Category Archives: Organic Agriculture/Food

Update: Bhutan Organic Rice Project

The project to explore ways to help farmers in Bhutan switch to organic farming methods is progressing. This is an update by Mitsukuni Inaba (Director of Civil Institute of Organic Rice Cultivation) and Koa Tasaka (Co-chair of CUJ and board member of Asian Rural Institute) from their visit on May 28 – June 4, 2017.

Rice farming in paddy fields means weeds may be growing in the water before the rice is transplanted into the soil. Removing the weeds by hand tools, such as a rake, or machines rather than by using chemical herbicides is a requirement for organic rice farming. In Bhutan the prevalent weed is called Shouchum (Pondweed, Lat. Potamogeon). Flooding the paddy fields repeatedly will assist in removing the weeds, as they float to the surface after careful raking. On May 29 and May 30, Mr Inaba led the effort to flood two experimental fields for a third time together with Bhutan farmers and Japanese volunteers, and remove the weeds. Transplanting the seedlings was possible at the first farm, and organic fertilizer was applied to promote the growth of the rice plants as well as to suppress the weeds.

bhutan organic consumers union of japan

On June 1, the group visited the Bajo Seed Center. At their paddy fields, a lot of Shouchum grows and is usually removed with Butachlor, a synthetic herbicide that is known to be toxic. “At first, I was overwhelmed by the strong power of the native weed, Shouchum, which had grown so rapidly, and thought it would be very difficult to remove it,” notes Mr Inaba. “However, after watching them for a while I came up with a new idea: To plow them into the soil! Then, under the anaerobic condition, the weeds will be fermented and produce large amounts of butyric acid which will damage the bulb of Shouchum and the roots of other weeds as well. In this way, all the weeds would be suppressed effectively.”

Transplantation was done the following day. “We were amazed at the excellent operation by a Bhutan operator,” says Mr Inaba. “The operation of the transplanting machine is difficult, but he managed with great success.” Three types of rice were transplanted: A Japanese variety called Sasanishiki, and a local rice variety grown either in a regular nursery bed or in a pot-type nursery bed. Concludes Mr Inaba: “Many people participated in this activity of transplantation, and we feel enormous gratitude to those who joined us! At the next visit, we will check on the success or failure of the three types of young rice plants, the growth at an early stage, and the tilling situation, and look for the condition and possibility of a stable good yield.”

The next visit will be in the beginning of July, 2017, with a focus on weed control and preparation for soy bean planting. The project is supported by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Read more here (E).

Representatives-during-the-signing-of-Japan-International-Cooperation-Agency-JICA-Partnership-Project

 

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)

Bhutan Aiming for 100% Organic Agriculture by 2020

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.

Continue reading Bhutan Aiming for 100% Organic Agriculture by 2020

Supporting Japanese Non-GM Soybeans

Consumers Union of Japan and the No! GMO Campaign are working together to support Japanese farmers who want to grow more soybeans for domestic consumption. On February 23, 2016, the 18th annual meeting of the Soybean Trust Movement was held in Jiyugaoka, Tokyo as a way for consumers and farmers to meet and discuss the many issues involved.

soybean_trust_movement_japan_shumei_natural_farm_networkIn 1996, the first genetically modified soybeans were imported to Japan from North America. This led to the formation of the Soybean Trust Movement as a way to counter the threat to Japanese traditional foods like tofu, miso and soy sauce that are made from soybeans. The aim is to increase Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate for this important source of protein and nutrients.

Ms. Setsuko Yasuda from the 21st Century Food Policy Vision spoke about the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement and new risks to food, while Keisuke Amagasa from the No! GMO Campaign made a presentation about the current status of GM foods and agriculture. Osamu Tsuchida from Tokyo Shinbun discussed the “land grab” problems associated with the plans that Japan’s government has to promote soybean farming in Mozambique.

Currently, the United States has just approved GM salmon, and there are new issues involving Du Pont’s controversial techniques to edit the genome. This could make it possible to bypass the legislation for older ways to genetically modify living organisms and GM food. On the other hand, there is an increasingly strong movement in the US to make labelling of GM foods mandatory. Here in Asia, we have recently learnt that Taiwan decided to ban GM foods in school lunches while also introducing stricter GM labelling rules.

A delightful lunch was served with organic soybeans from the Shumei Natural Farm Network (E). Clearly, growing soybeans is no easy task, and more efforts are needed to make more consumers aware of this important movement in Japan.

By Yoko Sugiura, CUJ

Letter From Consumers In Japan To Protest Against GMOs In Bangladesh

Prime Minister of Bangladesh
Hon’ble Sheikh Hasina

Embassy of Bangladesh
4-15-15 Meguro, Meguro-Ku, Tokyo-153-0063
Fax No: +81-03-5704-1696

Tokyo, Japan May 28, 2014

Japanese Citizens’ Network for Sustainable Food & Agriculture
Amagasa Keisuke, Kawata Masaharu

We are a network of concerned Japanese consumers, farmers and experts with a strong desire to protect biological diversity and promote sustainable food and farming. Our network includes Consumers Union of Japan, No! GMO Campaign as well as co-ops and farmers organizations in different regions of Japan.

We recently discovered that your country has decided to promote genetically modified organisms (GMO) and introduced GM eggplant (BT brinjal) to selected farmers in different areas in Bangladesh in January, 2014. Consumers in Japan are strongly opposed to this act by your government.

If cultivation of GM eggplant (BT brinjal) is carried out on a large scale in Bangladesh, a country-of-origin for this important crop, it will not only have an influence on the food safety and food security, but may pollute other farms in your country. This could seriously influence your trading partners and countries such as Japan that import food. We would be forced to call on consumers in Japan to consider a boycott of farm products cultivated in Bangladesh.

Instead, we strongly urge you to cancel the approval of GM eggplant (BT brinjal) and prohibit the sale of all GM crops.

1) Cultivation of GM eggplant (BT brinjal) is not allowed in other countries. India and the Philippines are among the countries that prohibits GM eggplant (BT brinjal).

2) Many scientists have pointed out risks associated with the cultivation of GM crops, including adverse effects to the ecosystem and health problems for farmers. For consumers, the risks include allergic reactions and problems associated with unintended effects, such as the impact on the immune system. See for example the detailed guideline adopted by FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius in 2003 for the conduct of food safety assessment of GMO foods (CAC/GL 46-2003).

3) One approach to dealing with such varied and extensive risks involve using the precautionary principle, adopted in 1992 by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).

4) We note that the introduction of GM crops have the potential to cause great damage on the biodiversity of your country, especially related to important agricultural crops used as food. We also regard this to go against the “Aichi Targets” which was adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity, and which Bangladesh is a member of.

5) We are certain that most farmers in your country perform sustainable agriculture and save their own seed. This will no longer be possible if you allow the introduction of genetically modified DNA that is patented and owned by large foreign corporations. Instead, farmers face an uncertain future of poverty, as they will be forced to make new purchases of GM seed each season, with a large amount of cash expenditure each year.

Thank you.

Japanese Citizens’ Network for Sustainable Food & Agriculture
Consumers Union of Japan
1-9-19-207 Nishi-Waseda
Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan
www.nishoren.org/en/