Category Archives: Biodiversity

CUJ Blog: What is the Future of Japanese Agriculture?

Every year at this time of the year, I feel depressed. It’s the time of year when aerial pesticide spraying for rice stink bug control takes place. After a few years of living in rural areas, I’ve seen one aspect of the dwindling number of farmers. They have to rely on aerial spraying to save labor. There are many elderly people who don’t want to use herbicides who can’t cope with the vigorous growth of weeds, so they are dependent on them.

Not only in the town where I live, but also in neighboring towns and villages, young people are leaving for the big cities, and those who are engaged in farming are mostly in their 70s or 80s. The number of abandoned fields is increasing year by year due to the lack of manpower, so fields are in disrepair. Satoyama (mountainous farm areas) are no longer maintained, and damage from monkeys, deer and wild boars is increasing.

Most urban residents think that they can get food at convenience stores and supermarkets anytime, but due to the effects of the new corona virus pandemic and climate change, the number of countries exporting food to Japan may decrease dramatically in the future. I really wonder what will happen to Japan then, as our food self-sufficiency rate is only 37%. Large cities with “dense” populations and rural areas that are exhausted by the outflow of population… I can only hope that the unbalanced distribution of human beings in this country will be restored through the pandemic.

By Matsuno Ryoko (August 6, 2020)

CUJ Supports ‘“Defend Our Rice, Fight for Our Rights’ Campaign, a Resounding Success!” -SGRN

To commemorate the historic event when more than 400 farmers, urban poor, youths, and consumers uprooted Golden Rice in Pili, Camarines Sur back in 2013, the Stop Golden Rice Network (SGRN) successfully held a week-long campaign with the theme “Defend Our Rice, Fight for Our Rights.”

Joined by various organizations and alliances across Asia, the  “Defend Our Rice, Fight for Our Rights” campaign included various sets of activities starting from its launching on August 2 and concluding on August 8, the International Day of Action Against Golden Rice.

“State-sanctioned lockdowns due to the pandemic truly posed a challenge in launching campaigns, but it did not deter our farmers from joining,” said Cris Panerio, MASIPAG National Coordinator. “We need to be even more united than before however difficult it is in the time of COVID-19 health pandemic. And it showed through Black Lives Matter that it is possible to get organized in new means by making use of technologies at our disposal,” said Julie Smit, Luxembourg-based executive member of People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS), in a webinar as part of the week-long campaign.

Protest from farms

Farmers from MASIPAG Luzon took it to their farms to hang placards against Golden Rice

Different farmer organizations across Asia joined the International Day of Action Against Golden Rice on August 8 culminating in a protest action by hanging GM Free banners on their farms. It was then uploaded through social media platforms to encourage more farmers to do the same.

“It’s a show of force to display our solidarity with our genuine cause to stop golden rice and the further coporatization of our food systems.” said Panerio.

Women farmers from BAYAN Camarines Sur reveal their calls from their farm

Members and partners of the SGRN vow to continue the campaign through continued vigilance against the commercialization of Golden Rice and the corporate agenda to food and agriculture. Active applications for the commercialization of Golden Rice are underway in the Philippines, Bangladesh and Indonesia. Several biosafety regulations are also being relaxed in several countries to accommodate GM crops, and even new plant breeding techniques through gene-editing.

“Consumers Union of Japan strongly supports the annual campaign event to stop Golden Rice. Here in Japan, we are very worried about attempts to use new gene-editing techniques on rice, with research already ongoing. Of course in the future, such genome-altering GM Rice would be unacceptable to farmers and consumers all over the world, if they were used to attempt to produce the same effects as the current GM Golden Rice. We will continue the struggle to educate everyone about these events” said Martin J. Frid of Consumers Union Japan.

Let’s make rice, vegetables and fruits Neonics-Free!

Have you ever heard of Neonics (Neo-nicotinoid insecticides)? Even though it is getting banned in EU and throughout the world because of its danger to human health, it is used  in Japan. Children’s lives, nature and Japanese agriculture must be protected. This is why Coop Shizenha, choose to be Neonics-free.

You can reduce your exposure by adopting an organic diet – do watch the videos.

Translation by Tasaka Koa, Consumers Union of Japan

 

 

Pesticide Use in Japan

We would like to highlight the interesting reports in The Ecologist about pesticide use in Japan. Phil Carter, a freelance environmental journalist, explores how broad-spectrum pesticides used mainly at rice paddy fields are harming insects and the environment:

Quote:

Chemical companies are taking advantage of Japan’s weak laws on pesticide use by selling a wide variety of broad-spectrum pesticides for use in rice farming, including neonicotinoids banned in other countries.

But other pesticide types with similarly devastating effects on aquatic ecosystems continue to be sold and promoted, such as Trebon, a synthetic pyrethroid sold by Mitsui Chemicals, and Prince, containing fipronil, a phenylpyrazole sold by BASF. 

Simultaneously, a worldwide insect extinction event is ongoing in which broad-spectrum insecticides are implicated as a leading cause.

Japanese rice fields are losing aquatic insects such as iconic autumn darter dragonflies that use the flooded fields in the nymph part of their lifecycle. The resulting pollution of rivers and lakes has also led to the collapse of the fishery in Lake Shinji in Shimane Prefecture, which scientists have connected to neonicotinoid use in surrounding rice fields.

The process of removing dangerous pesticides from use is an arduous one, with companies like Bayer fighting bitterly to continue sales of each product both in court and with campaigns to discredit any critical scientific studies. In recent years, this scorched-earth approach has led to environmental groups focusing their energies on neonicotinoids, eventually achieving bans on some products in the European Union. 

Read the reports on The Ecologist website

CUJ and the No! GMO Campaign: Please Reply to Our Questions Regarding Glyphosate Use in Hokkaido

Request to cease pre-harvest glyphosate use in soybeans and please reply to our new concerns regarding its use (April 14, 2020)

To:

Hokuren Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives
Mr. Kazuyuki Uchida, Chairman of the Board

From:

No! GMO Campaign
Keisuke Amagasa
Consumers Union of Japan (CUJ)
Keisuke Amagasa, Co-Chairman
Kazuki Ono, Co-Chairman

Request to cease use of pre-harvest glyphosate in soybeans and reply to questions regarding its use

In response to our questionnaire dated March 17 2020, you responded on March 27 by e-mail, but you did not answer our questions 1 to 4.

Domestic agriculture is in a deep crisis due to trade agreements such as the TPP, the EU-Japan EPA, and the US-Japan FTA. We believe that the pursuit of safety in order to compete with cheap imported agricultural products is the best way to increase confidence in domestic agriculture and to survive. Many of the JAs under your organization are actively reducing the use of pesticides and pursuing environmentally friendly agriculture. Not only do we want you to produce safe agricultural products, but we also want to support domestic agriculture, which is responsible for Japan’s food self-sufficiency, and we worry about the health of the producers who are spraying pesticides.

Once again, we would like to ask you the following questions, and we would appreciate your sincere responses. Thank you for your time, but we ask that you respond in writing by April 28. The responses will be published on the website of Consumers Union of Japan.

1. What is your view on the fact that the herbicide glyphosate (product name Roundup, etc.) has been assessed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a specialized organization of the WHO, as “probably carcinogenic to humans” and its use has been regulated overseas and there have been a series of lawsuits.

2. You responded that you are complying with the Japanese legislation, but although glyphosate is applied to annual weeds on soybeans under the Pesticide Control Law, it is not applied as a wilting agent on soybeans. If glyphosate is sprayed on soybean plots just before harvest, not only weeds are affected, but soybeans are also affected, so we would like to raise the question about whether it is actually legal or not.

3. We heard that your Federation promoted the method of spraying glyphosate on soybeans just before harvesting to its affiliated JAs. Please stop spraying glyphosate because of these problems and concerns.

4. As a Federation responsible for Hokkaido’s agriculture, which accounts for more than 10% of Japan’s agricultural production, you have a responsibility not only to Hokkaido’s producers, but also to consumers throughout Japan who demand domestic agricultural products. Consumers expect that Hokkaido’s agricultural products are produced in cooler areas and use less pesticides, which makes them a reliable brand. We, the consumers, expect Hokkaido agriculture to reduce pesticides. The issue is not only if they are currently legal or not, but if they are harmful to the ecosystem, producers and consumers. What are your views on the pursuit of environmentally friendly agriculture?