Biodiversity In The News: Anything Useful from G20 Japan 2019 Niigata, Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting on May 11 to 12, 2019?

At the G7 environment ministers’ meeting in France this weekend, The Guardian reported that there was a call for a biodiversity study that is as influential as the Stern review on the economics of climate change. Yes, there is an “economic case” for understanding the value of biological diversity to mankind, and to the planet. But we expect much more from researchers and experts, from governments and corporations. CUJ is opposed to GMOs and the new genome editing technologies, that ignore and threaten the age-old development of species. We expect a full reversal of the free trade economic agreements that promote globalisation without a thought of its effect at the local level.

Small scale farmers need markets to reach consumers, and consumers need to know where their food is coming from. CUJ is calling for food and goods that are “locally made, locally consumed” and we continue to fight for biological diversity that is not subject to multinational corporations and WTO rules with patent provisions that make seed saving impossible.

At the G20 Japan 2019 Niigata, Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting on May 11 to 12, 2019, what policies will be discussed?

https://www.japan.go.jp/g20japan/niigata.html

No recent mention of biodiversity, or climate change. Is that not just a little too outrageous, or what do you think…? You’d have to go back to 2016 to find a pdf document that discusses “Basic Concept of Climate Change Adaptation on Biodiversity in Japan” from the Ministry of the Environment.

Quote: At the summit of Mount Fuji, seed plants have been observed that were not previously present, and mosses whose growth is affected by permafrost have been in decline.

But, yes, there is positive news a too. And a lot of it. Here is a quote from Japan Environment Quarterly, March 2019 (pdf):

Quote: Humans form a part of biodiversity as well as a part of the natural environment. Rather than living in opposition to the natural environment, which can both deliver great bounty and at times pose great threats, we could live in harmony, which would enable us to make the most of the resources of nature. For instance, the city of Toyooka in Hyogo Prefecture has designated the stork as the symbol of its initiatives. Based on rice grown via “the stork friendly farming method”, the city has increased the income of farmers. This rice grown without relying on pesticides and chemical fertilizers is sold at a price 1.3 to 1.6 times that of conventionally-grown rice. Additionally, the city has employed ecotourism in initiatives on returning storks to the wild. Teaming up with local travel agents, the city has proposed “stork tourism” that combine viewing of storks and local scenic spots. Visitors to the city’s Museum of the Oriental White Stork, where one can get a close look at storks, have roughly tripled following release of the storks into the wild.

MAFF will hold another meeting as part of the G20 in Biwa on May 13-15, 2019.

But nobody from the active NGOs in Japan, with a long history of working on these issues since the 1960s, 1970s, are invited. Business as usual? Japan, you can do better.

 

Japan Resources – No 174

Please click here CUJ-JR-174 for the latest issue of Japan Resources, our English newsletter.

This year CUJ celebrates its 50th anniversary.

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

Contents:

From the Editors: 50th Anniversary of CUJ

Request Regarding Smart Meters

CUJ Public Comment about Genome Editing Techniques for Food

Essay: GM in Europe vs. Japan

Open Letter to Australia: Please Regulate New GM Technologies Strictly

Request Regarding Smart Meters

Request Regarding Smart Meters

February 19, 2019

To: TEPCO Power Grid Corporation

Thank you for endeavoring to maintain the power transmission and distribution network.

We are concerned about the reports of fires in defective smart meters made by Toshiba Toko Meter Systems Co., Ltd. Some 90,000 smart meters produced by Toshiba Toko have been installed in your region, and so far, 16 cases of fires have been reported by December 2018.

We request that you stop installing smart meters, and that you respond to the consumers who want you to replace their smart meters with analogue ones.

Sincerely,

Denjiha.org                                   Nomura Osami

Consumers Union of Japan     Amagasa Keisuke

Youth Strike for Climate Change Movement Reaches Japan

On March 15, 2019 a campaign to demonstrate against the lack of action to stop climate change will hold events around the world. Here in Japan, events are planned at Yoyogi Park, Tokyo (15:00) and at the City Hall in Kyoto (12:00-1300).  Again, on March 22 a demonstration will be held outside the Japanese Parliament Building in Tokyo (start 15:00). Bring your own plackard!

(Photo from the February 22, 2019 demonstration in Tokyo)

Read more here: Youth strike for climate change movement reaches Japan

Fridays for Future Japan (Facebook)

CUJ Public Comment about Genome Editing Techniques for Food

On February 21, 2019, Consumers Union of Japan submitted the following public comment in response to the Japanese government’s GM Food, etc. Investigative Panel of the Pharmaceutical Affairs and Food Sanitation Council, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) regarding the handling of food modified by genome editing.

Consumers Union of Japan is working for a sound and healthy future for all. This is why we are active in protecting our surrounding environment and the safety of our daily food. We believe this is what the Japanese government also wants. However, there are reports that the government has concluded that the Food Sanitation Law will not apply to food obtained through genome editing, thus giving up the important focus to protect the environment while also protecting food safety. CUJ finds this unacceptable. Therefore, we request that you withdraw the report and redo the deliberation from the beginning.

These are our reasons:

  1. It is not possible to avoid off target influence and mosaic effects through genome editing. There are numerous studies that confirm this. The current conclusion contradicts data about such influences and effects by treating them in an overly optimistic way. After a serious change has occurred it will be too late to take action.
  2. Through genome editing, epigenetic changes (heritable changes in gene expressions) have been reported to take place, something you hardly mention in your report. We can’t help wondering if you are simply imagining that such a problem cannot happen.
  3. When inserting genes, and then removing them during the crossing stages, we assume that regulation is required. But even if the introduced genes are removed, there is no guarantee that they have been removed 100%, and that there does not remain any influence. Moreover, we have not heard that any safety studies have been done to make sure that such practices actually work as intended or that safety can be secured. We have big misgivings about the advancement of such technologies while the scientific basis appear to be so weak.
  4. The process of dealing with this by the Food Sanitation Law was compared to the safety examination of genetically modified food. Genome editing is also a genetic technology, but it differs fundamentally from DNA recombination technologies. Many more and various new vegetable or plant breeding experiments will now take place. New legal restrictions are needed for this. We cannot accept that no effort will be made to maintain the safety of our food supply by the government’s current policy approach.
  5. The Food Sanitation Law has a huge influence also on how food is labelled. If the labelling requirements are affected by the current conclusion, and no labelling is required, it will remove the consumer’s right to know and choose. This is a large and important responsibility for the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

 

Consumers Union of Japan

Nishi Waseda 1-9-19-207

Shinjuku-Ku, Tokyo

Japan 169-0051