Category Archives: Food Security

Japanese Consumers’ Position on Genetically Modified Crops

Message in solidarity with our friends and colleagues in The Philippines

Japanese Consumers’ Position on Genetically Modified Crops

 We say “No!” to genetically modified foods whose safety has not been confirmed and which will lead to food domination by multinational corporations

Since 1996, when the distribution of genetically modified crops began, we, Japanese consumers, have been campaigning against genetically modified crops and foods, saying that we do not want them.

Consumers Union of Japan, which has been at the center of the movement, has three reasons for opposing GMOs and GM foods:

(1) Their safety as food has not been confirmed

(2) They may have a negative impact on the environment

(3) Multinational corporations are using them to gain control of our food supply

As for (1), the results of various animal experiments have pointed out the dangers of genetically modified foods. Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen, France, conducted a long-term feeding experiment on rats using genetically modified crops, and found that rats developed more cancers, had impaired detoxification organs, and lived shorter lives. Consumers Union of Japan welcomed Prof. Seralini to Japan in 2019 and held a symposium on the dangers of GMO foods and pesticides to inform Japanese consumers about these issues.

As for (2), in countries where GM crops are produced, the use of pesticides is rapidly increasing due to the expansion of genetically modified crops and the emergence of herbicide-resistant weeds and insecticide-resistant pests, causing soil contamination. In Japan, genetically modified oilseed canola imported from Canada and other countries has been spilling over and growing wild around ports and along main roads leading to oil mills, causing hybridization with native oilseed plants, related species and weeds. Since 2005, consumer cooperatives and citizens’ groups have conducted annual surveys of genetically modified canola throughout Japan, informing the Japanese government of the reality of GM contamination and calling for strict regulations on GM crops.

As for (3), Monsanto (now Bayer) and other companies that develop genetically modified seeds are trying to control the seeds through patents and thereby control the food supply. The UN World Food System Summit in September 2021 is a good example of this. We have participated in international actions such as the “Anti-Monsanto Day” and continue to take a stand against corporate control of food.

Japanese consumer oppose GM rice

In Japan, Monsanto was once involved in the research and development of genetically modified rice. When it was about to be submitted to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare for approval as a food product, consumers and farmers campaigned against it and had it stopped. We went to the GMO test sites and marched in the streets, saying that we could not accept the idea of genetically modifying our precious staple food, rice. Research and development of genetically modified rice is still underway in Japan, but it has not yet been put to practical use. This is because of the continued opposition from consumers and farmers.

Recently, genome editing technology is being used to develop rice. The research and development is being conducted by the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, the largest research institute in Japan. Consumers Union of Japan is opposed to both genetic modification and genome editing as they are technologies that manipulate genes of living organisms. In February 2021 we started a signature campaign to demand that seeds and seedlings be labeled as genetically modified, and in July, we submitted the first batch of 62,766 signatures to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

In this way, Consumer Union of Japan is opposed to genetically modified crops, and we continue to oppose Golden Rice together with MASIPAG and other Asian NGOs. Rice is a staple food for the people of Asia, and an important food that is deeply connected to our local culture and traditions. Consumers Union of Japan is strongly opposed to the commercialization of Golden Rice and will continue to work in solidarity with our friends in Asia.

4 August 2021

Consumers Union of Japan

English Website: http://www.nishoren.org/en/

English Twitter: https://twitter.com/consumerunionjp/

Global People’s Summit on Food Systems — Against the UN Food System Summit

In September of this year (2021), the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres will convene the United Nations Food System Summit. In this international event with the goal of building a “healthier, more sustainable and equitable food system,” and in 2021 (in the midst of the United Nations Decade of Family Farming 2019-2028) the participation and input of people engaged in family farming and small-scale agriculture, who account for more than 80% of the world’s food production, should be a priority.

However, when concrete discussions began in 2020, the issues of human rights and land grabbing that small-scale farmer groups have been advocating were not at the center of the agenda, and corporations and related organizations that promote land concentration, monopolization of agricultural supply chains. Also the industrialization of food, including biotechnology, have had a significant influence on decision-making. In response to this, many civil society organizations have begun to take action and sent a joint letter demanding a review of the summit’s preparatory process, transparency in decision-making, and dialogue to achieve this, but no fundamental review has taken place. In March, a group of small-scale farmers from the Global South (Southeast Asia, South America, and Africa) announced their boycott of the summit and launched a counter-summit, the Global People’s Summit on Food Systems (GPS).

The following statement is the press release issued along with the declaration of this counter-summit. What is it that the world’s small-scale farmers, who hold the key to the future of agriculture, and the many civil society organizations that share their beliefs, want to address by boycotting the UN event?

Consumers Union of Japan is a member of the Stop Golden Rice Network (SGRN), one of the organizers of the Global People’s Summit on Food Systems.

In Japanese here

Facebook in English here

Statement from Hungry4Change here

Continue reading Global People’s Summit on Food Systems — Against the UN Food System Summit

Soaring Cost of Vegetables Won’t End Soon

The soaring cost of vegetables is not about to end. I recently saw cabbage in the supermarket that was cut in quarters sold for 170 Yen, which is an unusually high price. Even at the Agricultural Co-operative store, where vegetables are sold directly to customers, most of the vegetables were small and off-colour. I could feel they had put a lot of effort into harvesting, but even there, the prices were higher than usual.

Turning on the TV, there was an interview with a seller at a bargain grocery shop, who said prices won’t come down soon. It is assumed that the reason is unusually bad weather, but I do not subscribe to that opinion. Instead, it seems there is something unbalanced in the structural model of demand and supply.

Regarding the so-called supply side, there is a decline in productivity. Farmers have already depended on foreign labour for quite some time. But industries like construction and the service sector are also increasingly hiring foreign labourers, thus squeezing the agricultural sector even further. As a consequence, the model of mass production, mass selling, and mass consumption has begun to malfunction.

Furthermore, the rapidly aging of farmers and agricultural workers means fewer people are involved in production. This has an immediate effect on markets, grocery stores and local restaurants that relies on local supply. In addition, there has been a sharp increase in the number of vacant houses in rural villages, showing how serious things have become. The entire production system might be close to collapse.

How about the demand side? Recently, the supermarket shelves with ready-cut vegetables have become a big thing. People seem to prefer not to spend time or effort preparing and cooking food. Are we getting to the point where robots will enter Japan’s food factories and do the work for us? So, what can be done? I think this is a problem the consumer movement will need to consider from now on.

By Ono Kazuoki, CUJ

January 16, 2018

Japan Resources – No 169

Please click here CUJ-JR-169 for the latest issue of Japan Resources, our English newsletter.

In this issue we introduce our new campaign against genome-manipulated food, part of our strong resistance against GMOs in general. Field trials have started even though the government is slow to act to protect consumers or farmers. The debate about nuclear power is also high-lighted with Monju, the controversial fast-breeder reactor in Fukui Prefecture in the news.

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: Resistance and Resilience
Campaign Against Genome-manipulated Food
Press Release: Appeal for World Food Day
Food Security: Japan’s Self-sufficiency Rate for Sesame Seed Only 0.1%
Is the Consumer Agency in Fact the Industry Agency?
Pluto and Monju
News Flash: Monju Reactor Set for Decommissioning Lacks Sodium Removal Method

Please download the PDF file or read it here on our English website.

Food Security: Japan’s Self-sufficiency Rate for Sesame Seed Only 0.1%

One of the main pillars of Consumers Union of Japan is that we care deeply about food safety, which is connected to food security issues. We constantly try to monitor food production and are concerned about how things are developing or rather, deteriorating. Sometimes, we are taken by surprise. So, when I read in the newsletter from the Kansai-based Yotsuba Group that Japan’s self-sufficiency rate for sesame seed has dropped to 0.1%, well, it turned out to be one of many such cases.

The main place for growing sesame seed is a small island called Kikaijima in Kagoshima prefecture, in southern Japan, part of the Amami Islands. Their white sesame is a local variety that accounts for around 70% of Japan’s total domestic sesame seed production. But, for several years, abnormal weather and especially rain from typhoons have wrecked havoc on the small island’s farms, due to global climate change. Volcanic activity nearby has also brought unusual levels of ash to the fields. Taken together, domestic sesame seed farming in Japan is currently in great danger.

Another example is the small citrus fruit called sudachi in Japanese (which is also grown in Peru). Just like sesame, this is an important ingredient in Japanese traditional cooking. But when I checked, the farmers tell me many of them are getting too old to continue growing this special product. Also, there are places where tea will no longer be grown unless efforts are made to seriously support local and regional farms as well as the companies that bring such wonderful gifts to the market. This is a serious issue we call “food security” which is fundamental when we start discussing “food safety” and other concerns. Consumers Union of Japan continues to be at the forefront of the debate to resolve these important issues.

By Ono Kazuoki, CUJ

December 18, 2017