No! GMO Campaign
Consumers Union of Japan
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.
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.
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.
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.