Category Archives: North-South

International Film Festival on Organic Farming


The 7th organic film festival will be held in Tokyo on November 23-24, 2013. This will be a great opportunity to catch up with recent trends and watch documentaries from Japan and abroad. The theme this year is “Holding on to the Soil” to refelct the hardships many farmers are experiencing, with special focus on Okinawa and Fukushima.

Location: Hosei University, Sotobori Campus (between Iidabashi and Ichigaya stations on the Sobu line)

Tickets: 1800 Yen (pre order) 2500 Yen ( at the entrance)

For more information please check the official website (J).

BSE In Brazil

Open letter: Our demands regarding mad cow disease in Brazil

To: Agriculture Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi
From: Food Safety Citizens’ Watch
January 9, 2013

Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) announced on December 8, 2012 on its homepage that beef from Brazil was infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and that import of beef products from Brazil were banned from that same day. The following are problems regarding the slow response which we would like MAFF’s Risk Management Agency to reply to before January 21, 2013.

1) Why was the news about the Brazilian cow that died from BSE in December 2010 (at age 13 years) not announced until December 8, 2012?

2) Between 2010 and 2012, Brazilian beef products were imported for two years. 935 tons of heat-processed products were imported in 2010, and 1435 tons in 2011, an increase from 17% to 21% of the total imports. Please clarify how the beef products were distributed and consumed around Japan.

3) Please respond to the public regarding your ideas about taking responsibility for the risks associated with BSE and vCJD.

4) The import ban for beef products from Brazil will be kept in place until March, 2013 but until the results are presented and the consultation of the Food Safety Commission has reduced the risk, the import ban should be maintained. We also note that OIE still puts Brazil in the category of “negligible risk countries” and wonder why OIE is reluctant to change Brazil’s status. In addition, we strongly urge Japan to require all imported beef products to be fully investigated as soon as possible.

By: Kamiyama Michiko, FSCW

Highlights From The Negotiations In Hyderabad About Biological Diversity

Updates about GMOs from the Convention of Biological Diversity

It is not always easy to follow the details of the discussions and negotiations of international agreements… Media pays scant attention or ignores important concerns. Governments provide a massive amount of information but it is not easy to find or digest. Fortunately, NGOs are usually present both in the conference hall and in the corridors. For the current round of negotiations in Hyderabad, India, groups like CBD Alliance publish a newsletter called ECO with easy-to-understand updates.

ECO MOP6
ECO COP11

Here are some highlights:

For the initial meeting, MOP6, many worried that the so-called Roadmap about genetically modified organisms would not be endorsed. This Roadmap deals with risk assessment, to make sure that countries know what they are getting into if they import certain GMOs that may disturb or pose a threat to their local biological diversity. Without proper risk assessment, countries will not have the tools necessary to take into account recent developments in risk research.

There was anger that the United States (not a Party to the Convention of Biological Diversity) has voiced its opposition to work regarding the consideration of socio-economic consequences of genetically modified organisms. Philip L Bereano, Washington Biotechnology Action Council, notes that the US has sponsored literally thousands of socio-economic assessments as part of government policy to aid decision-making. Why not for GMOs?

During the main meeting of the COP11, there was also great concern that the negotiators would suddenly “rewrite history” by editing out an earlier text that many NGOs and governments feel strongly about, regarding so-called “Terminator” crops. These are genetically modified to not be able to produce new fertile seeds, thus undermining the ancient right of farmers to save their own seed from their harvest. Such GMOs, dubbed “Terminator” back in the late 1990s, would give biotech companies like Monsanto (that holds the patents to the Terminator technology) immense power over global food production. Activists in Hyderabad were indignant that instead of deleting old decisions, countries should implement what they agree on at the CBD meetings! Finally, it was agreed to retain the text, after swift action from six countries.

Regarding genetically modified organisms, ECO published the following list of countries in the Asia Pacific region and how they deal with genetically modified organisms (GMO) by 2012:

Read our proposals to the Japanese government before the Hyderabad conference:
Protect Biodiversity From GMOs: Hyderabad MOP6 Meeting

Stop TPP Action/Occupy Monsanto

On the first Tuesday of every month, demonstrations will be held in front of the Prime Minister’s Official Residence in Tokyo. Together we can stop the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)!

Consumers Union of Japan has joined together with other organizations to strongly voice our opposition to TPP. Starting in August, 2012, a new campaign strategy was initiated as we met in front of the Prime Minister’s Official Residence in central Tokyo under the theme of stopping the TPP. Ordinary citizens who are opposed to TPP joined elected Parliament members, representatives from local municipalities, self-governing bodies, labour unions and farmers’ organizations. Still, Prime Minister Noda and some parts of the government are urging Japan to join the controversial TPP negotiations. Since the decision to join appears to be imminent, we need to step up our protest activities in front of the Official Residence.

We invite everyone to join our next action meetings. The future dates are scheduled to be November 6, December 4, January 8 (first Tuesday of every month) at 18:00-20:00.

TPP is a way for American and Japanese multinational corporations to take control over the livelihoods of ordinary citizens. Consumers Union of Japan has been holding regular lectures since January, 2012 together with other NGOs about the related problems as seen from the perspective of consumers. During the course of these lectures, it became clear to everyone that TPP proposes unacceptable challenges and participation would be a huge mistake for Japan.

Lecture 1: “TPP problems viewed from the perspective of consumers”
Lecture 2: “Food labeling to be taken away from us”
Lecture 3: “Labour issues”
Lecture 4: “Medical treatment issues”

A total of six action meetings were held to “stop the rash act of TPP” from August 21 to September 25, 2012 in front of the Prime Minister’s Official Residence in Tokyo, on each Tuesday between 18:00 and 20:00. Some 100-400 participants have joined the events. Each time, representatives from different regions and rural areas around the country have joined. Speeches were held to reveal problems related to agriculture, medical treatment, health insurance system, food safety etc.

On September 18, 2012 the action event was tied together with the Occupy Monsanto campaign, with a protest rally outside the offices of the US biotech giant Monsanto’s head office in Tokyo, followed by a parade that went to Ginza and the Prime Minister’s Official Residence. Occupy Monsanto is an international effort to protest against genetically modified organisms and GM food.

Occupy Monsanto (E)

Different protest actions are planned for the coming months. In November, the event is held on Tuesday, November 6 from 18:00 to 20:00. This coincides with the US presidential election. The theme of the event will be to discuss what we can do about the situation as it is said that the brief time period directly after the US presidential election is the most dangerous time in terms of joining in the TPP negotiations. Let us raise our voices even more loudly and together stop TPP!

Campaign updates: http://notpp.jp/TPP_kantei.html (J)

Ramsar Convention Adopts Anti-GM Rice Resolution

At the 11th meeting of the Ramsar Convention for wetlands, a draft resolution was introduced that came dangerously close to open a back door to genetically modified rice.

Rice paddy fields in many countries are supporting wildlife such as migratory birds and marine species. The use of pesticides have caused much damage to such sensitive ecosystems. Overuse also leads to resistance among the very pests the chemicals are designed to kill. Instead, traditional knowledge and local solutions should be encouraged to reduce the dangerous use of agrochemicals.

After fierce debate and opposition from NGOs at the meeting in Bucharest, Romania, the text of the resolution was amended at the last day. The final resolution clearly states that only “conventionally bred rice varieties” can be introduced in rice paddies, to protect wetland ecosystems.

“The good reputation of Ramsar was at stake,” notes Keisuke Amagasa, No! GMO Campaign. “Delegates strongly suspected that this document would be used to promote BT rice which kills insects.”

Background: At the meeting in July, 2012, the United States proposed controversial language that would have caused uproar in Asia, where most of the world’s rice is produced. No genetically modified rice has yet been approved in any country, while major rice producing countries are strongly opposed to GM rice. Delegates from Austria, France, Cyprus and Denmark, speaking for the EU, made a great effort to make sure that GM rice was not accepted by the Ramsar Convention. This anti-GM rice position was supported by Japan, South Korea, and China.

Recognizing that irrigated rice fields are a major type of wetlands under the Ramsar Convention, pesticide use should be reduced to protect biological diversity. To introduce genetically modified rice, such as BT rice that produces a toxin that kills insects, is not an option in this context. Farmers need help to learn how to reduce pesticide use, but not if that means corporate campaigns to introduce untested and poorly risk assessed GM rice. The message from the Ramsar Convention is: Do not allow GM rice in your country.

Report of the World Wetlands NGO Conference: Petruta Moisi, Eco-Counselling Centre Galati, Romania, on behalf of the World Wetland Network, reported on the recommendations of the World Wetlands NGO Conference, which took place just prior to COP 11, expressing concern over the continued degradation of designated and undesignated wetlands and the failure of many parties to apply the wetland wise use concept in practice. She drew attention to the draft resolutions on: sustainable tourism, stressing the need to balance tourism and local demands on wetland resources; institutional arrangements for the Secretariat, which should bring clear benefits and more involvement of civil society; energy, calling for cumulative impact assessment of small hydropower systems; and agriculture and pesticide use, expressing concern for the potential increased use of genetically modified organisms to control pests.

Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (COP11) (ramsar):
The 11th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties

“Linkages” (IISD):
COP11 of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

Wetlands for Life (WWN)