Category Archives: Civil Rights

”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

Pluto and Monju

In the old Greek mythology, Pluto was name of the god that ruled the underworld, where souls go after death. Someone who has recently been thinking about this is Nakajima Tetsuen, the head priest of the Buddhist temple Myoutsuu in Obama City, Fukui Prefecture. He currently serves as the chairperson of a local group of citizens that oppose nuclear power in the prefecture.

In December, 2016 the decision was finally taken to decommission and scrap the infamous nuclear reactor called Monju in Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture. To celebrate this, the citizens met on November 5, 2017 where Mr. Nakajima explained: “We should not walk the path to hell of Pluto, but instead follow the path of the Buddha, which is the path of the living.”

In Obama City, there are no nuclear power plants, but nearby, as many as 15 reactors are located around Wakasa Bay. The reason is the strong opposition by people in Obama City, led by Mr. Nakajima. In other locations that accepted nuclear plants, a splendid gymnasium or huge hot spring facilities were built using special government grants, while Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples and old roads greet visitors to Obama City.

The priest of a Shingon temple with traditions dating back from the 9th century uses Buddhist teaching to communicate his message: “Maybe we can believe that Monju (also known as Manjushri) is a compassionate bodhisattva who will wake us all from the nightmare of multiplying hellish rulers…”

By Sugiura Yoko, CUJ

November 20, 2017

Press Release: Appeal for World Food Day

Our goal is a world with no genetically modified foods and an end to the multinational corporate control of the global food supply

October 16 is the World Food Day, as designated by the United Nations. The aim is to combat hunger and promote agriculture, while the forces that makes this difficult to achieve are having the opposite results. Regional conflicts and nationalism are increasing poverty. We are especially concerned about the concentration of economic resources into the hands of just a few corporations that control the global economy. At the same time, governments have embarked on EPAs and FTAs that ignores public opinion and lead to more division in society.

In just the past 12 months, the worst case scenario has become reality, with multinational agribusiness takeovers and mergers, much as we predicted over 20 years ago. This is a de facto monopoly over the global seed supply and cannot be accepted. How are we as consumers and farmers supposed to react to Bayer taking over Monsanto, while DuPont merged with Dow, and Syngenta was purchased by a ChemChina, the Chinese chemical company, except to oppose it? Our health and freedom to farm and purchase food that we can trust will now be completely at mercy of these few multinational corporations that control genetically modified crops through DNA patent rules and global agreements on intellectual property rights and other strong-arm tactics.

At the same time, this year we learned that genetically modified salmon has been approved in North America in spite of protests. This is the first GM animal to be sold as food. If this is acceptable, where does it lead us next? New GM technologies such as genome editing and RNA interference are also increasingly being promoted. Examples include canola and potatoes developed with these new GM techniques.

As if this is not enough, in April 2017 the Japanese government suddenly abolished the 1952 Seed Law, after multinational corporations engaged in the seed business complained that the publicly funded seed program hindered their attempts to expand their business. After only a few hours of deliberation at the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Committees of the Parliament, the new Seed Law bill was passed without any concern for the possible impacts on our agriculture and food systems. Instead, we maintain that the trend to undermine Japan’s public seed program for major crops should be stopped. We should ensure that the national and local governments will remain involved in the seed program as an essential part of our food security policy.

We have clear evidence that agriculture as promoted by multinational corporations are destroying the health of citizens, in particular children. It has been admitted that agricultural chemicals are the main cause of allergies, which are becoming increasingly common, and evidence from the United States show that children’s development is impaired by such residue in food. The most serious problem is GM foods as their introduction 20 years ago has led to a drastic increase in the amount of toxic glyphosate used and consumed. However, the Japanese government keeps changing the allowed residue levels leading to higher levels of pesticides and herbicides, even relaxing the standard for glyphosate as recently as July, 2017. We need to radically change the current thinking about agriculture and get rid of dangerous chemicals from our food supply.

We believe in expansion of agriculture that is small-scale and organic, with local production for local consumption, within an international framework that connects citizens around the world. Co-operation is the basis for world peace. Furthermore, we believe that World Food Day should stand for agriculture without harmful chemicals, allowing no genetically modified or genome edited foods. We will continue to fight against multinational corporations and their systems that lead to hunger and malnutrition.

October 16, 2017

Consumers Union of Japan

No! GMO Campaign

Japan Resources – No 167

Please click here CUJ-JR-167 for the latest issue of Consumer Union of Japan’s English newsletter, Japan Resources (PDF). This time we focus on healthy, organic food and farming, while taking a stand against PM Abe and his ruling coalition, that has rammed through controversial legislation, bill after bill, threatening our civil rights.

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: Stop the Abe Train!

Organic Rice for School Lunch

Update: Bhutan Organic Rice Project

Street Events with the “Moms’ Project to Change our Food in Japan!”

Event: The International Day for Biological Diversity

Organic Lifestyle Expo

Statement: Reject the Anti-Conspiracy Bill

Statement: Reject the Anti-Conspiracy Bill

Statement: Reject the Anti-Conspiracy Bill

NPO Consumers Union of Japan

May 24, 2017

 

Consumers Union of Japan was founded in 1969 as an independent organization working for a sound and healthy future. Our activities are guided by the principle that ordinary people have the right to live in peace and safety. This is the reason we are taking a stand against the proposed “anti-conspiracy bill” which was approved in a rushed manner on May 23, 2017 by the House of Representatives plenary session, and sent to the House of Councilors.

We oppose this proposed bill that has become increasingly contentious the more it has been deliberated. It is ambiguous and far-reaching, deeply influencing people’s lives and activities, with only suspicion needed to instigate wire-tapping, internet surveillance and other invasive methods that the law enforcement authorities can use.

Consumers Union of Japan Anti Conspiracy Bill Event Hibiya Tokyo May 31 2017 Koketsu Michiyo
Koketsu Michiyo, CUJ, at the large May 31 2017 event in Hibiya, Tokyo to oppose the Anti Conspiracy Bill

For example, CUJ is working on a number of campaigns for the benefit of consumers to protect the environment and human health. This includes lobbying for strict regulations and putting pressure on government and corporations that make harmful detergents or promote genetically modified crops and GM food, which we strongly oppose. Other campaigns target agricultural chemicals and pesticide use, especially neo-nicotinoids which hurt both humans and animals. Many such activities and campaigns can now become regarded as illegal if they are interpreted to interfere with laws covered by the proposed conspiracy bill, including patent laws and other laws that protect corporations and their intellectual property rights.

Another law that is covered is the Plant Variety Protection and Seed Act. The purpose of this law is to protect the commercial interests of anyone who produces, registers and sells seed. Now, if you were to buy registered seed at a gardening store, grow plants from the seed, and then share the plant’s seed with others, this could be regarded as a conspiracy crime – a nightmare! By introducing the conspiracy bill, our normal world may be changed in an instant. Will this nightmare really come true? We do not want to make such a world become reality and we will have no part in living in such a world.

Consequently, Consumers Union of Japan strongly urges the government to scrap this proposed bill.