Is the Consumer Agency in fact the Industry Agency?

Criticism is rising regarding the government’s way of handling the meetings to examine the mandatory labelling of genetically modified organisms and GMO food, held by the Consumer Agency since April, 2017. The opinion of the Agency seems to be stuck with the idea that no changes need to be made to the current labelling regime, in spite of continued arguments that the system must be improved.

In particular, food oils do not need to be labelled because GMO cannot be detected in such products. Also, if the ingredients that require GMO labelling are under 5% of the total weight, they do not need to be labelled. This has in effect meant that most processed foods are not giving the consumers the information they want. Consumers Union of Japan has repeatedly demanded that all GMO foods that we do not regard as safe should be properly labelled so that consumers have full information and are guaranteed the right to choose.

It is noteworthy that all GMO foods and ingredients must be labelled in the European Union, including food oils. CUJ has also repeatedly pointed out that the limit for unintended contamination in the European Union is as low as 0.9%, compared to 5% in Japan, and 3% in Taiwan as well as South Korea.

At the Consumer Agency’s meetings, the commissioner has taken to echo the industry standpoint, saying: “We can’t change the labelling rule to a lower percentage level”. Indeed we are wondering why the ideas from over 15 years ago still are so entrenched and why the current meetings appear to be useless. The reason is the Consumer Agency itself. There is just no enthusiasm to improve the system. We are beginning to hear the opinion that an agency that ignores consumers while completely accepting the requests by producers should be renamed, and instead be known as the “Industry Agency”

By Koketsu Michiyo, CUJ

November 27, 2017