Mexican judge rejects industry bid to halt GMO corn, glyphosate ban

A tractor ploughs a hectare of land at Ejido Benito Juarez in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua

A Mexican federal judge ruled against a request by the National Farm Council to freeze a government plan to ban genetically modified (GMO) corn and the widely used herbicide glyphosate by 2024, the national science council said on Monday.

Judge Martin Adolfo Santos Perez’s ruling allows the executive order issued by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador late last year that outlines the planned ban to proceed.

If the ban is implemented, it would dramatically upend the current grains trade between the United States and Mexico, including some 16 million tonnes of U.S. exports of yellow corn to its southern neighbor, which is nearly all GMO.

The National Farm Council (CNA) said it regretted its legal loss in a statement later on Monday, and warned that if the bans go into effect, food prices will jump and farmers will become less productive.

The CNA said it is most concerned that “radical and unscientific interpretations” of the planned bans will stoke uncertainty, but did not go into detail, and pointed to approvals over many years from government agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency backing the safe use of glyphosate.

Mexico’s National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT) is tasked by the president’s order with identifying a substitute for glyphosate, which thousands of Mexican farmers use to clear fields prior to planting.

Lopez Obrador has defended the ban as designed to boost domestic production of corn, used to make the country’s staple tortillas, and promote more sustainable agriculture.

To date, 17 legal challenges have been filed against the planned ban, according to CONACYT, mostly from companies arguing imminent harm if it is allowed to proceed.

Only two challenges temporarily won support from judges, including a case brought by German pharmaceutical and crop science company Bayer (BAYGn.DE). In both instances those brief injunctions were reversed by other courts.

The CNA has previously argued that prohibiting farmers from using glyphosate would lower yields by at least 30% and make the country more dependent on food imports.

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