Press Release: Appeal for World Food Day

Our goal is a world with no genetically modified foods and an end to the multinational corporate control of the global food supply

October 16 is the World Food Day, as designated by the United Nations. The aim is to combat hunger and promote agriculture, while the forces that makes this difficult to achieve are having the opposite results. Regional conflicts and nationalism are increasing poverty. We are especially concerned about the concentration of economic resources into the hands of just a few corporations that control the global economy. At the same time, governments have embarked on EPAs and FTAs that ignores public opinion and lead to more division in society.

In just the past 12 months, the worst case scenario has become reality, with multinational agribusiness takeovers and mergers, much as we predicted over 20 years ago. This is a de facto monopoly over the global seed supply and cannot be accepted. How are we as consumers and farmers supposed to react to Bayer taking over Monsanto, while DuPont merged with Dow, and Syngenta was purchased by a ChemChina, the Chinese chemical company, except to oppose it? Our health and freedom to farm and purchase food that we can trust will now be completely at mercy of these few multinational corporations that control genetically modified crops through DNA patent rules and global agreements on intellectual property rights and other strong-arm tactics.

At the same time, this year we learned that genetically modified salmon has been approved in North America in spite of protests. This is the first GM animal to be sold as food. If this is acceptable, where does it lead us next? New GM technologies such as genome editing and RNA interference are also increasingly being promoted. Examples include canola and potatoes developed with these new GM techniques.

As if this is not enough, in April 2017 the Japanese government suddenly abolished the 1952 Seed Law, after multinational corporations engaged in the seed business complained that the publicly funded seed program hindered their attempts to expand their business. After only a few hours of deliberation at the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Committees of the Parliament, the new Seed Law bill was passed without any concern for the possible impacts on our agriculture and food systems. Instead, we maintain that the trend to undermine Japan’s public seed program for major crops should be stopped. We should ensure that the national and local governments will remain involved in the seed program as an essential part of our food security policy.

We have clear evidence that agriculture as promoted by multinational corporations are destroying the health of citizens, in particular children. It has been admitted that agricultural chemicals are the main cause of allergies, which are becoming increasingly common, and evidence from the United States show that children’s development is impaired by such residue in food. The most serious problem is GM foods as their introduction 20 years ago has led to a drastic increase in the amount of toxic glyphosate used and consumed. However, the Japanese government keeps changing the allowed residue levels leading to higher levels of pesticides and herbicides, even relaxing the standard for glyphosate as recently as July, 2017. We need to radically change the current thinking about agriculture and get rid of dangerous chemicals from our food supply.

We believe in expansion of agriculture that is small-scale and organic, with local production for local consumption, within an international framework that connects citizens around the world. Co-operation is the basis for world peace. Furthermore, we believe that World Food Day should stand for agriculture without harmful chemicals, allowing no genetically modified or genome edited foods. We will continue to fight against multinational corporations and their systems that lead to hunger and malnutrition.

October 16, 2017

Consumers Union of Japan

No! GMO Campaign

Posted October 25th, 2017 in Biodiversity, Biotechnology, Chemical pollution, Civil Rights, Corporate Responsibility, Food, Food Security, Organic Agriculture/Food

Japan Resources – No 168

Please click here CUJ-JR-168 for the latest issue of Consumer Union of Japan’s English newsletter, Japan Resources (PDF).

In this issue we share articles about our recent activities. During the summer, we started a campaign against artificial fragrances, an irritant for many as corporate profit comes before consumers’ concerns. On the international front, while Japan is trying to revive the controversial TPP agreement, it has also announced progress regarding the economic partnership with the European Union. It is hard not to reach the conclusion that Japan’s government is making a calculated choice to keep ignoring citizens and consumers.

We hope you will continue to stay updated with CUJ’s activities and news on our English website, and support our campaigns!


From the Editors: Ignoring Consumers
Consumers in Japan and Europe want Guarantees for a Positive Trade Agreement
Campaign against Artificial Fragrances
GM Food Awareness Survey Conducted by Japan’s Consumer Affairs Agency
Newsflash: Nagoya Protocol Ratified
Event: International Film Festival on Organic Farming

Please download the attached PDF file or read it on our English website.

Posted September 27th, 2017 in Biodiversity, Biotechnology, Chemical pollution, Food, FTA, Japan Resources, Organic Agriculture/Food, Trade

Consumers in Japan and Europe want Guarantees for a Positive Trade Agreement

Consumers Union of Japan and The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) would like to provide input on the EU-Japan trade agreement. The technical negotiations between Japan and the EU are about to start and the final agreement will cover a broad range of economic sectors and inevitably affect consumers. This phase provides the opportunity for both sides to demonstrate that trade can deliver to consumers.

Commissioner Cecilia Malmström
European Commission
Rue de la Loi, 200 1049 Brussels Belgium

Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko
Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Cabinet Secretariat
1-6-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100 – 8968, Japan

September 6, 2017

Subject: Consumers in Japan and Europe want guarantees for a positive trade agreement

Dear Commissioner Malmström,
Dear Minister Seko,
Dear Minister Kono,

Consumers Union of Japan and The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) would like to provide input on the EU-Japan trade agreement. The technical negotiations between Japan and the EU are about to start and the final agreement will cover a broad range of economic sectors and inevitably affect consumers. This phase provides the opportunity for both sides to demonstrate that trade can deliver to consumers.

Place consumers at the heart of the agreement
A trade agreement is not only about getting better market access for companies. It is also about delivering real benefits to consumers while ensuring they are protected. Unfortunately, the benefits for consumers are not yet clear. This is because consumer benefits have not been placed at the heart of the agreement at the early stages of the process. For this to happen, we recommend applying the checklist in attachment to the entire agreement.

Better involve consumer organisations
Modern trade agreements like the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement are supposed to be designed for all, including consumers. For this to happen, consumer organisations must be involved in the negotiations phase and beyond. If properly involved in the negotiating and implementing processes, consumer organisations can provide constructive input and contribute to a deal which benefits consumers. We call on you to explicitly mention consumer organisations as stakeholders in the article on the domestic advisory group of the Chapter for Trade and Sustainable Development.

Refrain from including an investor to State dispute settlement
Investor to State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) systems have proven harmful to consumers and the public interest in the past, as foreign investors have used them to challenge and undermine consumer protections. Despite some improvements proposed by the EU with the Investment Court System and the idea of creating a multilateral court, there are high risks for consumers. Foreign investors will still be able to threaten governments with lawsuits for compensation when governments, for example, adopt ambitious laws that protect consumers. This could deter governments from introducing new protections and lead to a regulatory chill. Moreover, we need to see empirical evidence of the need for such a system between the EU and Japan which would only protect investors and keep foreign direct investment flowing. Therefore, our organisations call on you to refrain from introducing such systems in the final agreement.

Ensure better food labelling rules

This trade agreement should improve food labelling rules so that Japanese consumers have at least the same level of information as consumers in Europe. This is especially the case for food additives, the right to know what foods are genetically modified or not, and which foods contain, consist of or are obtained from GMOs. Country of origin labels should be encouraged as they provide consumers with the right to know where food is coming from.

Make sure regulatory dialogue benefits and protects consumers
Dialogue between EU and Japanese regulators should have the firm objective to enhance consumer welfare. These regulatory exchanges must remain voluntary. However, a trade agreement is not the place to define guidelines on good regulatory practices, notably as Governments want to protect their right to regulate.

Transparency must continue
Transparency is a precondition for people to trust trade agreements. We welcomed the publication of the agreed texts on the EU side by the time of the political conclusion. To restore consumer trust in trade deals, we urgently call on both sides to publish their negotiating positions, texts, including consolidated versions, and communicate better on the content of the future agreement during this technical phase. In particular, the agreed texts must be translated into Japanese and published as soon as possible.

We trust that you will take our views into account and we remain at your disposal for further discussion.

Yours sincerely,

Monique Goyens
Director General
European Consumer Organisation

Ono Kazuoki & Amagasa Keisuke
Consumers Union of Japan

Posted September 6th, 2017 in Food, Trade

Campaign Against Artificial Fragrances

In recent years, there are an increasing number of people who are feeling sick because of artificial fragrances such as fabric softeners, deodorant sprays and antiperspirants. People feel that it is difficult to get on the train, as people wash their clothes but do not dry them outdoors properly. But some people also react to the strong smell of laundry hanging on verandas in their neighborhoods.

There are reports of various symptoms, including nausea, feeling irritated, coughing, eye trouble, sneezing, heart pounding, and headaches.

Consumers Union of Japan strongly believes we need to make sure that people are not put in harm’s way by unnecessary artificial fragrance products.

We are stepping up our campaign by opening a phone line for complaints and consultation on July 26 and August 1 (in Japanese only). We do wish to hear from everyone living in Japan so please send us an email with your concerns and experiences, in English.

Email: office.w (at mark)

Posted July 18th, 2017 in Chemical pollution

GM Food Awareness Survey Conducted by Japan’s Consumer Affairs Agency

The Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA), in initiating a GM Food Labelling Investigative Committee, has conducted a consumer awareness survey. The web survey was implemented between 12 December 2016 and 4 January 2017. The total number of respondents was 10,648 (5296 males and 5352 females).

According to the results of the survey, regarding awareness of recombinant DNA, 69.6% responded that they “knew of or had heard of” it. 61.3% responded that they “knew of or had heard of” safety screening.

In response to the question “Are you anxious about GM food?” 40.7% replied “Yes”, 11.4% replied “No”. Excepting those who responded “I don’t care” or “I don’t know”, around 80% of respondents say they harbor anxieties about GM food. In addition, 83.0% of the people who responded either “Yes” or “No” to the question “Are you anxious about GM food?” are avoiding the consumption of GM food.

Source: CBIC Bio Journal (July, 2017)

Posted July 12th, 2017 in Biotechnology, Food