Category Archives: Food

CUJ Public Comment about Genome Editing Techniques for Food

On February 21, 2019, Consumers Union of Japan submitted the following public comment in response to the Japanese government’s GM Food, etc. Investigative Panel of the Pharmaceutical Affairs and Food Sanitation Council, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) regarding the handling of food modified by genome editing.

Consumers Union of Japan is working for a sound and healthy future for all. This is why we are active in protecting our surrounding environment and the safety of our daily food. We believe this is what the Japanese government also wants. However, there are reports that the government has concluded that the Food Sanitation Law will not apply to food obtained through genome editing, thus giving up the important focus to protect the environment while also protecting food safety. CUJ finds this unacceptable. Therefore, we request that you withdraw the report and redo the deliberation from the beginning.

These are our reasons:

  1. It is not possible to avoid off target influence and mosaic effects through genome editing. There are numerous studies that confirm this. The current conclusion contradicts data about such influences and effects by treating them in an overly optimistic way. After a serious change has occurred it will be too late to take action.
  2. Through genome editing, epigenetic changes (heritable changes in gene expressions) have been reported to take place, something you hardly mention in your report. We can’t help wondering if you are simply imagining that such a problem cannot happen.
  3. When inserting genes, and then removing them during the crossing stages, we assume that regulation is required. But even if the introduced genes are removed, there is no guarantee that they have been removed 100%, and that there does not remain any influence. Moreover, we have not heard that any safety studies have been done to make sure that such practices actually work as intended or that safety can be secured. We have big misgivings about the advancement of such technologies while the scientific basis appear to be so weak.
  4. The process of dealing with this by the Food Sanitation Law was compared to the safety examination of genetically modified food. Genome editing is also a genetic technology, but it differs fundamentally from DNA recombination technologies. Many more and various new vegetable or plant breeding experiments will now take place. New legal restrictions are needed for this. We cannot accept that no effort will be made to maintain the safety of our food supply by the government’s current policy approach.
  5. The Food Sanitation Law has a huge influence also on how food is labelled. If the labelling requirements are affected by the current conclusion, and no labelling is required, it will remove the consumer’s right to know and choose. This is a large and important responsibility for the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

 

Consumers Union of Japan

Nishi Waseda 1-9-19-207

Shinjuku-Ku, Tokyo

Japan 169-0051

 

Essay: GM in Europe vs. Japan

I took part in the 9th GMO-Free Europe Conference which was held on 6th and 7th of September 2018 as one of three delegates from GMO No! Campaign, which has been campaigning against GMOs with the Consumers Union of Japan.  More than 200 participants not only from Europe, but also from Africa, Asia, North America gathered in Berlin to discuss GM issues.

Until I visited Berlin, I did not know much about the situation surrounding GM issues in Europe. What I was told before my departure was that in the EU, food made of GM ingredients were hardly available because of mandatory labelling requirement for GM foods; also, European people are averse to such foods, therefore food companies do not sell products made of GM ingredients.  I, being a skeptic, could not believe it, because Japanese situation is completely opposite, and it is so difficult to buy food without GM ingredients unless you do your shopping online or go to natural food shops.  When I realized that what I was told was true, I was shocked!  In order to avoid GM food in Japan, you need to know labelling rules and their loopholes, but most Japanese are kept ignorant of these.  Therefore, most of us end up eating large amount of GM food without being aware of that, or even worse believing that they don’t eat such food, as the rules are far from clear.

In one part of the world, GM-free foods are readily available, so people there eat those foods effortlessly, whereas in other part, conscious efforts are required in order to buy such foods, otherwise people eat food of which health impact is not fully understood.  Isn’t this terrible?  If there is no change of policy, Japanese kids might be more prone to be ill due to GM foods and other nasty stuff.  Will the place of birth determine the health and fate of children?  I suspect that Japanese kids cannot enjoy the same level of health that children in the EU are entitled to.

A few weeks before the Berlin conference, the decision by the European Court of Justice came out, in which the ECJ ruled that gene editing techniques would be subject to the same regulations as GMOs, hence plants and animals obtained by genome editing would need to go through the requirements of risk assessment and authorization.  The decision was, according to many GMO activists who attended the conference, needless to say, very welcome, but also unexpected.

In contrast, Japan seems to be heading to a completely opposite direction.  An experts’ panel for the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan proposed that most of the foods developed using gene-editing can be marketed without safety assessment.  Furthermore, those foods could be placed on the market without appropriate labels.  The outcome could be devastating for the health of people living in Japan and the environment.

Taking part in the conference gave me good opportunities to compare Japan and outside world.  I would like Japan to prioritise protection of human health and environment, based on the precautionary principle like the EU does.  Regretfully, the priorities of Japan, or more notably the Abe administration, are the economic growth and the protection of interest of multinational companies, sacrificing the health of Japanese people and the quality of the environment in this county.  Empowering Japanese NGOs might provide a key to facilitate changes in Japanese society.  There must be so many lessons we can learn from European experiences.

By Ryoko Matsuno, a member of the GMO No! Campaign & CUJ board member

 

Open Letter to Australia: Please Regulate New GM Technologies Strictly

To:

Minister Bridget McKenzie

Parliament House, Canberra  ACT 2600

Australia

February 20, 2019

We are Consumers Union of Japan, founded in 1969, as a member-based consumer organization. One of our main concerns is the many problems with genetically modified organisms (GMO) and GM food. Consumers in Japan are strongly opposed to GM technology and do not want to eat such products.

In light of this, we are alarmed to hear that Australia is considering to deregulate new GM technologies, including CRISPR, in animals, plants and microbes. Japanese consumers would not at all be willing to eat such products, either. We do not believe the claims that these new technologies are “precise” or “predictable” but regard them with the same mistrust as older GM technologies, that can harm biological diversity, as well as pose unknown risks to human health.

Please regulate new GM technologies as strictly if not even stricter than older GM technologies, or you risk harming Australia’s image as a food producer here in Japan, and we will boycott all such products.

Best regards,

Keisuke Amagasa (Co-chair)

Kazuoki Ono (Co-chair)

 

Consumers Union of Japan

Nishi Waseda 1-9-19-207

Shinjuku-Ku, Tokyo

Japan 169-0051

Japan Resources – No 173

Please click here CUJ-JR-173 for the latest issue of Japan Resources, our English newsletter.

This time, we consider large international meetings, and wonder if they are effective enough. There seems to be problems with making progress both in the areas of climate change and biological diversity.

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

Contents:

Please Stop Selling Wheat Flour with Glyphosate Residue

CUJ Environment Working Group

Consumer Affairs Agency holds explanatory meeting for GM food labelling changes

What is Behind the Cheap Bananas?

Report from the COP-MOP 9 Meeting (CBD COP 14) in Egypt

New Videos on Channel Nishoren Now on Youtube!

Please Stop Selling Wheat Flour with Glyphosate Residue

17 January 2019

 

To:

Nisshin Foods

Nisshin Seifun Group

Showa Sangyo

 

Please stop selling wheat flour with glyphosate residue

Consumers Union of Japan and the No! GMO Campaign work together for safe and healthy food for all consumers.

We tested wheat flour from different companies for the residue of the herbicide glyphosate, and detected such residue in products sold by your company.

In 2015, WHO’s International Cancer Research Institute has concluded that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” In 2016, a joint report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN said that there was some evidence of association between glyphosate exposure and risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in some studies.

Our investigation found levels of residue of glyphosate in your wheat flour that was lower than the standard limit set by the Japanese government. However, studies in other countries have shown negative health effects in test animals even at such low levels.

Consumers do not want to be exposed to glyphosate. We do not want to buy or eat food made with such products. We ask that you use the precautionary principle and please stop using wheat which has been treated with glyphosate.

Consumers Union of Japan                    No! GMO Campaign

Keisuke Amagasa                                        Keisuke Amagasa

Kazuoki Oono