Category Archives: Civil Rights

Organic and pesticide-free ingredients for school lunches

In order to protect the health of children, there is a growing movement to incorporate organic and pesticide-free ingredients into school lunches. It is the responsibility of each local government to provide school meals. Therefore, the residents themselves can decide what kind of school lunches they want to have.
However, organic agriculture in Japan accounts for only 0.2%* of the total arable land, so it is not easy to promote the use of organic farming in school lunches, including in terms of price. Starting this campaign, we will discuss what is needed to make organic and pesticide-free school lunches a reality.
*Area certified as organic by JAS

 

Japanese text here

Urgent Request for Countermeasures Against the New Coronavirus

To: Kato Katsunobu, Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare

April 14 2020

Urgent Request for Countermeasures Against the New Coronavirus

The government’s measures against the new coronavirus during this period lack the perspective to protect the lives and livelihoods of citizens. From the standpoint of all Japanese citizens, we call for a review of the new coronavirus countermeasures at the government’s expert meeting.

1. Please introduce a simple test kit as soon as possible for early diagnosis

The new coronavirus is so contagious that it can be transmitted even if no symptoms are present. At the very least, patients who complain of fever, cough, or taste disorder should be diagnosed promptly and preventive measures such as isolation should be taken. If a simple test kit that has already been developed overseas is introduced as soon as possible and all suspected cases are tested in the same way as for influenza, PCR testing can be performed based on the kit to more accurately assess the status of infection and prevent the spread of the disease. Early diagnosis with a simple test kit is also recommended for early treatment. Also, please withdraw the suggestion to stay at home for 4 days for healthy people and 2 days for the elderly, and encourage them to receive medical examinations as soon as possible.

2. Please secure and utilize masks that are effective in preventing infection

Although masks are believed to be effective to some extent in preventing the spread of infection, the shortage of masks in many cities is causing a great deal of anxiety among citizens. With the current domestic production capacity, it is unlikely that citizens will be able to afford the masks they need. In addition, gauze masks distributed by the government to each house are considered to have limited effectiveness in preventing infection.

We believe that the public should be made aware that non-woven masks, which have a certain degree of viral shielding ability, are not disposable and can be used repeatedly by washing and disinfecting in the sun. In particular, we request that masks necessary for medical facilities and facilities for the elderly be urgently secured and supplied.

3. Reduce the risk of diagnosis and treatment

Although chest CT scan is often used for diagnosis, the new type of coronavirus can be diagnosed by PCR or a simple test kit. We think that simple chest radiography and an interview are sufficient for the diagnosis of pneumonia itself. There is no need for CT scan imaging that is two orders of magnitude higher in exposure, and medical institutions should be instructed not to expose patients to more radiation than necessary.

Thoroughly evaluate and consider the side effects of the medication. The development of a cure is rushed, but please do everything you can to ensure that there is no side effects. We believe that Avigan should be used with caution in light of its side effects.

New coronaviruses, which are RNA viruses, mutate quickly, so the effectiveness of vaccines is likely to be limited. Either way, it doesn’t help in the immediate future. There are also adverse reactions. We would like to request that you consider countermeasures without over-confidence in vaccines.

4. We demand measures that will save everyone

Although it is likely that homeless people living on the streets and the needy have low immunity due to poor diets, etc., and are at higher risk from infection, nevertheless, even if masks are distributed, for example, they are not distributed to such people.

In addition, there has been widespread layoffs of casual, temporary, and part-time workers under the pretext of the Corona economic recession. Many of these people lose their jobs and the place to live at the same time. Many people have already been forced to spend the night in online cafes and all-night shops. The semi-mandatory self-imposed restraint of business that is being declared a state of emergency will throw these people out into the streets. As people leave town and eateries close, hunger will affect them in addition to the risk of infection.

At the same time, we demand that unemployed people, regardless of whether they are regular or irregular, be immediately covered by employment insurance and that the period of receipt of benefits be specially extended.

The weight of life is the same. We would like to request that you, as the person in charge of health and labor policy, pay sufficient attention to the bottom line of society and take measures to ensure that everyone’s right to life is fulfilled.

Amagasa Keisuke

Ono Kazunori

Consumers Union of Japan

Youth Strike for Climate Change Movement Reaches Japan

On March 15, 2019 a campaign to demonstrate against the lack of action to stop climate change will hold events around the world. Here in Japan, events are planned at Yoyogi Park, Tokyo (15:00) and at the City Hall in Kyoto (12:00-1300).  Again, on March 22 a demonstration will be held outside the Japanese Parliament Building in Tokyo (start 15:00). Bring your own plackard!

(Photo from the February 22, 2019 demonstration in Tokyo)

Read more here: Youth strike for climate change movement reaches Japan

Fridays for Future Japan (Facebook)

Essay: GM in Europe vs. Japan

I took part in the 9th GMO-Free Europe Conference which was held on 6th and 7th of September 2018 as one of three delegates from GMO No! Campaign, which has been campaigning against GMOs with the Consumers Union of Japan.  More than 200 participants not only from Europe, but also from Africa, Asia, North America gathered in Berlin to discuss GM issues.

Until I visited Berlin, I did not know much about the situation surrounding GM issues in Europe. What I was told before my departure was that in the EU, food made of GM ingredients were hardly available because of mandatory labelling requirement for GM foods; also, European people are averse to such foods, therefore food companies do not sell products made of GM ingredients.  I, being a skeptic, could not believe it, because Japanese situation is completely opposite, and it is so difficult to buy food without GM ingredients unless you do your shopping online or go to natural food shops.  When I realized that what I was told was true, I was shocked!  In order to avoid GM food in Japan, you need to know labelling rules and their loopholes, but most Japanese are kept ignorant of these.  Therefore, most of us end up eating large amount of GM food without being aware of that, or even worse believing that they don’t eat such food, as the rules are far from clear.

In one part of the world, GM-free foods are readily available, so people there eat those foods effortlessly, whereas in other part, conscious efforts are required in order to buy such foods, otherwise people eat food of which health impact is not fully understood.  Isn’t this terrible?  If there is no change of policy, Japanese kids might be more prone to be ill due to GM foods and other nasty stuff.  Will the place of birth determine the health and fate of children?  I suspect that Japanese kids cannot enjoy the same level of health that children in the EU are entitled to.

A few weeks before the Berlin conference, the decision by the European Court of Justice came out, in which the ECJ ruled that gene editing techniques would be subject to the same regulations as GMOs, hence plants and animals obtained by genome editing would need to go through the requirements of risk assessment and authorization.  The decision was, according to many GMO activists who attended the conference, needless to say, very welcome, but also unexpected.

In contrast, Japan seems to be heading to a completely opposite direction.  An experts’ panel for the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan proposed that most of the foods developed using gene-editing can be marketed without safety assessment.  Furthermore, those foods could be placed on the market without appropriate labels.  The outcome could be devastating for the health of people living in Japan and the environment.

Taking part in the conference gave me good opportunities to compare Japan and outside world.  I would like Japan to prioritise protection of human health and environment, based on the precautionary principle like the EU does.  Regretfully, the priorities of Japan, or more notably the Abe administration, are the economic growth and the protection of interest of multinational companies, sacrificing the health of Japanese people and the quality of the environment in this county.  Empowering Japanese NGOs might provide a key to facilitate changes in Japanese society.  There must be so many lessons we can learn from European experiences.

By Ryoko Matsuno, a member of the GMO No! Campaign & CUJ board member

 

”Consumer Rights” v.s. “Consumer Life”

In 1962 for the first time, consumer rights were advocated by President Kennedy in the US. Here in Japan, we had just entered the era when slogans such as “consumption is a virtue” became popular. In 1980, the International Organization of Consumers Unions (IOCU, now known as Consumers International) developed the idea further by establishing eight fundamental consumer rights. They are:

1 Right to Basic Needs

2 Right to Safety

3 Right to Information

4 Right to Choose

5 Right to Representation

6 Right to Redress

7 Right to Consumer Education

8 Right to a Healthy Environment

 

Currently, we are in the final stages of the debate about improving the GMO labelling system in Japan. We regard information about which foods are genetically manipulated to be an important and fundamental consumer right.

However, Japan’s ruling party and the government do not seem to like this concept of “consumer rights.” In Umeda Masami’s book, The History of Japanese Nationalism, he explains how in 1982, the Education Ministry’s textbook for writing changed its recommendation from “Do not use this term” to “Write like this.” For example, “consumer rights” was no longer recommended, and instead, “consumer life” should be used. Other official recommendations were also made, including terms for writing about defense and the atomic bomb. Seen in this light, it becomes clear that the government dislikes the idea that consumers have rights, and we can understand why this concept is being systematically neglected.

By Amagasa Keisuke, CUJ

January 22, 2018