Street Event with the “Moms’ Project to Change our Food in Japan!”

Sticker questionnaire in Futakotamagawa, Tokyo on Mothers’ Day, May 15, 2017

A new citizens group has recently been formed in Japan by people who oppose genetically modified food plus moms who participated in the March, 2017 events with Zen Honeycutt of Moms Across America. The group is called “Moms’ Project to Change our Food in Japan!” We are Japanese mothers who want to give safe food to their children, wishing to reduce the amount of pesticides and artificial additives in their food, as well as avoid GMOs. During the first event in the Tokyo suburb of Futakotamagawa we used a visual questionnaire to let people place stickers based on their opinions and knowledge about GMO food.

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We held the event outside the busy Futakotamagawa train station where many families with baby strollers are passing by. All of us had decided to wear something pink and we also brought pink balloons. For about one hour, 27 people participated by placing stickers on our board with questions.

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Here are some of the results:

21 people indicated that they worry about genetically modified food and 6 people indicated that they are not worrying or do not understand the issue. We also gave participants an opportunity to indicate which foods they think may be GMOs. 19 people correctly indicated that salad oil may be GMO and nobody indicated olive oil (there is indeed no GMO olive oil on the market). Only one person indicated that they did not know the answer. We thought it was encouraging that so many people share our concerns and also that so many knew the right answers regarding GMOs and are aware of the issue. It was also a good opportunity to explain that many GMO foods are not labelled, and that we want to change the labelling legislation so that people who wish to do so can avoid GMOs. “It’s a problem that we can’t choose” as one participant expressed it.

This was a brief event and we want to thank everyone who participated in making it a success. We will continue to hold similar events all over Japan in the near future.

Posted May 24th, 2017 in Biotechnology, Food

Event: The International Day for Biological Diversity

May 22 is designated by the United Nations as the International Day for Biological Diversity. Genetically modified organisms (GMO) are known to have negative effects on biodiversity and there are international rules for handling GM crops to try to deal with the risks. There are indeed many examples of how GM crops threaten the environment and human health in the countries were GM crops are grown. This year, on May 28 we will screen two documentary movies that highlight such problems in the United States, Argentina and Romania. The movies are in English and Romanian (with English subtitles) but the seminar with our experts will be in Japanese. Read More »

Posted May 19th, 2017 in Biodiversity, Biotechnology, Food

Organic Rice for School Lunch: Healthy Kids, Healthy Community

Isumi City in Chiba prefecture, east of Tokyo, has announced that it would be the first in Japan to serve locally grown organic rice at the city’s elementary and junior high schools throughout 2017. The project started in 2015 when they partly managed to serve locally grown organic rice. Two years have passed, and now they are ready to substitute all the rice for organic rice produced in Isumi City.

It is only school lunch, but it still matters. In a year, a student (elementary or junior high school) will eat more than 180 meals at school. Supposing that rice is served 4 times a week, the student is at least served 150 bowls of rice yearly. As children are more susceptible to toxic substances, locally grown organic rice for public school lunch is a big step to protect children from being exposed to chemicals. Besides, the city says, the program is highly regarded by the parents.

Isumi farmers are encouraged to grow organic rice, which is supporting biological diversity, while affecting all age groups in the community positively. The school year starts in April. At the end of March 2018, we hope that they will carry out the pledge and celebrate their new policy of serving locally grown rice for school lunch.

By Kaori Hirouchi

Read more in Japanese here (pdf)

Posted May 10th, 2017 in Biodiversity, Chemical pollution, Food, Organic Agriculture/Food

Japan Resources – No 166

Please click here CUJ-JR-166 for the latest issue of Consumer Union of Japan’s English newsletter, Japan Resources (pdf). The theme this time is nuclear energy and the many problems facing this country and all of us as energy consumers.

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

Contents:

From the Editors: Thinking about Nuclear Energy

Japan on the Wrong Track with its Export of Nuclear Plants

Do Not Shift Nuclear Power Plant Related Costs to Our Electricity Bills

Withdraw the Proposed New System to Shift Nuclear Power Plant Related Costs to Our Electricity Bills

Smart Meters: Saying No, and Yes, You Can Switch Back to an Analogue Meter

Newsflash:

The Ecologist: The Collapse of Toshiba

 

Posted March 22nd, 2017 in Energy, Japan Resources, Nuclear

Smart Meters: Saying No, and Yes, You Can Switch Back to an Analog Meter

This is a summary of a series of articles in our monthly Japanese newsletter, Shouhisha Report, about so-called smart meters, or digital meters that use radio frequencies and electromagnetic radiation to transmit information about your home electricity use. They replace the analog meters that have to be checked by staff visiting your home. There is concern about privacy, as well as health risks, in addition to the huge cost of changing meters. In Japanese, smart meters are usually abbreviated as “sumame” and we want to clarify your rights as consumers.

The current problem is that power companies like Tepco or Kansai Electric Power are “demanding” customers to get new smart meters installed. This happens at the same time as Japan’s electricity market has been deregulated. In some cases, when customers have switched power company, the new provider has installed a smart meter without providing much information. In one such case, a CUJ member contacted us, explaining that the new provider had simply said: “Changing to a smart meter is necessary.” It later reversed its position, and admitted that this was not the case.

A staff member at our CUJ office had the same experience, and decided to dig a little further. When contacting the customer support center at Tepco, they replied in the same way: “You have to change to a smart meter.” This, however, is not true. The issue came up for debate in the budget committee of Japan’s Parliament in March, 2016, confirming that as far as contracts are concerned, smart meters are not indispensable.

The power companies have more tricks up their sleeves. Another lie is when they claim: “Analog meters are no longer manufactured, so we don’t have them in stock.” But according to experts like Taro Amishiro, author of books about electromagnetic radiation problems who is concerned about smart meters, most analog meters will work for much longer than 10 years, and don’t need to be exchanged so often. Old analog meters can also be reused.

It took our CUJ staff member several rounds of tough negotiations with Tepco’s call center to switch back to an analog meter, showing that it can be done. Another CUJ member told us that he had successfully gotten Chubu Electric Power agree to make the switch back.

The privacy concern is connected to how smart meters store data about your electricity consumption. The details are recorded by the digital device every 30 minutes. This can give power companies a very clear picture of your daily life, including when you switch on your TV or open your fridge. Okubo Sadatoshi, an expert on electromagnetic radiation and radio wave health problems, notes that even if the power company agrees to disable the transmission from your smart meter, the data is still stored digitally in the device. In other words, it can still be accessed and the problem of invasion of privacy remains.

Doorstep visitors or phone calls claiming they want to install a smart meter may be someone trying to scam you, so don’t fall for their sales talk. Says Michiyo Koketsu, CUJ: “Please pay attention to any information you get from your current power company as they roll out the switch to smart meters. You have the right to say no, and it is up to you to tell them that you prefer to keep your analog meter. If they customer call center gives you a hard time, just stand your ground. They can’t force you to switch to a smart meter, and you have the right to demand to switch back to an analog meter, if you so wish.”

Read more:

Tepco to hold bids for 17 mln smart metres

Can Japan’s Energy Reforms Make Renewable Energy Growth Smarter?

Posted February 23rd, 2017 in Energy

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