Monthly Archives: May 2018

Concerns About Japan’s MagLev Train Project

Consumers Union of Japan went on a field trip to investigate the current problems surrounding the massive project to build a MagLev superconductive train system (known as “Linear” in Japanese). Before the trip, we talked to our guide, the director of Gauss Network, Mr. Kakehi Tetsuo, an expert on magnetic field radiation issues.

These are some of the main concerns:

The system selected to run Japan’s Central Shinkansen MagLev train is to use refrigerated liquid helium at minus 269 C and make the resistance or impedance zero. This is based on superconducting magnets. But there is a possibility that the cooling system will fail. This abnormal termination is known as “magnet quench” and would certainly lead to accidents. For example, the high speed train may hit the walls of the tunnels. There are no examples of such a superconducting system having any practical use anywhere in the world.

The amount of energy needed for this supercooling apparatus is immense. As much as 3.5 times as much energy is needed compared to running one of the current, traditional Shinkansen trains, and it could be more according to some experts. They will need at least an extra nuclear plant just to provide the electricity.

A very strong magnetic field around the train will be generated by such a system. We assume that there will be some kind of shield or screen to protect the passengers. However, in March 2018, Mr. Atsushi Yamada, a Kofu City Council Member, measured 300 Milligauss during a test ride. It is thought that levels above 2-3 Milligauss can be dangerous, so that is indeed a very high number.

The tunnel being planned through Japan’s Southern Alps will destroy the pristine nature of the local area. A large amount of rock and soil must be disposed of. We can expect large-scale environmental destruction, landslides and contamination of water, rivers and wells. Already, such changes in the ecosystem have been observed during the preparations for construction. The final disposal site for the estimated 56,800,000 square meters of tunnel excavation debris has not been decided. What valley or wetland will it all be buried at?

We know that passenger numbers on the current, traditional Shinkansen, the Tokaido Line, have already peaked. We know that the population of Japan will continue to decrease. We know that there is no real demand for this, and no profit to be expected, yet tax money is being invested.

Japan’s Soy Sauce Makers Replied to Our Questionnaire Regarding GM-Free Labelling

Japan’s Soy Sauce Makers Replied to Our Questionnaire Regarding GM-Free Labelling

Consumers Union of Japan

Food Safety Citizens’ Watch

NO! GMO Campaign

Japan is considering changing its mandatory labelling system for genetically modified (GM) food. Currently, a processed food can contain as much as 5% GM ingredients but still be labelled as GM-Free. At a Consumer Agency meeting on February 16, 2018, a new strategy to deal with GM labelling and such contamination issues was discussed.

One of the draft proposals was to set the limit at 0% (below detection limit). If such a strict rule is introduced, it will probably be very difficult for food companies to avoid contamination, even if identity preserved handling is adhered to. This would most likely mean that the current GM-Free label, which is quite common in Japan, would disappear.

On March 1, we sent a questionnaire to six major food companies to ask them about their opinion and how they respond to consumers that do not want to eat GM food. The six companies were Kikkoman, Yamasa, Masada, Higeta, Higashimaru and Morita. These companies use the GM-Free label, or 「遺伝子組換えでない」 in Japanese on some of their products.

We received the following replies from five companies that make soy sauce and use identity preserved handling to avoid GM soy.  

Question 1: Do you agree or disagree with the proposal to change the rule for the GM-Free label, so that it can only be used if the contamination is 0% (below detection limit)?

(1) We agree (2) We oppose (3) Other


Kikkoman: (2) We oppose

Yamasa (2) We oppose

Masada (3) Other (Administrative policy decision)

Higeta: (2) We oppose

Higashimaru (3) Other (We will follow the labelling law when it is introduced)

Question 2: If the GM-Free labelling rule is changed to limit contamination to 0% (below detection limit), how do you expect the current labelling on your soy sauce products will change?

(1) If the detection limit is changed to 0%, the GM-Free label will be impossible to use, so we will stop using it. In that case, we would stop importing soybeans that are IP handled and change to start using GM soybeans that are not kept separate from GM-Free soybeans.

(2) We will change the label on our soy sauce explaining that “We use GM-Free soybeans that are kept separate from GM soybeans” and continue import using IP handling.

(3) Other

Kikkoman (3) Other (Correspondence is currently being considered)

Yamasa (3) Other (We will continue import using the present IP handling but will consider it again in the future and have not decided)

Masada (3) Other (We will follow the administrative guidelines)

Higeta (3) Other (Correspondence is currently being considered)

Higashimaru (3) Other (We will make a judgement after the legal revision)

Question 3:

What kind of additional information regarding GM ingredients would you like to share with consumers that are considering buying your soy sauce?


Kikkoman: The labelling space is limited, so we are considering concise and plain expressions that do not cause misunderstanding to be desirable.

Yamasa: We are listening to the detailed suggestions from the Consumer Agency. We wish that our customers will see the label and understand it.

Masada: We will make a judgement after the legal revision.

Higeta: The most important thing is that the consumer understands the label.

Higashimaru: We will make a judgement after the legal revision.