, this despite the fact that Canada does not actually export corn to Mexico. Canada’s agriculture and international trade ministers say that Mexico’s phase-out of GM corn (now narrowed to imports of GM white corn used for direct human consumption in Mexico, not GM yellow corn imported for animal feed) has “the potential to unnecessarily disrupt trade in the North American market” (August 25, 2023).

Given the risks to Mexico’s consumers and agricultural producers evident in permitting the imports of GMO corn and genome modified seed stock, this Brief calls on the TMEC-USMCA-CUSMA trade dispute panel to find in favour of Mexico’s desire to protect human health, its small farm holders, and the country’s environmental well being, such as Mexico has been doing for several millennia.

We would welcome the opportunity to provide a more detailed submission as a contribution to the proceedings.

*This Brief has been prepared by the Trade Justice Group of the Northumberland Chapter of the Council of Canadians. The Council of Canadians is a legally registered NGO in Canada with many thousands of members who donate in support of the Council’s work. Neither the Trade Justice Group nor the national Council of Canadians have received any assistance in preparing this Brief from the Parties to this trade dispute.

This Brief has been shared with and endorsed by Common Frontiers-Canada, a national working group composed of 15 faith-based, labour, and social justice organizations focused on the Americas. Common Frontiers grew out of the experience gained in dealing with the Free Trade agenda and the recognition that cooperation must extend across sectors nationally and also across borders

Rick Arnold
Chair of the Trade Justice Group,
Northumberland Chapter of the Council of Canadians