Category Archives: Environment

Signature Campaign for the Labeling of All Genetically Modified Seeds and Seedlings

PRESS RELEASE

24 February 2021

To Members of the Press

-Press Conference-

Start of Signature Campaign for the Labeling of All

Genetically Modified Seeds and Seedlings

Consumers Union of Japan, the No! GMO Campaign and the Citizens’ Network for Biodiversity through Food and Agriculture (FA Net Japan) have started a signature campaign to demand that all genetically modified seeds and seedlings be labeled.

In December 2020,, the Japanese government approved the cultivation and distribution of genome edited tomatoes. The first genome edited tomato in Japan is a tomato with high levels of GABA developed by Sanatech Seed Corporation (Minato-ku, Tokyo) in collaboration with Tsukuba University. The company has begun accepting applications from the general public to distribute free seedlings of this genome edited tomato prior to its general distribution in the market.

In Japan, genome-edited seeds and seedlings are currently not required to be labeled, making it difficult for farmers to avoid such crops even if they do not want to grow them. Consumers cannot avoid genome-edited foods even if they do not want to eat them. In order to change this current situation of serious disdain for food sovereignty, we have started a petition campaign to require mandatory genetic engineering labeling on seeds and seedlings.

We will be holding a press conference to inform the media about the petition campaign. We hope that you will be able to attend. If you are able to attend the press conference or would like to participate online via ZOOM, please contact us by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, 26 February 2021.

Please contact: Michiyo Koketsu, Consumers Union of Japan (CUJ)

TEL: 03-5155-4765

Email: koketsu@nishoren.org

Web: http://www.nishoren.org/en/

Open Letter of Inquiry Regarding the Handling of Genome-Edited Foods

From:

No! GMO Campaign
Amagasa Keisuke

Consumers Union of Japan
Kazuko Ohno
Michiyo Koketsu

To:

Major Food Companies in Japan

12 November 2020

Open Letter of Inquiry Regarding the
Handling of Genome-Edited Foods

We are citizens’ groups campaigning against the use of genetically modified technology in food.

Genetically modified crops are subject to a very simple safety review called “Substantial Equivalence,” despite the fact that the GM technology relies heavily on random events and can produce toxic substances due to unexpected genetic changes. More than 20 years have passed since genetically modified foods were first distributed in Japan, but not only are these concerns still unresolved. The labeling of genetically modified foods lags behind the rest of the world, with most genetically modified foods on the market not being labeled.

In such a situation, a new type of so-called genome edited food has emerged. The Japanese government has decided on a policy of no prior notifications, no safety reviews, and no labeling requirements for genome edited foods, as long as no foreign genes remain in the food. However, it is known that genome-edited foods can also cause off-target and other unexpected genetic changes. Consequently, the explanation that they are the same as mutations in nature is wrong. Genome-edited crops are reportedly already being cultivated and distributed in the United States, and the development of genome-edited animals and plants is underway in Japan and abroad. It is uncertain when they will start to be distributed in Japan as well. If genome-edited food is distributed without labeling, it would not be possible for consumers to purchase food products without concern.

In light of this situation, we have decided to ask food manufacturers in Japan what their current awareness and intentions are. Please respond to the attached questionnaire.

Your answers should be in writing by the end of November 2020. You can send us your answers by mail or by email. In addition, we will publish your answers, including whether or not you answered, so please do not hesitate to contact us.

Questions

Question 1: What do you think about foods produced with genome-editing technology?

Please circle one reply and leave any comments in the space provided below.

1) We think we should take a cautious approach in consideration of safety.
2) We will consider the issue in the future.
3) We believe that there are no safety problems since the country has evaluated it.
4) We are not particularly aware of genome-editing.
5) Other

Question 2: Do you plan to handle foods produced with genome-editing technology?

1) No, we do not plan to handle them.
2) There are no plans to handle them at this time, but no policy has been decided.
3) We plan to handle them or are considering it.
4) We are neither undecided or unaware of the issue of genome-editing.
5) Other

Question 3: Have you had any problems with genome-edited foods?

1) We do not handle genome-edited food products, but we are concerned about checking raw materials and ingredients.
2) We are planning to handle or are considering handling them, but we are concerned about whether consumers will be concerned.
3) We have no concerns.
4) Other

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Request to Stop Using Pre-harvest Glyphosate on Soybeans

To:

JA Toyama Prefecture

From:

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.

Questions:

  1. Have your prefecture’s headquarters ever advised JAs in your prefecture to recommend or allow spraying with glyphosate before the harvest of soybeans?
  1. Do you know whether or not your prefecture’s JAs apply glyphosate before the harvest of soybeans?
  1. 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?
  1. 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.

CUJ Blog: What is the Future of Japanese Agriculture?

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)

Request for Opinion Exchange on Genome-Editing Foods

To:

The Ministry of Health, Labour & Welfare

From:

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.

  1. What is the status of consultations on the notification of genome-edited foods?
  2. Are you aware of the status of research and development in Japan and abroad?
  3. What is your understanding of genome-edited crickets?
  4. Do you monitor undelivered distribution in Tokyo?