US requests dispute settlement consultations with Mexico over GM corn

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By Cassandra Garrison

MEXICO CITY, June 2 (Reuters) -The United States is escalating its dispute with Mexico over agriculture biotech measures, including its stance on genetically modified (GM) corn, by requesting dispute settlement consultations, senior officials of the U.S. Trade Representative's office said on Friday.

The North American neighbors are inching closer to a full-blown trade dispute under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) on trade over Mexico's policies to limit the use of GM corn, which it imports from the U.S.

The United States requested formal trade consultations in March over objections to Mexico's plans to limit imports of GM corn and other agricultural biotechnology products. Those consultations took place, but failed to resolve the matter, the senior USTR officials said.

The escalation of the dispute comes amid other disagreements between the U.S. and Mexico, most notably over energy in which the U.S. has argued that Mexico's nationalist policy prejudices foreign companies.

Despite changes to Mexico's decree on GM corn, which it modifiedin February, the U.S. said the Latin American country's policies are not based on science and appear inconsistent with its commitment under the USMCA.

"They did make some modifications such as removing the specific timeline for banning biotech products, but the decree does call for a gradual substitution and eventual banning of biotech corn, and this part of the measure itself is not science-based," said a senior USTR official.

The consulting party may request the establishment of a dispute settlement panel if the parties have failed to resolve the matter within 75 days of the request for consultation, the officials added.

Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has said that GM seeds can contaminate Mexico's age-old native varieties and has questioned their impact on human health.

Mexico's agriculture minister expressed confidence in an interview published this week that the dispute with the U.S. would not go any further, or escalate to a dispute settlement panel.

Reporting by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Leslie Adler


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