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)
On February 21, 2019, Consumers Union of Japan submitted the following public comment in response to the Japanese government’s GM Food, etc. Investigative Panel of the Pharmaceutical Affairs and Food Sanitation Council, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) regarding the handling of food modified by genome editing.
Consumers Union of Japan is working for a sound and healthy future for all. This is why we are active in protecting our surrounding environment and the safety of our daily food. We believe this is what the Japanese government also wants. However, there are reports that the government has concluded that the Food Sanitation Law will not apply to food obtained through genome editing, thus giving up the important focus to protect the environment while also protecting food safety. CUJ finds this unacceptable. Therefore, we request that you withdraw the report and redo the deliberation from the beginning.
These are our reasons:
- It is not possible to avoid off target influence and mosaic effects through genome editing. There are numerous studies that confirm this. The current conclusion contradicts data about such influences and effects by treating them in an overly optimistic way. After a serious change has occurred it will be too late to take action.
- Through genome editing, epigenetic changes (heritable changes in gene expressions) have been reported to take place, something you hardly mention in your report. We can’t help wondering if you are simply imagining that such a problem cannot happen.
- When inserting genes, and then removing them during the crossing stages, we assume that regulation is required. But even if the introduced genes are removed, there is no guarantee that they have been removed 100%, and that there does not remain any influence. Moreover, we have not heard that any safety studies have been done to make sure that such practices actually work as intended or that safety can be secured. We have big misgivings about the advancement of such technologies while the scientific basis appear to be so weak.
- The process of dealing with this by the Food Sanitation Law was compared to the safety examination of genetically modified food. Genome editing is also a genetic technology, but it differs fundamentally from DNA recombination technologies. Many more and various new vegetable or plant breeding experiments will now take place. New legal restrictions are needed for this. We cannot accept that no effort will be made to maintain the safety of our food supply by the government’s current policy approach.
- The Food Sanitation Law has a huge influence also on how food is labelled. If the labelling requirements are affected by the current conclusion, and no labelling is required, it will remove the consumer’s right to know and choose. This is a large and important responsibility for the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
Consumers Union of Japan
Nishi Waseda 1-9-19-207
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This time, we consider large international meetings, and wonder if they are effective enough. There seems to be problems with making progress both in the areas of climate change and biological diversity.
We hope you will continue to stay updated with CUJ’s activities and news on our English website, and support our campaigns!
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“Bitter Truth of Sweet Bananas,” a DVD on the reality of the banana production in the Philippines, was released by Pacific Asia Resource Center (PARC). The 78-minutes documentary film about the bananas produced for the Japanese market features the predicaments of the local banana farmers with agrichemicals aerial spraying and unfair contracts with enterprises, for example, and the futures of the initiatives to support the local farmers. PARC calls the public to see the film and “think about the relationships between Japan and the Philippines and also about the food.”
The theme of documentary is the problems on the production site relating to, for example, agricultural chemicals and contracts with large companies, and also the efforts of the local farmers to become sustainable producers and of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to support such initiatives. It touches upon indigenous local peoples’ thoughts, contains interviews with partner organizations that support the expansion of fair trades, and describes the new prospects for the future. The report carefully covers the reality of the banana production site which is out of the sight of Japanese consumers who eat cheap bananas and raises a question how they should think of the agriculture of the world and the future of the food.
Ryota Murakami, a film director, filmed the documentary that is divided into three sections.
From Japan Agri News
Read more on the Pacific Asia Research Center website (J)
Much of CUJ’s work takes place in our working groups. They are the way for interested members to push for campaigns on a range of topics. The working groups are important for our office staff as a source of knowledge and inspiration for further action. Now we have started a new working group to focus on environmental issues. What kind of issues? Well, that is a good question.
At the first meeting, among the suggestions we are currently considering are microplastics, the construction of the “linear” maglev train between Nagoya and Tokyo, electromagnetic radiation, agricultural practices, and energy production (especially electricity/nuclear power) and “local production/local consumption” and its related challenges in an increasingly globalized world.
The blackout all over Hokkaido after the earthquake in September highlighted the multiple uncertainties regarding Japan’s energy system. The concentration of electric power to a single large unit has been identified as the culprit. More people are beginning to understand the benefit of “local production/local consumption” which has been a guiding principle for our work at CUJ. On the other hand, the debate has also begun regarding importing electricity from Honshu, or even from foreign countries. We need to counter such proposals by demanding that pollution and waste of energy should be factored into the debate.
At our first meeting, a college student with an interest in agricultural systems participated. We are hoping that the discussion will lead to concrete proposals how we can create “local production/local consumption” in this vital area, and confront the globalization of food. There are many other issues as well, and we invite people to become members and participate in this new working group.