JA Toyama Prefecture
No! GMO Campaign
Consumers Union of Japan 25 August 2020
Request to stop using pre-harvest glyphosate on soybeans
We are a consumer organization working for food safety. We are engaging in a number of initiatives to oppose genetically modified foods and genome-edited foods and demand prudent use of the herbicides and pesticides associated with them. In recent years, we have strengthened our monitoring of glyphosate herbicides, especially in light of the recent revelations of their harmfulness and the progress of global regulations.
In the midst of this situation, we were informed that the glyphosate was detected in soybeans and processed foods shipped from your prefecture’s JA plant. Glyphosate is a suspected carcinogenic with other toxic effects. We are concerned to learn that it is being sprayed as a wilt agent before the wheat harvest in North America and that pre-harvest spraying is being carried out on soybeans here in Japan as well. We are concerned that the spraying of harmful pesticides has a high risk of harming the health of farmers, and that spraying just before harvest can lead to significant residues in the harvest. While the Pesticide Control Act allows for the application of herbicides and pesticides in the field of soybeans prior to harvest, the purpose of using glyphosate is solely for weed control. We believe it is illegal to use glyphosate for soybean wilt or to use them in such a way that they affect the soybeans.
We, as consumers, used to think that domestic soybeans were safe because many imported soybeans are now genetically modified and new genome-edited soybeans have appeared in the United States. However, we are concerned that the detection of glyphosate in domestically produced soybeans may make it impossible to say that such soybeans are safe because they are domestically produced.
We would like to ask you to instruct your prefecture’s JA to stop using glyphosate in soybeans prior to harvest, and ask the following questions. We would like to ask you to respond in writing by 8 September. We plan to publish your answers on our website.
- Have your prefecture’s headquarters ever advised JAs in your prefecture to recommend or allow spraying with glyphosate before the harvest of soybeans?
- Do you know whether or not your prefecture’s JAs apply glyphosate before the harvest of soybeans?
- Are you aware that in 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer evaluated glyphosate as a possible carcinogen for humans, and that in the United States, a large number of plaintiffs have won lawsuits against glyphosate manufacturers?
- Could you instruct JA in the prefecture to stop using glyphosate before harvest? When, if at all, will you instruct them to stop? If not, please tell us why you will not do so.
Every year at this time of the year, I feel depressed. It’s the time of year when aerial pesticide spraying for rice stink bug control takes place. After a few years of living in rural areas, I’ve seen one aspect of the dwindling number of farmers. They have to rely on aerial spraying to save labor. There are many elderly people who don’t want to use herbicides who can’t cope with the vigorous growth of weeds, so they are dependent on them.
Not only in the town where I live, but also in neighboring towns and villages, young people are leaving for the big cities, and those who are engaged in farming are mostly in their 70s or 80s. The number of abandoned fields is increasing year by year due to the lack of manpower, so fields are in disrepair. Satoyama (mountainous farm areas) are no longer maintained, and damage from monkeys, deer and wild boars is increasing.
Most urban residents think that they can get food at convenience stores and supermarkets anytime, but due to the effects of the new corona virus pandemic and climate change, the number of countries exporting food to Japan may decrease dramatically in the future. I really wonder what will happen to Japan then, as our food self-sufficiency rate is only 37%. Large cities with “dense” populations and rural areas that are exhausted by the outflow of population… I can only hope that the unbalanced distribution of human beings in this country will be restored through the pandemic.
By Matsuno Ryoko (August 6, 2020)
The Ministry of Health, Labour & Welfare
No! GMO Campaign
Consumers Union of Japan
3 August 2020
It has been almost 10 months since genome-edited foods became available for distribution in Japan. Although your ministry’s website indicates that no notification has been made yet, the sale of “cricket crackers” made from genome-edited crickets was reported on 13 May 2020, causing concern among consumers. This turned out to be a false alarm, but later on, information was received that genome-edited crickets were being used at a ramen restaurant in Tokyo. The staff at the restaurant had actively admitted to using them, and when we reconfirmed their use, they denied it, but we cannot confirm whether this is true or not. Most importantly, this is due to the lack of notification requirements. It is possible that other genome-edited foods are being developed and distributed under the radar. A total of 447,725 signatures submitted at the House Study Session we held in September 2019 and January this year calling for the regulation and labeling of genome-edited foods were gathered in anticipation of this unsettling situation.
At the House Study Session in January, we heard from your ministry’s officials that they have already received a number of consultations on how to report on the issue, but despite the fact that more than six months have passed since then, the government is still showing a lack of interest in the issue.
We would therefore like to request a meeting with your ministry to discuss this issue. As the new coronavirus continues to spread, we would be happy to meet with you in a small group. If you are unable to meet with us in person, we would be happy to have an online meeting. Here are the main points we’d like to ask you at this time. Please respond to the following questions by 14 August.
- What is the status of consultations on the notification of genome-edited foods?
- Are you aware of the status of research and development in Japan and abroad?
- What is your understanding of genome-edited crickets?
- Do you monitor undelivered distribution in Tokyo?
Over the past three years Consumers Union of Japan has campaigned against harmful perfumes and irritating fragrances. Many people have lobbied schools, offices and public spaces to stop using any such artificial substances, that can cause headaches, allergic reactions and a range of other symptoms.
This year, we published a questionnaire and got over 9000 replies regarding this campaign. We found that 79% felt they have experiences problems due to perfumes and fragrances. And 18.6% of those who replied have had such strong reactions that they could not attend school or work. We strongly feel this shows the urgent reality of this matter and will continue to raise awareness. You can help by ordering our 68 page booklet and print out our posters, that you can use to educate those around you (in Japanese).
As part of our ongoing work to get rid of the herbicide glyphosate (active ingredient in Roundup and several other herbicides) the No! GMO Campaign wrote to all major railway companies in Japan early in 2020. Many people are concerned about the spraying of this cancer-causing chemical to kill weeds along train tracks. And several railway companies have revealed in their environmental reports or sustainability reports that they are trying to reduce the use of herbicides. Unfortunately, none of the railway companies replied to our letter and did not answer our questions. As part of our campaign, we also asked the railway companies, including JR, Odakyu Line, Keio Line, Seibu Line and others to completely stop using glyphosate.
When we wrote to them a second time this spring, only a few companies replied:
JR East Japan: We do not reveal the names of individual herbicides that we use
JR West Japan: We are using glyphosate
JR Kyushu: We are using glyphosate
JR Shikoku: No reply regarding glyphosate
JR Tokai: No reply regarding glyphosate
Kintetsu Railway: We do not use glyphosate
Read the replies on the No! GMO Campaign website (Japanese)
(Photo: Kintetsu Railway “Shimakaze” train)