UPDATE 11. May 2021: Bayer-Monsanto Fails (At First Attempt) to Block Mexico’s Phaseout of Glyphosate and Ban on GMO Corn

UPDATE 09. March 2021: CDC study finds about 78% of people hospitalized for COVID were overweight or obese

ICYMI: Emails Reveal US Officials Joined With Agrochemical Giant BAYER to Stop Mexico’s Glyphosate Ban

Mexico to Ban Glyphosate, GM Corn

Presidential Decree Comes Despite Intense Pressure from Industry, U.S. Authorities

Tractor caravan to Mexico City farmer protest demands "Mexico Free of Transgenics". Credit: Enrique Perez S./ANEC

By Timothy A. Wise - 24. Februar 2021

Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador quietly rocked the agribusiness world with his New Year’s Eve decree to phase out use of the herbicide glyphosate and the cultivation of genetically modified corn. His administration sent an even stronger aftershock two weeks later, clarifying that the government would also phase out GM corn imports in three years and the ban would include not just corn for human consumption but yellow corn destined primarily for livestock. Under NAFTA, the United States has seen a 400% increase in corn exports to Mexico, the vast majority genetically modified yellow dent corn.

The bold policy moves fulfill a campaign promise by Mexico’s populist president, whose agricultural policies have begun to favor Mexican producers, particularly small-scale farmers, and protect consumers alarmed by the rise of obesity and chronic diseases associated with high-fat, high-sugar processed foods.

In banning glyphosate, the decree cites the precautionary principle and the growing body of scientific research showing the dangers of the chemical, the active ingredient in Bayer/Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. The government had stopped imports of glyphosate since late 2019, citing the World Health Organization’s warning that the chemical is a “probable carcinogen.”

The prohibitions on genetically modified corn, which appear toward the end of the decree, have more profound implications. The immediate ban on permits for cultivation of GM corn formalizes current restrictions, ordered by Mexican courts in 2013 when a citizen lawsuit challenged government permitting of experimental GM corn planting by Monsanto and other multinational seed companies on the grounds of the contamination threat they posed to Mexico’s rich store of native corn varieties. The import ban cites the same environmental threats but goes further, advancing the López Obrador administration’s goals of promoting greater food self-sufficiency in key crops. As the decree states:

“[W]ith the objective of achieving self-sufficiency and food sovereignty, our country must be oriented towards establishing sustainable and culturally adequate agricultural production, through the use of agroecological practices and inputs that are safe for human health, the country’s biocultural diversity and the environment, as well as congruent with the agricultural traditions of Mexico.”

Chronicle of a decree foretold

Such policies should come as no surprise. In his campaign, López Obrador committed to such measures. Unprecedented support from rural voters were critical to his landslide 2019 electoral victory, with his new Movement for National Renewal (Morena) claiming majorities in both houses of Congress.

Still, industry and U.S. government officials seemed shocked that their lobbying had failed to stop López Obrador from acting. The pressure campaign was intense, as Carey Gillam explained in a February 16 Guardian expose on efforts by Bayer/Monsanto, industry lobbyist CropLife, and U.S. government officials to deter the glyphosate ban. According to email correspondence obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity through Freedom of Information Act requests, officials in the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture and office of the U.S. Trade Representative were in touch with Bayer representatives and warned Mexican officials that restrictions could be in violation of the revised North American Free Trade Agreement, now rebranded by the Trump Administration as the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA).

According to the emails, CropLife president Chris Novak last March sent a letter to Robert Lighthizer, USTR’s ambassador, arguing that Mexico’s actions would be “incompatible with Mexico’s obligations under USMCA.” In May, Lighthizer followed through, writing to Graciela Márquez Colín, Mexico’s minister of economy, warning that GMO crop and glyphosate matters threatened to undermine “the strength of our bilateral relationship.” An earlier communication argued that Mexico’s actions on glyphosate, which Mexico had ceased importing, were “without a clear scientific justification.”

Nothing could be further from the truth, according to Victor Suárez, Mexico’s Undersecretary of Agriculture for Food and Competitiveness. “There is rigorous scientific evidence of the toxicity of this herbicide,” he told me, citing the WHO findings and an extensive literature review carried out by Mexico’s biosafety commission Cibiogem.

And even though most imported U.S. corn is used for animal feed, not direct human consumption, a study carried out by María Elena Álvarez-Buylla, now head of CONACYT, the government’s leading scientific body, documented the presence of GM corn sequences in many of Mexico’s most common foods. Some 90% of tortillas and 82% of other common corn-based foods contained GM corn. Mexico needs to be especially cautious, according to Suárez, because corn is so widely consumed, with Mexicans on average eating one pound of corn a day, one of the highest consumption levels in the world.

While the glyphosate restrictions are based on concerns about human health and the environment, the phaseout of GM corn is justified additionally on the basis of the threat of contamination of Mexico’s native corn varieties and the traditional intercropped milpa. The final article in the decree states the purpose is to contribute “to food security and sovereignty” and to offer “a special measure of protection to native corn.”

The ban on GM corn cultivation has been a longstanding demand ever since the previous administration of Enrique Peña Nieto granted permission to Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and a host of other multinational seed companies to begin experimental planting in northern Mexico. Such permits were halted in 2013 by a Mexico court injunction based on a claim from 53 farmer, consumer and environmental organizations – the self-denominated Demanda Colectiva – that GM corn cultivation threatened to contaminate native varieties of corn through inadvertent cross-pollination.

“It is difficult to imagine a worse place to grow GM corn than Mexico,” said Adelita San Vicente, the lead spokesperson for the plaintiffs who is now working in López Obrador’s environment ministry, when I interviewed her in 2014 for my book, Eating Tomorrow (which includes a chapter on the GM corn issue). Such contamination was well-documented and the courts issued the injunction citing the potential for permanent damage to the environment.

As Judge Walter Arrellano Hobelsberger wrote in a 2014 decision, “The use and enjoyment of biodiversity is the right of present and future generations.”

Mexico’s self-sufficiency campaign

Mexico’s farmer and environmental organizations were quick to praise the decree, though many warned that it is only a first step and implementation will be key. “These are important steps in moving toward ecological production that preserves biodiversity and agrobiodiversity forged by small-scale farmers over millennia,” wrote Greenpeace Mexico and the coalition “Without Corn There is No Country.”

Malin Jonsson of Semillas de Vida (Seeds of Life), one of the plaintiffs in the court case, told me, “This is a first step toward eliminating glyphosate, withdrawing permits for GM maize cultivation and eliminating the consumption of GM maize. To end consumption we have to stop importing GM maize from the United States by increasing Mexico’s maize production.”

Mexico imports about 30% of its corn each year, overwhelmingly from the United States. Almost all of that is yellow corn for animal feed and industrial uses. López Obrador’s commitment to reducing and, by 2024, eliminating such imports reflects his administration’s plan to ramp up Mexican production as part of the campaign to increase self-sufficiency in corn and other key food crops – wheat, rice, beans, and dairy. Mexican farmers have long complained that since NAFTA was enacted in 1994 ultra-cheap U.S. corn has driven down prices for Mexican farmers. The proposed import restrictions would help López Obrador’s “Mexico First” agricultural policies while bringing needed development to rural areas.

Will Biden Administration block action?

Industry organizations on both sides of the border have complained bitterly about the proposed bans. “The import of genetically modified grain from the U.S. is essential for many products in the agrifood chain,” said Laura Tamayo, spokeswoman for Mexico’s National Farm Council (CNA), who is also a regional corporate director for Bayer. Bayer’s agrochemical unit Monsanto makes weedkiller Roundup and the GMO corn designed to be used with the pesticide.

“This decree is completely divorced from reality,” said José Cacho, president of Mexico’s corn industry chamber CANAMI, the 25-company group that includes top corn millers like Gruma, cereal maker Kellogg, and commodity trader Cargill.

Juan Cortina, president of CNA, said his members might sue the government over the bans. “I think there will need to be legal challenges brought by all the people who use glyphosate and genetically-modified corn,” he told Reuters, adding that he also expects U.S. exporters to appeal to provisions of the USMCA trade pact to have the measures declared illegal.

Industry sources also warned that Mexico would never be able to meet its corn needs without U.S. exports and that U.S. farmers would be harmed by the presumed loss of the Mexican export market. Others quickly pointed out that Mexico was not banning U.S. exports, just GM corn exports. U.S. farmers are perfectly capable of producing non-GM corn at comparable prices, according to seed industry sources, so the ruling could encourage the development of a premium market in the United States for non-GMO corn, something U.S. consumers have been demanding for years.

Such pressures may present an early test for President Joe Biden and his nominee for U.S. Trade Representative, Katherine Tai, whose confirmation hearing is scheduled for February 25. Tai won high marks for helping get stricter labor and environmental provisions into the agreement that replaced NAFTA. Will she and the Biden administration respect Mexico’s sovereign right to enact policies designed to protect the Mexican public and the environment while promoting Mexican rural development?

Victor Suárez certainly hopes so. “Our rationale is based on the precautionary principle in the face of environmental risks as well as the right of the Mexican government to take action in favor of the public good, in important areas such as public health and the environment,” he told me.

“We are a sovereign nation with a democratic government,” he continued, “which came to power with the support of the majority of citizens, one that places compliance with our constitution and respect for human rights above all private interests.”

Author:

Timothy A. Wise is a senior advisor with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and the author of Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Battle for the Future of Food.

===

UPDATE:

Bayer-Monsanto Fails (At First Attempt) to Block Mexico’s Phaseout of Glyphosate and Ban on GMO Corn

By  - 11. May 2021

Mexico has already gone mano a mano with Monsanto before, and it came out on top. But this time it’s on a direct collision course with Big Ag and the U.S. government.

Life used to be a whole lot easier for German pharmaceutical and crop science company Bayer. But that was before it bought the scandal-tarnished US GMO giant Monsanto for $66 billion. That has turned out to be a very price indeed. Bayer itself is now worth just $53 billion — $13 billion less than what it paid for Monsanto in 2018. And it has faced tens of thousands of lawsuits claiming that Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer caused non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The German company has agreed to pay as much as $11.5 billion to resolve existing US litigation. It has also proposed to pay a further $2 billion into a fund that would cover people who’ve been using Roundup but haven’t yet developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma, or just haven’t filed a lawsuit yet. But it also continues to reject claims that Roundup causes cancer even as new lawsuits pile up against it. And it wants to assemble its own panel of expert scientists — as opposed to an independent jury — to rule on the viability of those future claims, which is hardly in the interest of those filing the claims.

A Gathering Customer Exodus

As all this is going on, a growing list of countries, states and cities around the world are banningRoundup. They include Mexico, whose government issued a presidential decree on December 31 phasing out the use of the herbicide glyphosate, Roundup’s active ingredient, and banning the cultivation and importation of genetically modified (GM) corn. After pulling a few strings, Bayer was able to win a temporary reprieve from the government’s planned three-year phase out of the herbicide. But that decision has now been overturned by Mexico’s Collegiate Court.

Bayer insists there’s nothing wrong with the herbicide: “Glyphosate is safe and hundreds of scientific studies support that,” the company said in a recent statement, citing its more than four-decade track record in Mexico.

But Mexico’s Ministry of the Environment (Semarnat), formerly a strong advocate of GMOs, is  having none of it. The ministry already began restricting imports of glyphosate in 2019, citing the precautionary principle. Glyphosate, it says, has proven to be extremely harmful to both human health and the environment. It has also been classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organization (WHO). 

To justify its new import ban, Mexico’s government cites the threat of GMO products to human health as well as the risk of contamination of native corn varieties. But there’s another motive at work here: to advance the AMLO administration’s goal of achieving greater food self-sufficiency by promoting domestic corn production. And that puts it on direct collision course with Big Ag and the US government.

Taking On Monsanto, and Winning

The cultivation of GM corn in Mexico, even in field trials, has been prohibited in Mexico since 2013. This was the result of a suit brought by a collective of 53 scientists and 22 civil rights organizations and NGOs. This broad grassroots coalition sought to safeguard Mexico’s diversity and common ownership of corn. It’s a struggle that intensified as GMO oligopolies began pressuring governments across Latin America to introduce legislation that would apply brutally rigid intellectual copyright laws to the crop seeds that farmers are able to grow.

But in Manuel Zeleta, the coalition found a sympathetic — and seemingly incorruptible — judge. In his ruling he banned field trials of GMO corn, citing the potential risks they posed to the environment. If the biotech industry got its way, he argued, more than 7000 years of indigenous maize cultivation in Mexico would be endangered. The country’s 60 varieties of corn would be directly threatened by cross-pollination from transgenic strands.

Monsanto’s response was as swift as it was brutal. Not only did it – and its lackeys in the [Peña Nieto] government – appeal Zaleta’s ruling, it also demanded his removal from the bench for already stating his opinion on a case before sentencing. Targeting the form rather than the substance of Zaleta’s ruling, Monsanto, together with fellow GMO giants such as Syngenta and Dupont, launched at least 90 challenges, all to no avail. And to this day, commercial-scale planting of GMO corn seeds remains illegal in Mexico.

A Sacred Plant

In Mexico corn is far more than just a staple crop. For millenia it has played a vital role in the country’s culture, religions and economy. It was idiolized by the Aztecs and many other pre-Colombian civilizations. But now Mexico, the birthplace of modern corn, is dangerously dependent on international markets for its supplies.

But that is something the AMLO government wants to change. Through his presidential decree Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO for short) doesn’t just want to eliminate the presence of GMOs in the Mexican diet; he also seeks to promote domestic corn production in order to achieve greater food self-sufficiency. He also wants to revitalize rural Mexico, which could help to address one of the root causes of Mexican migration to the US. 

Since NAFTA Mexico has become increasingly reliant on foreign producers of corn and other staples like beans and rice. Mexico buys roughly a third of the corn it consumes from the U.S. as well as much of its rice and beans. Much of the corn is used to feed livestock. In 2019, Mexico was the biggest export market for U.S. corn, wheat, dairy products, poultry meat & products, distiller grains, rice, sweeteners, animal fats, and eggs & products. In return Mexico exports to the U.S. tomatoes, chiles, avocado, coffee, grapes, strawberries, water melon and other fruits and vegetables.

But it’s the staple crops that matter the most. They are what everyone eats and they are almost all moving in one direction. In a study on the role of American agribusiness in the Mexican economy the Woodrow Wilson Center found that U.S. exports of eight basic agricultural staples (corn, soy, wheat, cotton, rice, beef, pork and chicken) have seen huge increases — some of as much as 700% — since NAFTA. As the study’s director, Timothy A. Wise, pointed out in a 2010 interview with The Real News Network, all of the products receive, in one form or another, significant financial support from the U.S. government. Some are even sold in Mexico at below the actual U.S. production cost.

In 2015 the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations warned that Mexico had become a net importer of food. The FAO estimates that the threshold at which a country becomes what it calls “food-vulnerable” is when as much as 25% of its food supply comes from abroad. Mexico currently imports over 40% of the food it consumes, with nearly four-fifths of it coming from the U.S.

This makes Mexico extremely vulnerable to international price rises and pronounced currency fluctuations. And right now prices of the country’s basic staples are rising sharply. International corn prices have soared 50% in 2021, and a bushel costs more than twice what it did a year ago. The average price of corn tortillas — the quintessential staple food of the Mexican diet and cuisine — is at its highest level since 2017.

One of the last times prices rose this fast, in 2006,  it led to food riots. This is something that any government would want to avoid. But the AMLO administration is likely to face intense resistance to change, both from Big Ag and the US government.  

Big Ag Strikes Back

February 16 exposé in The Guardian has revealed the lengths to which Bayer/Monsanto, industry lobbyist CropLife, and U.S. government officials have already gone to overturn the glyphosate ban:

Internal USTR communications lay out how the agrochemical industry is “pushing” for the US to “fold this issue” into the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal that went into effect 1 July. The records then show the USTR does exactly that, telling Mexico its actions on glyphosate and genetically engineered crops raise concerns “regarding compliance” with USMCA.
Citing discussions with CropLife, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined in the effort, discussing in an inter-agency email “how we could use USMCA to work through these issues”.

The question now is how far the US government is willing to go to bring Mexico back into line. Trade Representative Katherine Tai recently told senators that she’s committed to using all available tools to make sure that its partners are living up to their promises in the new trade deal.

“I am very committed, I am not afraid to use the enforcement tools,” she said. “Some of them are cooperative, some of them are more confrontational.”

Big Ag lobbyists have also warned that the glyphosate ban could upend the country’s food supply, including its growing livestock sector. This is no idle warning. The government’s support of Mexican producers, in particular small-scale farmers, will need to translate into significant, sustainable production increases for the policy to pay off. And the current trend is not exactly encouraging. In the first quarter of 2021 Mexico’s imports of yellow and white corn increased 63% year over year, from $653 million to $1.06 billion. Granted, this was largely due to surging corn prices, but lower domestic production also played a part.

In other words, the Mexican government, in its pursuit of the laudable goal of achieving greater food autonomy, will have its work cut out, especially given how much that goal threatens to undercut the commercial interests of its biggest trading partner.   

===

CDC study finds about 78% of people hospitalized for COVID were overweight or obese

By Berkeley Lovelace Jr.@BerkeleyJr - 08. March 2021 - Updated 09. March 2021

Key Points

  • About 78% of people who have been hospitalized, needed a ventilator or died from Covid-19 have been overweight or obese, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a new study Monday.
  • Just over 42% of the U.S. population was considered obese in 2018, according to the agency's most recent statistics. Overweight is defined as having a body mass index of 25 or more, while obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30 or more.
  • "As clinicians develop care plans for COVID-19 patients, they should consider the risk for severe outcomes in patients with higher BMIs, especially for those with severe obesity," the CDC wrote.

REACT EMS paramedics wearing protective masks unload a potential coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patient at the ER in Shawnee, Oklahoma, U.S. December 20, 2020.

REACT EMS paramedics wearing protective masks unload a potential coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patient at the ER in Shawnee, Oklahoma, U.S. December 20, 2020. Nick Oxford | Reuters

An overwhelming majority of people who have been hospitalized, needed a ventilator or died from Covid-19 have been overweight or obese, the CDC said in a new study Monday.

Among 148,494 adults who received a Covid-19 diagnosis during an emergency department or inpatient visit at 238 U.S. hospitals from March to December, 71,491 were hospitalized. Of those who were admitted, 27.8% were overweight and 50.2% were obese, according to the CDC report. Overweight is defined as having a body mass index of 25 or more, while obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30 or more.

The agency found the risk for hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths was lowest among individuals with BMIs under 25. The risk of severe illness "sharply increased," however, as BMIs rose, particularly among people 65 and older, the agency said.

Just over 42% of the U.S. population was considered obese in 2018, according to the agency's most recent statistics.

It doesn't take a lot of extra pounds to be considered overweight or obese. A 5-foot-10-inch man at 175 pounds and 5-foot-4-inch woman at 146 pounds would both be considered overweight with BMIs of just over 25, according to the CDC's BMI calculator. A man and woman of the same heights would be considered obese at 210 pounds and 175 pounds, respectively.

"As clinicians develop care plans for COVID-19 patients, they should consider the risk for severe outcomes in patients with higher BMIs, especially for those with severe obesity," the agency wrote.

The CDC added the findings highlight the clinical and public health implications of higher BMIs, including the promotion of Covid prevention strategies such as continued vaccine prioritization, masking and policies to ensure community access to nutrition and physical activities.

Obesity is a common and costly chronic disease in the U.S. Non-Hispanic Black adults have the highest prevalence of self-reported obesity in the U.S., followed by Hispanic adults and non-Hispanic white people, according to the CDC.

The CDC has previously noted that having obesity increases the risk of severe illness, including hospitalizations. Obesity is linked to impaired immune function and decreased lung capacity that can make ventilation more difficult, the agency has said.

The study had limitations, the CDC said. Risk estimates for severe Covid-19 were measured only among adults who received care at a hospital. Therefore, these estimates might differ from the risk among all adults with Covid, the CDC said. Additionally, only patients with reported height and weight information were included in the report.

The CDC obtained data from PHD-SR, a large, hospital-based database.

===

ICYMI:

Emails Reveal US Officials Joined With Agrochemical Giant Bayer to Stop Mexico’s Glyphosate Ban

By Kenny Stancil - 16 February 2021

While Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has given farmers in the country a 2024 deadline to stop using glyphosate, The Guardian reported Tuesday that agrochemical company Bayer, industry lobbyist CropLife America, and U.S. officials have been pressuring Mexico’s government to drop its proposed ban on the carcinogenic pesticide.

The corporate and U.S.-backed attempt to coerce Mexico into maintaining its glyphosate imports past 2024 has unfolded, as journalist Carey Gillam detailed in the newspaper, “over the last 18 months, a period in which Bayer was negotiating an $11 billion settlement of legal claims brought by people in the U.S. who say they developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma due to exposure” to glyphosate-based products, such as Roundup.

Roundup, one of the world’s mostly widely-used herbicides, was created by Monsanto which was acquired by Bayer in 2018.

According to The Guardian, which obtained internal documents via a Freedom of Information Act request by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), “The pressure on Mexico is similar to actions Bayer and chemical industry lobbyists took to kill a glyphosate ban planned by Thailand in 2019. Thailand officials had also cited concerns for public health in seeking to ban the weed killer, but reversed course after U.S. threats about trade disruption.”

In addition to instructing Mexico’s farmers to stop using glyphosate by 2024, the López Obrador administration on December 31, 2020 issued a “final decree” calling for “a phase-out of the planting and consumption of genetically engineered corn, which farmers often spray with glyphosate, a practice that often leaves residues of the pesticide in finished food products,” the news outlet noted.

The Mexican government has characterized the restrictions as an effort to improve the nation’s “food security and sovereignty” and to protect its wealth of biological as well as cultural diversity and farming communities.

Mexico’s promotion of human and environmental health, however, “has triggered fear in the United States for the health of agricultural exports, especially Bayer’s glyphosate products,” Gillam wrote.

Based on its analysis of government emails from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and other U.S. agencies from 2019 and 2020, The Guardian explained how the U.S., frustrated by the positions that Mexico has taken, is trying to use the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)—the Trump-led free trade deal that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) dubbed NAFTA 2.0—to force Mexico to abandon its plans to ban glyphosate and phase out GMO corn.

According to The Guardian, Mexico each year imports roughly $3 billion in corn from the U.S., where 90% of corn production relies on GMO seeds.

As the newspaper reported:

One email makes a reference to staff within López Obrador’s administration as “vocal anti-biotechnology activists,” and another email states that Mexico’s health agency (COFEPRIS) is “becoming a big time problem.”

Internal USTR communications lay out how the agrochemical industry is “pushing” for the US to “fold this issue” into the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal that went into effect 1 July. The records then show the USTR does exactly that, telling Mexico its actions on glyphosate and genetically engineered crops raise concerns “regarding compliance” with USMCA.

Citing discussions with CropLife, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined in the effort, discussing in an inter-agency email “how we could use USMCA to work through these issues.”

Nathan Donley, a biologist at CBD, told The Guardian that “we’re seeing more and more how the pesticide industry uses the U.S. government to aggressively push its agenda on the international stage and quash any attempt by people in other countries to take control of their food supply.”

Corporate executives in the agrochemical industry reportedly became alarmed about the López Obrador administration’s position on pesticides in late 2019 when Mexican officials explained their decision to refuse imports of glyphosate from China by referring to the “precautionary principle.”

Detailing a series of emails between U.S. government officials and industry executives, Gillam described how the latter told the former “that they feared restricting glyphosate would lead to limits on other pesticides and could set a precedent for other countries to do the same.”

The emails also indicated worries that “Mexico may also reduce the levels of pesticide residues allowed in food,” a development that industry executives warned would undermine U.S. exports of corn and soybeans to Mexico.

As Gillam wrote, CropLife president Chris Novak told U.S. officials that “‘if Mexico extends the precautionary principle’ to pesticide residue levels in food, ‘$20 billion in U.S. annual agricultural exports to Mexico will be jeopardized.'”

According to The Guardian, “It is unclear if the efforts to push Mexico to change its policy position are still underway within the new Biden administration.”

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), a progressive think tank working to build fair and sustainable food, farm, and trade systems, tweeted Tuesday that the USTR has a choice.

“Will they continue the pattern of doing the bidding of global biotech/seed firms like Monsanto?” asked IATP. “Or, will the USTR respect other countries’ rights to protect the environment and indigenous crops? Will they recalibrate U.S. trade policy to be more transparent?”

IATP, for its part, has recommended that Katherine Tai, President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the USTR office, “break with the corporate free trade model” supported by previous administrations from both major parties.