Promoting Organic School Lunches in Japan

Report on the Special Forum for the Promotion of Organic School Lunches all over Japan

By Koa Tasaka, CUJ

The forum was held on 26 October in Nakano, Tokyo. Over 1100 persons attended physically, and over 1800 joined on-line. In addition, 62 satellite places were set up all over Japan, with some 700 persons joining such events. Among those who attended in the main hall, there were 33 City Mayers including Mr. Ohta, Isumi City Mayor who has spear-headed the effort to introduce organic school lunches in his city. Nine Members of Parliament also attended. I attended the meeting as one of the organizers, and I found many persons I know in the hall such as Mr. Keisuke Amagasa of Consumers Union of Japan and representatives from the Civil Institute of Organic Rice Cultivation.

The program included reports by experts from France and South Korea, along with videos on the activities of school lunches with organic food from various places in Japan. There was a panel discussion as well as presentations by Prof. Nobuhiro Suzuki, Tokyo University, and by Ms. Seiko Uchida, representative of PARC. Ms. Yae, a singer and organic farmer, sang Amazing Grace at the end of the meeting before the declaration for promoting organic school lunches was announced. In addition, there were short speeches by representatives from the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Agriculture, which is significant since these ministries will have to do something positive to promote school lunches with organic ingredients after giving speeches in front of so many people.

As a chemist, I know that the bread provided for everyday school lunches in Japan is made from imported wheat, which is highly contaminated with pesticides such as malathion, sumithion, or reldan. Recently, imported wheat from US has been found to be contaminated with glyphosate (Roundup) as well.

Japan’s Ministry of Education has disclosed a statement that over six percent of Japanese school children have some mental problems, without discussing the cause of these problems. Although it is not possible to prove it, mental problems among children may be related to the chemical contamination of school lunches. That is the reason why I am involved with the movement to replace school lunches using bread made from imported wheat to organically grown rice and vegetables. In that sense, I am very happy to see the development of the school lunch system in Japan with organically produced foods. I really hope that this movement develops further, so that children can grow in good health all over Japan!