Japan Resources – No 170

Please click here CUJ-JR-170 for the latest issue of Japan Resources, our English newsletter.

In this issue we ask, “What if…?” Trade policies should support local production and local consumption. Health and education policies should prioritize the best interests of consumers and citizens. Well, that is not always the case, as with the controversial TPP agreement and new genetic engineering research.

We hope you will continue to stay updated with CUJ’s activities and news on our English website, and support our campaigns!

Contents:

Statement: Japan’s Consumers See No Merits from TPP

2018 GMO-Free Zone Movement Report

Who Pays for Genome Editing and Gene Drive Research?

”Consumer Rights” vs. “Consumer Life”

Soaring Cost of Vegetables Won’t End Soon

E-cigarettes: A new health risk, and the same old story?

Summary: CBD Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Synthetic Biology

Anti-Fragrance Campaign Booklet & Poster Published

Please download the PDF file or read it here on our English website!

2018 GMO-Free Zone Movement Report

Free Zone Meeting 2018Report from the 2018 GMO-Free Zone Movement Event Held in Nagoya, Japan

The 13th annual event to celebrate the Japanese GMO-Free Zone movement was held in Nagoya, Aichi prefecture, on March 3, 2018. During the past year, many groups participated in the preparation of the event, including members of the Seikatsu Club co-operative movement, local citizens and farmers groups in and around Nagoya, as well as the No! GMO Campaign.

Some 300 people joined this year’s event. We welcomed five participants from South Korea’s National Korean Anti-GMO Movement and two participants from Taiwan’s Anti-GMO School Lunch Movement. Starting From Seed to Otowa Rice, the research council that promotes the Otowa variety of rice, the Aichi Network to Promote Sustainable Organic Agriculture, and the nation-wide grass-root movement to test wild-growing GM canola reported about their respective activities in Japan. Also, the latest figures from Japan’s growing GMO-Free Zone movement were announced.

The area that is officially registered as GMO-Free has increased by 1,310.27 hectares to a total of 95, 526.27 hectares all over Japan as of February 1, 2018. That amounts to approx. 2% of the Japanese farmland. This may be regarded as small, but please recall that when we started this movement in March, 2006, we only had 4,716 hectares registered, so this is an increase of over 20 times. This time, we also included the official registration of pasture areas and forests as officially GMO-Free.

Supporter registration has also increased. “Supporters” are individuals and corporations that pledge their support to farmers who have declared their land to be GMO-Free. During the past year since 2017, the number of individual supporters increased by 2,505 to a total of 13,351, while the number of corporate supporters increased by 38 to a total of 84 companies and businesses.

We are working towards more GMO-Free Zones in every region of Japan, and the trend is that the areal is increasing year by year. We have also noticed that it tends to increase a lot in the area where our annual event is being held. This year, the event was held in central Japan, and many new registrations came from Aichi, Gifu, Mie, and Shizuoka prefectures. We believe this trend will continue from now on. The next annual GMO-Free Zone event in 2019 will be held in Chiba prefecture, east of Tokyo.

Japan’s Consumers See No Merits from TPP

 

Statement of Consumers Union of Japan

Japan’s Consumers See No Merits from TPP

March 9, 2018

With the controversial signing today of the TPP11 in Chile, Consumers Union of Japan is concerned that “consumers” are not mentioned even once in the formal agreement. “There can be no merits to our health or the environment, or to future generations, when only the interests of private corporations were taken into concern by the TPP negotiators,” says Koketsu Michiyo, General Secretary of CUJ. “More trade in products like cars and beef will further harm the climate, and make life even more difficult for Japan’s farmers, without any consideration of our democratic rights as citizens,” notes Ono Kazuoki, Co-chair of CUJ. “We are not in favour of a trade agreement that erodes rather than strengthens consumers’ right to know, for example if the imported food and feed is genetically modified or not,” says Amagasa Keisuke, Co-chair of CUJ.

The lack of proper consultation with stakeholders by the Japanese government, the secrecy during the negotiations, and the rush to sign the agreement even after the United States pulled out, are further problems that Consumers Union of Japan have identified, together with other allies in civil society in Japan and in the 10 other countries involved.

Consumers Union of Japan

1-9-19-207 Nishi-Waseda,

Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan

Consumers Union of Japan (CUJ) is a politically and financially independent non-governmental organization (NGO). CUJ is funded by membership fees, sales of its publications and donations. CUJ was founded in April 1969 as Japan’s first nationwide grassroots consumer organization.

 

Soaring Cost of Vegetables Won’t End Soon

The soaring cost of vegetables is not about to end. I recently saw cabbage in the supermarket that was cut in quarters sold for 170 Yen, which is an unusually high price. Even at the Agricultural Co-operative store, where vegetables are sold directly to customers, most of the vegetables were small and off-colour. I could feel they had put a lot of effort into harvesting, but even there, the prices were higher than usual.

Turning on the TV, there was an interview with a seller at a bargain grocery shop, who said prices won’t come down soon. It is assumed that the reason is unusually bad weather, but I do not subscribe to that opinion. Instead, it seems there is something unbalanced in the structural model of demand and supply.

Regarding the so-called supply side, there is a decline in productivity. Farmers have already depended on foreign labour for quite some time. But industries like construction and the service sector are also increasingly hiring foreign labourers, thus squeezing the agricultural sector even further. As a consequence, the model of mass production, mass selling, and mass consumption has begun to malfunction.

Furthermore, the rapidly aging of farmers and agricultural workers means fewer people are involved in production. This has an immediate effect on markets, grocery stores and local restaurants that relies on local supply. In addition, there has been a sharp increase in the number of vacant houses in rural villages, showing how serious things have become. The entire production system might be close to collapse.

How about the demand side? Recently, the supermarket shelves with ready-cut vegetables have become a big thing. People seem to prefer not to spend time or effort preparing and cooking food. Are we getting to the point where robots will enter Japan’s food factories and do the work for us? So, what can be done? I think this is a problem the consumer movement will need to consider from now on.

By Ono Kazuoki, CUJ

January 16, 2018

”Consumer Rights” v.s. “Consumer Life”

In 1962 for the first time, consumer rights were advocated by President Kennedy in the US. Here in Japan, we had just entered the era when slogans such as “consumption is a virtue” became popular. In 1980, the International Organization of Consumers Unions (IOCU, now known as Consumers International) developed the idea further by establishing eight fundamental consumer rights. They are:

1 Right to Basic Needs

2 Right to Safety

3 Right to Information

4 Right to Choose

5 Right to Representation

6 Right to Redress

7 Right to Consumer Education

8 Right to a Healthy Environment

 

Currently, we are in the final stages of the debate about improving the GMO labelling system in Japan. We regard information about which foods are genetically manipulated to be an important and fundamental consumer right.

However, Japan’s ruling party and the government do not seem to like this concept of “consumer rights.” In Umeda Masami’s book, The History of Japanese Nationalism, he explains how in 1982, the Education Ministry’s textbook for writing changed its recommendation from “Do not use this term” to “Write like this.” For example, “consumer rights” was no longer recommended, and instead, “consumer life” should be used. Other official recommendations were also made, including terms for writing about defense and the atomic bomb. Seen in this light, it becomes clear that the government dislikes the idea that consumers have rights, and we can understand why this concept is being systematically neglected.

By Amagasa Keisuke, CUJ

January 22, 2018