Category Archives: Food Security

CUJ Resolutions at the 42nd Annual Meeting in June, 2015

Save the welfare system in Japan1) We oppose the security bills aimed at changing Japan’s constitution, and urge the government to protect the people’s right to live in peace and safety

70 years after the end of WW2, the Japanese government is introducing a number of controversial bills to change the post-war constitution, allowing for a more active military role for Japan. For 70 years, we have lived as peaceful consumers and workers. Our way of peacefully earning a living is now being destroyed as the Abe Cabinet tries to abolish Article 9 of the constitution, and allow for collective self-defense, which ultimately means Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) will be turned into a regular military force. This will also mean that Japan once again will be a country that can wage wars.

Consumers Union of Japan strongly opposes this as an attempt to infringe on our human rights. We want to remind the government that consumers have rights, including the pursuit of happiness and a safe livelihood. We take this to mean that we have the right to live in peace and safety. Consumers Union of Japan demands that the Abe Cabinet immediately withdraws the proposed bills to change the constitution and hereby declare that we are a part of the movement to oppose the proposed security bills.

2) We oppose the continued reliance on nuclear power

After the March 11, 2011 nuclear disaster at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, it became clear that relying on nuclear power is a dead end for society. In spite of this, the Abe Cabinet announced its new energy policy in April, 2015, stating that Japan should continue to rely on nuclear power, defining it as an “important base-load power source,” and sticking to its policy of promoting the nuclear fuel cycle. The government is already set to approve the restart of the Sendai and Takahama Nuclear Plants, and is making efforts to export nuclear power technology to other countries.

Meanwhile, in Fukushima Prefecture, some 120,000 people are still unable to return to their homes near the site of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. We note that it was a man-made disaster, and that the melted-down reactors still emit over 320 tons of radioactive water every day as they must be kept cool. Efforts to create a frozen wall around the complex failed. Also, workers on the site are being exposed to radiation in a perfunctory and careless way by the management. This is a clear human rights violation. In January, the government and TEPCO suggested that radioactive water should be disposed of into the ocean, something we cannot accept.

The Japanese archipelago with its active volcanos and many frequent earthquakes is particularly unsuitable for nuclear power. When accidents occur, radioactive substances will be released into the environment, with radioactive fallout including plutonium. Spent nuclear fuel also cannot be reprocessed without creating plutonium, and so far Japan has created 47 tons of this extremely dangerous radioactive material which can be used in nuclear weapons. The “deathly ash” (highly radioactive waste) has a half-life of 10,000 years. Also, mining for uranium is fraught with danger. All this points to a collusion of lies and cover-ups to make continued operation possible, as the basic truth is that radioactive substances can never coexist with living beings.

At the moment, not a single nuclear reactor is in operation in Japan. Even so, we basically have sufficient electricity. Higher costs for electricity seem to be the only reason to restart the currently idle nuclear power plants. We support independent efforts to save energy and reduce energy consumption for a peaceful livelihood for everyone, including for future generations. We look forward to a society that wisely relies on natural, renewable energy based on the “local production, local consumption” principle for all the people in the world, with zero reliance on nuclear power.

3) We oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership that will destroy our livelihoods as consumers

At this very moment, secret negotiations behind closed doors for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement is ongoing, involving 12 countries; Japan and the United States are among these. But in reality, it has nothing to do with “free trade” but instead, it will give immense powers to a handful multi-national corporations that want to create an overt supra-national framework to avoid national or local governmental control.

TPP is part of a larger global campaign for “free trade” agreements (FTAs) that will impose rules on intellectual property with extended copyright protection periods (including strengthened exclusive licensing, with consequences for access to medicines). The new rules being introduced for foreign direct investment are a direct threat to our public services, as foreign corporations will be able to sue governments if they feel they are treated unfairly under national or local rules. Various regulations to provide welfare services through public means could thus be challenged by privately held multinational corporations. In particular, obscure new ISDS rules would grant an investor the right to use dispute settlement proceedings against the Japanese government. The secretive TPP negotiation process indicates that the “profit for the 1% of the elite” will be creating much hardship for the 99% of the population who are workers, consumers, farmers/fishermen – the vast majority of citizens. This is the reason so many voices of opposition have been raised against the TPP.

To show our strong opposition to TPP, Consumers Union of Japan published an op-ed in October, 2014 together with Public Citizens. We noted:

What is important to consumers? Healthy and safe food. Banking and insurance services that protect their financial well-being. Affordable medicines and health care. Access to an open Internet and privacy protections. A clean environment. From what we know about the TPP text, it would undermine these critical consumer priorities, not promote them.

Meanwhile, under U.S. free trade agreements alone, other governments have been ordered to pay more than $430 million in compensation to corporations – with $38 billion more in claims now pending. And in some cases governments have also eliminated important consumer safeguards to avoid paying more. For consumers, rules that ensure the safety of imported food or information through mandatory food labels are examples of standards that TPP may do away with. For example, we are extremely concerned that Japan’s mandatory GMO labelling rules may be considered to fall under the category of “barriers to free trade” and become a target.

The fact that the TPP negotiations are not held in the open is a main cause of our concern. We remain in strong opposition to TPP for the dangerous reasons stated above, and resolve to continue to fight against it entering into force.

4) We oppose the bills for the expanded use of the National Identification System (“My Number”) and wire-tapping by the government

The Abe Cabinet wants Japan to “escape (or depart) from the post-war regime.” A National Security Council has been established, and a new law for special state secrets enacted. As part of this, expanded powers for wire-tapping of phone calls or emails have been introduced to aid criminal investigations. The new powers go beyond serious crimes (murder, drug dealing, weapon smuggling) to include general criminal activity of any kind. The extended rules for wire-tapping mean telecommunication carriers will now be monitored 24 hours a day, basically giving free range to the political forces that wish to monitor any phone calls or email activity.

The next target is a bill to criminalize so-called conspiracy. Potentially, this will cover any activity, including campaigns by non-governmental organizations, citizens groups or even consumer organizations. What the Abe Cabinet has said it wants to do is to create “the world’s most corporation-friendly country.” This explains the continued push for a national identification number system, known as “My Number” in katakana in Japanese. Under this system, everyone will be assigned a 12 digit number for total control of all citizens. Moreover, corporations will have easy access to each individual’s private information. The new bills weaken the Personal Information Protection Law (2003) and in particular, by encouraging the creation of Big Data the current government is handing over information about our private worlds to the corporate world.

Already, information security is being violated. Driving home this point, important private information such as pension data was recently leaked in the spring of 2015. The national pension system was simply hacked, leading to 1.25 million cases of personal data being leaked from the Japan Pension Service. With more and more efforts to amass Big Data about consumer behaviour and other aspects of our daily lives, the potential for such violations are increasing.

We see similarities in how the new legislation will suffocate citizens, stifle journalism and limit our democratic rights – just like in the pre-WW2 period. In that era too, corporations were given increased power as the country headed for war. We find that unacceptable. Consequently, we oppose the bills for increased wire-tapping, the introduction of the “My Number” system, the revision of the Personal Information Protection Law (2003), and the new definition of conspiracy crime. We are strongly opposed to Japan becoming a country that can wage wars, and resolve to protect Japan’s democracy and human rights.

(Resolutions adopted at Consumers Union of Japan’s 42nd Annual Meeting on June 20, 2015)

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/

International Biodiversity Day Symposium In Tokyo, Japan

International Biodiversity Day Symposium
Is Our Food and Biodiversity OK?
Saturday 24 May, 2014

YMCA Asia Youth Center
Suidobashi, Tokyo, Japan

13:00 Meeting hall open
13:30 Greetings
13:40 Message from South Korea
13:45 Status of GMOs in the Philippines (50 min)
14:35 Bt Brinjal: Bangladesh case (50 min)
15:25 Situation in Japan (20 min)
15:45 Break (15 min)
16:00 Panel discussion (50 min)
16:50 Final comments
17:00 End

18:00 Party at Tokyo Achikoko!!

なんと東京アチコーコーを偶然に見つけて選んでくださったのですがお話をすると、遺伝子組み換え食品に反対し、食品の安全を考える方々のお集まり。小さいけど、無農薬で畑で野菜を作る私としてはとってもウレシイ出逢いでした。

I am very happy that you found our place and know you all. Let’s keep trying to save food safety. I definitely support your activities!

お集まりいただいた方々の活動の一部は下記でチェックできます。
http://fa-net-japan.org/
http://gmo-iranai.lolipop.jp/index.php/

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/

* * *

 

Biosafety Expert Meeting In Quezon City, Philippines

Consumers Union of Japan and the No! GMO Campaign participated in a four-day meeting in the Philippines in November, to discuss the risks associated with genetically modified organisms (GMO). Of particular interest was the ambush by the biotech industry in countries like Bangladesh, where they want to introduce BT eggplants (after failing in India). Also on the agenda was Vitamin A rice (see details below) that is currently tested in field trials by IRRI and others in Asia. Experts and activists from 12 countries participated!

20131130_TWN_GMO_Workshop

PRESS RELEASE

26 November 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact person:
Nina Somera
Third World Network
Biosafety experts arrive in Manila, question Golden Rice

Respected scientists in the fields of agriculture and biosafety, Dr. Angelika Hilbeck and Prof. Jack Heinemann, are coming to Manila to share their assessment of Golden Rice’s development. Golden Rice is a genetically engineered rice that is claimed to contain Betacarotene that can express Vitamin A and in turn, address Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) as well as blindness. Its proponents led by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) project that crop will be publicly released in 2016.

“The adequacy of human health and environment assessments for Golden Rice should address deficiencies in other food risk assessments especially because it is intended for use by an already vulnerable population of people. In addition, Golden rice release may create important liabilities for the Philippines. I caution against a release before these issues are properly addressed through scientific and socio-economic assessment,” Heinemann points out. The Philippines does not have a biosafety law that can comprehensively lay down risk assessment processes, including liability and redress mechanisms, in cases of health impacts and contamination, among others. Yet it allows genetically engineered food and crops in the country, despite Republic Act 10068, otherwise known as the Organic Agriculture Act.

Similarly Hilbeck questions claims around Golden Rice as a remedy for VAD. It remains unclear, for instance, whether Golden Rice includes the pre-stages of Vitamin A such as the production of retinoids, a key component in anti-acne medication but in high dosage can be toxic. “GR does not totally address the causes of Vitamin A deficiency and for a ‘non-curative medicine’ that only treats symptoms, its proponents make far too big claims for it to be indeed a remedy,” she asserts.

Both Heinemann and Hilbeck share that the hype around Golden Rice is a distraction from practical solutions to malnutrition. There are likewise doubts over the so-called, humanitarian approach on Golden Rice. “Golden Rice 2 is a 100% corporate invention and is 100% owned by Syngenta! The company retains full control of their patent rights,” Hilbeck adds.

Heinemann is a professor of genetics and molecular biology in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand and is the Director of the Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety (INBI). Meanwhile, Hilbeck is a senior scientist at the Institute of Integrative Biology at ETH Zurich, with her studies focusing on agroecology and biodiversity, biosafety issues of GMOs and environmental risk assessments. Their expertise has contributed to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. Both scientists are authors of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), a five-year research exercise that was mainly supervised by the United Nations (UN) and endorsed by many governments.

Protect Life And Biological Diversity; Oppose Genetically Modified Food And TPP!

An Appeal from the NO! GMO Campaign in Japan
As part of our participation in Collective Rice Action (CORA) 2012

June 1, 2012

Protect life and biological diversity; oppose genetically modified food and TPP!

We are very concerned about the efforts by the government, business interests, and mass media to get Japan to join the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement*. We hold that globalization is robbing us of the safety of the food we need to live, while destroying the natural environment, expanding poverty, and creating a society with huge differences between rich and poor, with little hope for our future. TPP is going to make things even worse as it pushes the globalization agenda even further. Moreover, the food rules of the United States or multinational corporations are promoted, especially in the push for world hegemony through the introduction of genetically modified (GM) foods. TPP will have a destructive influence on agriculture in Japan. The farmers here would not be able to survive, and we would constantly have concerns and fears about the dangers of the food on our tables. For example, food labeling rules may be changed for the worse so that we no longer know what it is we are eating.

Currently, the food from Japan’s own islands may be contaminated with radioactivity due to the Fukushima disaster. Our self-sufficiency, meaning the ability to feed our own people, and the safety of our food are under threat. If Japan enters TPP then GM food and GM crops would be forced upon us in large quantities,posing a risk to both farmers and our food. While we are strongly opposed to TPP and GM, we wish to protect agriculture in Japan, protect the food on our tables, and protect life and biological diversity.

*TPP is a new type of regional free trade agreement that goes beyond WTO rules in many areas and will have many detrimental effects for farmers and consumers. We interpret it to mean that Japan will be forced to further liberalize according to the agenda of multinational agribusiness corporations.

– – – – – – –

From 22 May to 5 June 2012, 14 countries in Asia will band together for the COLLECTIVE RICE ACTION (CORA) 2012. People’s organisations, farmers, rural women, and rice consumers from PR China, Japan, Korea, Cambodia, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Iran will be “Reclaiming Our Rice and Biodiversity!” — the theme for CORA 2012.

CORA was launched as the Week of Rice Action in 2007. Since then, the impacts of the campaign have reverberated throughout the region, mobilizing millions of people to participate in rallies, workshops, festivals and other advocacy activities. CORA 2012 follows in the successful legacy of WORA 2007, WORA 2008, YORA (Year of Rice Action) 2009-2010 and CORA 2011. This is the first time Iran is joining the CORA campaign. CORA 2012 which will also be a run-up the CBD (Convention for Biological Diversity) Conference of the Parties and Meeting of the Parties in October, 2012 to be held in India.