Category Archives: Biotechnology

Gene Editing: Human Chain Outside Health Ministry in Tokyo

We held a protest action outside the Ministry of Health in Tokyo today on Wednesday, 25 September to protest against the lack of rules to deal with gene edited foods. Gene editing or genome editing may soon appear in food stores as the novel technology appears to gain ground among crops abroad. The lack of labelling in Japan is a serious problem.

Some 43% of respondents to a University of Tokyo internet survey said they would not want to eat agricultural products developed with genome editing technology, according the The Mainichi Newspaper and the figure topped 53% when people were asked about whether they would eat genome-edited animal products. The poll results were unveiled at a June 5 meeting of the Japanese Society for Genome Editing in Tokyo. The survey team led by Masato Uchiyama, a guest researcher at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Medical Science, queried some 38,000 men and women aged 20-69 in May and June last year, receiving around 10,700 valid responses.

Meanwhile, Consumers Union of Japan was invited to share our views at the NHK TV program Closeup Gendai on 24 September about the lack of regulations.

The debate is certainly heating up in Japan, with this recent Mainichi editorial a good example of the many doubts people harbour:

Editorial: Gov’t should give consumers choice on genome-edited foods

 

Even if it is impossible to tell the difference between genome-edited products and those developed using conventional breed improvement, the government should create a system giving consumers the choice to put genome-edited products on the family table or not.

For such a system to work, it is necessary to mandate producers to report genome-edited products and distributors to label them as such. The scheme would also be of help to swiftly respond to unexpected risks.

Up until now, genetically engineered crops have mostly been developed by adding outside genes. Such products are required to undergo safety screenings and be labeled as genetically modified foods.

In genome-editing, meanwhile, specific genes in an existing DNA strand can be clipped out to stem their functions. It is also possible to open a space on a DNA strand to insert an outside gene.

Genome-edited food products mainly employ the former method, as seen in the development of tomatoes laden with substances that reduce blood pressure, red sea bream with increased muscle mass, and high-yield rice — all for research purposes.

The government’s latest decision excludes food products developed using this method from labeling regulations, while retaining the existing rules for produce grown by inserting foreign genes.

The government has made the labeling of genome-edited foodstuffs voluntary as gene disruptions giving rise to new breeds take place even in nature, and because it is impossible to verify the difference between edited and non-edited foodstuffs by analyzing their genomes. Therefore, producers will be encouraged but not required to report information on such edits.

However, Japan’s policy is not entirely in step with the rest of the world. While the United States has similar rules, the European Court of Justice ruled that genome-edited foods — even those without any inserted foreign genes — are subject to the same regulations as genetically modified products.

Some experts in Japan also advocate making reporting on genome-edited items mandatory in order to clarify liability, as such products are “designed” according to makers’ own aims.

Reporting of genome-edited foods will start in Japan next month. While observing how the filing of reports and the labeling of the products go, it is essential to keep considering rules that can best respect the consumers’ right to make their own choices about eating edited foodstuffs.

Japan Resources – No 175

Please click here CUJ-JR-175 for the latest issue of Japan Resources, our English newsletter.

This year CUJ celebrates its 50th anniversary.

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: Hot, Hotter & Hottest
CUJ 50th Anniversary Seminar
Japan-South Korea-Taiwan Joint Statement on RNA Interference Potato
G20: Ban Microcapsules in Home and Personal Care Products
Glyphosate in Bread
Please Join Our One Million Signature Petition Campaign: “Regulate All Gene-edited Food!”

Japan-South Korea-Taiwan Joint Statement on RNA Interference Potato

On 18 May 2019, Anti-Monsanto Day, Japan, South Korean and Taiwanese citizens’ organizations taking action against GMOs announced a joint statement protesting against a potato developed by J. R. Simplot Company using RNA interference. South Korea is very close to approving this potato and there is a possibility that Taiwan will also approve it.
In Japan, the potato is already approved for distribution as human food, but as it has yet to receive approval under the Cartagena laws, it cannot yet be cultivated. There is a possibility that the potato will be imported as fried potatoes or potato chips. Because of this, Consumers Union of Japan and other organizations are calling on fast food chains and family restaurant chains not to use the potato.
RNA interference is a technique to inhibit gene expression or translation. It was first discovered in 1998.

Please Join Our One Million Signature Petition Campaign: “Regulate All Gene-edited Food!”

Dear Friends and Fellow Anti-GMO Campaigners,

Please Join Our One Million Signature Petition Campaign:
“Regulate All Gene-edited Food!”

In March 2019, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare of Japan
concluded that no regulation is needed for most of gene-edited food to
be sold in Japan. The Ministry of the Environment also announced its
decision to require regulation only for limited gene-edited food using
created with specific processes. Consequently, some sources expect
gene-edited food to be available as early as this summer of 2019 in
Japan.

We, Consumers Union of Japan, together with concerned grassroots
organizations and Co-ops across Japan, have been advocating the
strictest possible regulation at a level that is at least equal to GMO
regulations over the last few years, but our voice has not been
reflected in the government’s decision making as of now. Our demand is
fully in accordance with our consumers’ rights stipulated in the Basic
Act on Consumers Policies.

We are highly concerned about this situation. No regulation means
basically no enforced safety tests, no transparency and no labelling.
Due in part to the fact that Japan is a country with less than 40% of
food self-sufficiency, consumers can only expect a marketplace that is a
virtual hell filled with uncontrolled gene-edited food produced possibly
both domestically and globally, unless we take action.

We have decided that now is the time to scale up our campaign. As we
launch this One Million Signature Petition Campaign throughout Japan, we
have a request to our global friends and colleagues.

1. If you share our concerns and support our petition (below) addressed to the Japanese government, then please email (nogeneediting@nishoren.org) your name and title or the full name of your organization, the country which you are based and also the contact person name. The collected signatures will be submitted to the Government of Japan in September 2019 when we will hand over our signatures to it.

[Organization]
Name of organization:
Contact person:
Country:
Email:

[Individual]
Your name:
Title:
Country:
Email:

2. We are collecting pictures with the banner indicating “Regulate All
Gene-edited Food!” We welcome your pictures with the banner attached in
this email, or any banner you have. It will be great to see the key
message in your language, together with English message.
Please send us the picture to the email address (nogeneediting@nishoren.org). We greatly appreciate your solidarity and collaboration.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at the office
of Consumers Union of Japan.

Sincerely,
Keisuke Amagasa, Michiyo Koketsu, Kaori Hirouchi and Martin J. Frid
The Anti-GMO Campaign International Coordinators, Consumers Union of Japan

To:
Mr. Nemoto Takumi, Minister of Health, Labor, and Welfare
Mr. Yoshikawa Takamori, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Mr. Harada Yoshiaki, Minister of the Environment
Mr. Okamura Kazumi, Commissioner of Consumer Affairs Agency

We strongly demand proper regulations for gene-edited food
As we learn that unpredicted results could occur by a gene-editing
method, including “off-target” effects, our concern over the
technology and its impact on our food has not been cleared. However,
both Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Health, Labor and
Welfare decided that gene-edited organisms are not regulated by law
unless external genes remain in the organism.  The food with voluntary
registration with no enforced labelling system and no environmental
assessment could soon on our table.
Our right to know, our right to choose and our right to live a healthy
life are now at risk. We strongly demand that environmental assessment,
food safety inspection and labelling on all gene-edited food without
exception.

We demand:
1. Mandatory environmental impact assessment for all gene-edited food
including crops and other produces, livestock and fish.

2. Mandatory food safety assessment for all gene-edited crops and other
produces, livestock and fish.

3. Mandatory labeling for all gene-edited crops, other produces, and
processed food that contain gene-edited ingredients.
———————————————————————-

Nationwide Chinese Consumer Study: 46.7% of Respondents Negative View on GM Food

China has reached a decision point as to whether it should accept, reject, or go slow with the use of genetically modified (GM) technology to produce the food and feed needed to sustain its population growth and economic renaissance. Here, we report a consumer survey on GM food that includes input from all provinces in China. Chinese consumers were surveyed for their awareness, knowledge, and opinion on GM food. The survey resulted in 11.9, 41.4, and 46.7% of respondents having a positive, neutral, or negative view on GM food, respectively.

Genetically modified (GM) technology is a highly controversial topic for today’s global food consumer. The commercial development of GM crops began in 1996 with GM corn and has expanded every year with the cultivation of GM crops.

Chinese food safety scandals have been a growing concern for Chinese consumers in recent years. The incidences of illegal “gutter oil” used in cooking, pesticide residue contamination, use of feed additives and polluted water along the food chain are common problems and even with proper regulatory oversight, the risk for criminal activity is ever present. The consumers in China, as well as consumers in other parts of the world, are increasingly risk adverse and seek out “clean, natural food”.

Public perception of genetically-modified (GM) food: A Nationwide Chinese Consumer Study

npj Science of Foodvolume 2, Article number: 10 (2018)

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41538-018-0018-4