CUJ co-signed Joint Open Letter calling on UNIQLO to guarantee labour rights in its supplier in Cambodia
Consumers Union of Japan has co-signed the open letter calling on Fast Retailing Co., Ltd., owner of the UNIQLO brand, to guarantee labour rights in its supplier in Cambodia. We are urging Fast Retailing to increase their leverage by cooperating with other brands, e.g. H&M and Lindex, sourcing from both Zhong Yin as well as from a number of suppliers belonging to the parent company, Beijing Joywin. We firmly call upon Fast Retailing to act swiftly and responsibly, to use all their leverage and ensure the fundamental rights of workers to freedom of association.
Rice paddy field management without herbicides made possible by Japanese aid
By Koa Tasaka (CUJ co-chair and Asian Rural Institute director)
Bhutan, the nation of happiness
Recently, I have been engaged in a grass root technological cooperation project for organic agriculture, in the country where the national aim is happiness. Bhutan wants to develop local agriculture with a focus on organic farming through a project with Mr. Inaba Mitsukuni from Minkan Inasaku Kenkyujo, a rice growing research center in Tochigi prefecture. I was able to help him and his research center get funding for the project from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
Bhutan is known for making Gross National Happiness (GNH) an index of state development instead of GDP, which is the economic indicator of gross domestic product. Many will also remember that the Bhutanese king consoled Japan just after Japan’s suffered from the earthquake and tsunami in March, 2011. It was in November 2011 that their Majesties the King and Queen of Bhutan visited Japan. Their Majesties’ visit to areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake encouraged many people.
Massive herbicide use is a problem
Bhutan covers educational expenses and medical expenses for its people without charge as a national policy, and it is possible to say it is an ideal welfare state. But food remains a big problem. The self-sufficiency rate of rice, which is Bhutan’s principal food, is only around 50% and almost all meat is imported from India.
During the global conference of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) held in Bhutan in March, 2014, the Bhutanese agricultural minister announced the target for agricultural production to be 100% organic agriculture by 2020. All agricultural chemicals such as DDT that are left in the country are now being collected and sent to Switzerland for disposal there, a policy carried out without exception. But it was explained that it is a big problem that a great deal of herbicides are still being used in Bhutan.
When hearing the lecture of the agricultural minister, I raised my hand and spoke: “There is a place in Japan where herbicides are not used at all. It is a Japanese private rice growing research center based in Tochigi prefecture. Moreover, they have established a method to control weeds in rice paddy farming.”
The agricultural minister showed a very big interest, and wanted to know more in detail. I provided him with English articles written by Mr. Inaba Mitsukuni of the rice growing research center, as well as information about the weed control method. He expressed a strong wish to bring Mr. Inaba and others to Bhutan.
Fighting rice paddy weed
I received a very positive answer from Mr. Inaba: “Let’s do international cooperation for Bhutan to help them achieve 100% organic agriculture!” Fortunately, JICA decided it would support the project for three years. A visit to Bhutan was arranged including Mr. Inaba and staff from JICA. Discussions were held with the Bhutanese Department of Agriculture in June, 2016 and the project could start right away.
The problem in Bhutan is rice paddy weed (Potamogeton distinctus). The plan is to deal with it at two experimental farms, with one of the test fields run by an organic farmer. Two Bhutanese Department of Agriculture staff have begun a study from this spring at the rice growing research center in Tochigi together with Asian Rural Institute*. After the training has finished, we are going to begin activities in Bhutan in December.
Most people in Bhutan follow Tibetan Buddhism. Soybeans are cultivated and used for their daily food. If the use of soybeans protein is developed instead of importing meat, it will also be possible to use the leftovers from soybeans, for example as fertilizer.
I’m sure Bhutan, the nation of happiness, will conquer these issues and reach its target, 100% organic agriculture, by 2020.
*Asian Rural Institute is a training facility to train rural leaders in agricultural areas aiming at self-support through organic agriculture in Asia and Africa.
Posted October 5th, 2016 in Organic Agriculture/Food
How can we avoid eating genetically modified (GM) foods? Our petition campaign which started in 2015 has generated a lot of interest all over Japan, and we are collecting more and more signatures from people telling us that they strongly support the call for GM labels. This is the second round of our effort to show politicians and the government that all GM foods should be labelled properly. We will hold a meeting on October 7, 2016 at the Japanese Parliament in Nagatacho, Tokyo. Invited speakers will discuss the background and outline the threat to the consumers’ right to know, as the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) will make it even more difficult for consumers to choose in an increasingly globalized world. Please participate and learn more about these important issues.
Date: October 7, 2016
Location: House of Representatives (Shugiin) 2nd Bldg. Hall 1, Nagatacho, Tokyo
-Explanation of the problem with Japan’s current GM labelling rules
-Discussion session: What do consumers want?
-Signature submission to government officials
Consumers Union of Japan
No! GMO Campaign
Food Safety Citizens’ Watch
Report: The Message from Consumers in Japan:
Stop using Antibiotics at Animal Farms!
– We asked fast food companies to reply to our questionnaire –
July 20, 2016
“The antibiotics won’t work…” Isn’t it rather unbelievable to hear about such a crisis for modern medicine? If no action is taken, resistance to antibiotics and similar drugs (antimicrobial resistance) will cause 300 million deaths a year globally by 2050. Massive overuse of antibiotics has increased the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Whilst over-consumption of antibiotics in human medicine is a huge problem, what is less well known is that around half of the world’s antibiotics are consumed by farm animals. In many cases animals are not given the drugs because they are sick, but because producers want them to grow faster, or to prevent illness from spreading amongst animals raised in poor conditions. Is meat from such cattle, pigs and chicken really safe to eat?
Consumers Union of Japan decided to send a questionnaire to food companies including fast food chains, convenience stores and family restaurants that sell a lot of different meat products in Japan.
The aim of our investigation was to get a clear picture of how globalization has influenced the fast food industry in Japan, and how food safety is being dealt with at fast food chains and restaurants operating in this country. Our questionnaire included a number of issues, but in this report we will focus on the question: Does the company have a policy for not using antibiotics for animal growth promotion? These foods are imported legally and sold in Japan, even as they are causing an increased level of concern worldwide.
About the questionnaire:
Many consumers are wondering, “Is the food made by this company really OK?” when eating out or purchasing it at a supermarket or a convenience store. There is no choice but to believe in the information provided, regarding food safety. But we also have doubts that a corporation pursuing profits will be making all kinds of fanciful statements.
Consumers International (CI) and its Members are calling on multinational restaurant chains, including McDonald’s, KFC and Subway, to make global commitments to end the routine use of antibiotics important for human medicine.
Specifically, in February 2016 a CI report found that McDonald’s, KFC and Subway currently fall far short in their response to the global antibiotic resistance health risk. We need to use this opportunity to tell McDonalds, KFC and Subway that they must act to:
- Define a global, time-bound action plan to phase out the routine use of antibiotics important in human medicine across all meat and poultry supply chains
- Show progress by adopting third-party auditing of their antibiotics use policies and publishing the results.
Replies from companies in Japan: “Do you use meat from animals given antibiotics for growth promotion purposes?”
McDonald’s: “Our company uses a global feed standard and restricts the use of antibiotics in the US, but the animals in other countries are raised following the rules in each country. The beef used in Japan comes from cattle raised in New Zealand and Australia, and we follow the Japanese Food Hygiene Law and the local regulations for animal drugs and feed additives as well as the global standard. Pork used in Japan comes from the US and chicken from Thailand. Also for these products we follow the global standard and local regulations.”
CUJ comment: The above reply does not confirm that McDonald’s does not use antibiotics as for the purpose of growth promotion in animal feed, but rather that it is possibly being used routinely. There seems to be no real concern for antibiotic resistance and the need to phase out the routine use of antibiotics important in human medicine, or to adopt third-party auditing as called for by CI.
KFC: “All chicken we sell in Japan are being raised at farms in Japan. Antibiotics and antimicrobials are not used for the purpose of growth promotion.”
CUJ comment: This reply from KFC clearly denies using antibiotics, but we cannot be sure that this is the case. We also do not know if they use antibiotics important in human medicine in the case when birds get sick, and if they use it for the entire flock or just administer it to individual birds. Third-party auditing as called for by CI would be an assurance that they understand the seriousness of the issue of antibiotic resistance.
Subway: “We do not use antibiotics as drugs to cattle for the purpose of growth promotion.”
CUJ comment: This reply from Subway clearly denies using antibiotics, but we cannot be sure that this is the case. We also do not know if they use antibiotics important in human medicine in the case when birds get sick, and if they use it for the entire flock or just administer it to individual birds. Third-party auditing as called for by CI would be an assurance that they understand the seriousness of the issue of antibiotic resistance.
Freshness Burger: “We can confirm that there is almost no use.”
CUJ comment: It can be said that the level of awareness about antibiotics is high.
Mos Burger: Antibiotics and antimicrobial agents are being used to different degrees to treat disease depending on the type of illness, and we use the drugs properly according to the situation.”
CUJ comment: This is not a direct reply to our question, so we contacted their consumer hot-line for clarification. They confirmed that they currently use antibiotics for meat production.
“KFC, Subway and Freshness Burger all appear to have gone to great length to avoid using antibiotics for the purpose of growth promotion at their respective animal farms,” says Michiyo Koketsu, CUJ.
“On the other hand, McDonald’s did not reply that they do not use antibiotics in this way, and Mos Burger clearly said they use antibiotics. McDonald’s in the US has stated that they will move away from using antibiotics for growth promotion for chicken, so there is a chance that McDonald’s in Japan will also move in this direction sooner or later. We strongly support Consumers International’s global campaign to lobby these corporations to move away from routinely using antibiotics in animal feed for the purpose of growth promotion.”
Contact: Michiyo Koketsu
Posted July 20th, 2016 in Corporate Responsibility
Participate in our new campaign! Together with Consumers International and Do Gooder, you can send emails to McDonald’s, Subway and Kentucky Fried Chicken, telling them to stop feeding antibiotics routinely to farm animals like cattle, pigs and chicken.
Click here: Save Antibiotics Campaign Japan
Posted July 13th, 2016 in Corporate Responsibility