Consumers Union of Japan and other groups that we work with, including the No! GMO Campaign, have a focus on the global negotiations to protect biological diversity.
We participated in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) conferences in Japan (2010), India (2012) and in South Korea (2014). We followed the 2022 conference in Montreal, Canada.
We are disappointed about the lack of urgency on new genetic technologies, such as gene-drives and genome-editing, and no progress on pesticides, which we know cause real harm. And why does the United Nation still not recognise the role consumers can play when given the information, and labelling? The concerns raised by civil society organisations working on the issues of synthetic biology and biotechnology remain unresolved. The lack of a biotechnology related target that establishes a process for horizon scanning, technology assessment and monitoring and considers socioeconomic impacts of synthetic biology reinforces the need for a global moratorium on the environmental release of gene-drives.
Consumers Union of Japan
Please contact Michiyo Koketsu or Martin J. Frid for details about our work.
ABC News (Australia)
Mail & Guardian (Africa)
“Consumers Union of Japan started the No! GMO Campaign in 1996, ” says Michiyo Kotetsu, CUJ. “There is no commercial farming of GMOs in Japan, but a lot of soy, corn and canola is being imported. We think the labelling should be better so consumers can avoid GMO food.”
What’s the problem?
CUJ was at the front line criticizing Japan’s lack of progress to ratify the Nagoya Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol, that was agreed upon in Nagoya in 2010 at the UN CBD conference held in that city (after very successful negotiations held in Kuala Lumpur, thus the joint name).
The aim of the protocol is to aid countries in the case of disputes when there is a need to assess the liability and redress, if genetically modified organisms cause harm to the natural environment or human health.
Japan made little progress to address the problems with wild-growing genetically modified canola that we have found near harbours and food oil factories over the past 10 years. These GM crops pose a real risk to local biological diversity as a number of related food crops may be contaminated with GMOs.
How about it, farmers?
Meanwhile, Japanese farmers have completely rejected genetically modified organisms. There is no cultivation of GMOs in Japan for commercial purposes. Very few field trials are ongoing at research institutes, which we are keeping a close eye on. Also, reports from China indicate that GM rice will not be allowed, which is great news. South Korea also does not grow any GMOs commercially.
The failure of GMO foods to catch on in virtually all parts of Asia is a story that needs to be told to the world.
In 2020, the 15th year of Japan’s GMO-free zone movement that began in 2005, the declared GMO-free zone area finally exceeded 100,000 hectares. Although this represents only 2% of the total cultivated area in Japan (4.37 million hectares), it is a significant achievement for each and every farmer who has voluntarily declared that they will not grow Genetically Modified Organisms.
Activists around Japan are holding many events and conferences about biodiversity, as well as local study group meetings and demonstrations. We are very concerned about how genetically modified organisms can be a threat to biodiversity. More recently, we are concerned about gene-editing and gene drives, that should be banned. We also think New GMOs should be considered the same as previous GMOs.
We are opposed to so called gene-edited tomatoes and we do not think they should be released to schools.
Modifying genes should be strictly regulated, using the precautionary principle, using traceability and labelling to avoid harm to the environment, and all living beings.
Ask us about our GMO-Free Zone events, each year, all over Japan.
So, what can we do about it?
CUJ has participated in the GMO-Free Zone conferences in Europe since 2008. For more details see the Planet Diversity website (in English). In November 2013 we joined the Third World Network biosafety expert conference in Quezon City, the Philippines to discuss GM issues especially relevant for Asian countries.
Japan Resources No 187 From the Editors: It Is All Connected (pdf)
12 years after the Nagoya CBD meeting, 2022 ends with COP15 of the UN conference for biological diversity in Montreal.
We hope media will follow it as much as they did the recent COP27 of the UN conference for climate change.
In fact, these two global issues are interconnected and linked in many ways, that also influence us as consumers (and we, as consumers, can – and should – influence).
For example, by increasing the local and organically farmed food served to school children, Japan could go a long way to contribute to both mitigate climate change and protect biodiversity.
Some 3600 people all over the country are ready to make it happen, according to Koa Tasaka’s report from the Special Forum held in Tokyo.
From the 2010 Nagoya Campaign:
Our 2010 campaign network, Japan Citizens’ Network for Planet Diversity, is now called the Japan Citizens’ Network for Sustainable Food and Agriculture (in Japanese). The Convention of Biological Diversity has implications for both wild nature and agriculture, and affects consumers in a number of ways.
We are particularly concerned with the wild-growing genetically modified canola plants that we have found at many locations around Japan on numerous occasions. The first investigations by concerned citizens started in 2004. The spilling occurs mainly near harbours and by roads leading from the harbours to food oil companies. Japan’s importing companies and food oil companies that make canola oil, as well as the transport companies involved, are all directly responsible for the contamination of native canola (including rape seed, natane). Read more about the October, 2010 Report about GM Canola Contamination in Japan. We introduced this report at a side-event at the CBD conference in Nagoya on October 12, 2010.
We have also protested against genetically modified papaya. In particular, illegal GM papaya trees were found growing in Okinawa. We highlighted the need for better legislation at the 2012 CBD conference in Hyderabad, India.
The issue is getting serious, and we call for an end to imports of genetically modified canola. Crops that can contaminate local plants should not be imported. Meanwhile, we need strict rules for liability and redress to deal with contamination issues that arise from trade with the genetically modified crops. Rules are needed and they should be legally binding with effective compliance at the local and national level.
On Sunday October 10, 2010, a number of organizations held an out-door pre-event from 10:00-16:00 at the Sakae Mochi no Ki Hiroba in Nagoya. The Planet Diversity Parade from 15:00-16:30 on that day was a huge success with over 1,000 participants!
Getting Ready For Nagoya
Since 2004, groups of volunteers have participated in activities to investigate wild-growing GM canola near roads and harbours in many locations around Japan. Of course there are many other examples of how genetic engineering and monoculture farming of GM crops will contaminate conventional and organic food production.
Japan Resources Special Biodiversity Issue
Biological Diversity & Organic Farming: 2010 was the Year of Biological Diversity and here in Japan, we prepared for the United Nations conference in Nagoya in October, 2010. In this special issue of our English newsletter you will find articles about experts and activists in Japan and from abroad with much to teach us about biodiversity and sustainable farming methods.
GM Rice And Contamination Cases Worry Consumers In Japan
Japanese consumers are strongly opposed to genetically modified foods, according to several large opinion polls.
Biodiversity In Focus: Genetic Modification Of Living Organisms Is A Threat
Christine von Weizsäcker visits Japan: Genetic modification of living organisms is a threat to biodiversity. In October 2010, an important international conference was held in Nagoya, Japan, to discuss the integrity of biodiversity, as genetic engineering threatens to influence and disturb the ecosystems around the world.
Protect Biodiversity In Nagoya
Protect biodiversity from living modified organisms at MOP5 in Nagoya!
Japan Citizens’ Network for Planet Diversity (JCNPD) is a nationwide network for citizens who are working on protecting our food crop diversity from living modified organisms.
Report From The Planet Diversity Conference In Bonn, Germany 2008
Consumers Union of Japan participated together with other Japanese NGOs at the large Planet Diversity conference in Bonn, Germany on May 12-16, 2008. It was a global congress on the future of food and agriculture, with a demonstration to celebrate biodiversity.