Japan Resources – No 167

Please click here CUJ-JR-167 for the latest issue of Consumer Union of Japan’s English newsletter, Japan Resources (PDF). This time we focus on healthy, organic food and farming, while taking a stand against PM Abe and his ruling coalition, that has rammed through controversial legislation, bill after bill, threatening our civil rights.

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: Stop the Abe Train!

Organic Rice for School Lunch

Update: Bhutan Organic Rice Project

Street Events with the “Moms’ Project to Change our Food in Japan!”

Event: The International Day for Biological Diversity

Organic Lifestyle Expo

Statement: Reject the Anti-Conspiracy Bill

Posted June 21st, 2017 in Biodiversity, Civil Rights, Japan Resources, Organic Agriculture/Food

Update: Bhutan Organic Rice Project

The project to explore ways to help farmers in Bhutan switch to organic farming methods is progressing. This is an update by Mitsukuni Inaba (Director of Civil Institute of Organic Rice Cultivation) and Koa Tasaka (Co-chair of CUJ and board member of Asian Rural Institute) from their visit on May 28 – June 4, 2017.

Rice farming in paddy fields means weeds may be growing in the water before the rice is transplanted into the soil. Removing the weeds by hand tools, such as a rake, or machines rather than by using chemical herbicides is a requirement for organic rice farming. In Bhutan the prevalent weed is called Shouchum (Pondweed, Lat. Potamogeon). Flooding the paddy fields repeatedly will assist in removing the weeds, as they float to the surface after careful raking. On May 29 and May 30, Mr Inaba led the effort to flood two experimental fields for a third time together with Bhutan farmers and Japanese volunteers, and remove the weeds. Transplanting the seedlings was possible at the first farm, and organic fertilizer was applied to promote the growth of the rice plants as well as to suppress the weeds.

bhutan organic consumers union of japan

On June 1, the group visited the Bajo Seed Center. At their paddy fields, a lot of Shouchum grows and is usually removed with Butachlor, a synthetic herbicide that is known to be toxic. “At first, I was overwhelmed by the strong power of the native weed, Shouchum, which had grown so rapidly, and thought it would be very difficult to remove it,” notes Mr Inaba. “However, after watching them for a while I came up with a new idea: To plow them into the soil! Then, under the anaerobic condition, the weeds will be fermented and produce large amounts of butyric acid which will damage the bulb of Shouchum and the roots of other weeds as well. In this way, all the weeds would be suppressed effectively.”

Transplantation was done the following day. “We were amazed at the excellent operation by a Bhutan operator,” says Mr Inaba. “The operation of the transplanting machine is difficult, but he managed with great success.” Three types of rice were transplanted: A Japanese variety called Sasanishiki, and a local rice variety grown either in a regular nursery bed or in a pot-type nursery bed. Concludes Mr Inaba: “Many people participated in this activity of transplantation, and we feel enormous gratitude to those who joined us! At the next visit, we will check on the success or failure of the three types of young rice plants, the growth at an early stage, and the tilling situation, and look for the condition and possibility of a stable good yield.”

The next visit will be in the beginning of July, 2017, with a focus on weed control and preparation for soy bean planting. The project is supported by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Read more here (E).

Representatives-during-the-signing-of-Japan-International-Cooperation-Agency-JICA-Partnership-Project

 

Posted June 21st, 2017 in Biodiversity, Organic Agriculture/Food

Statement: Reject the Anti-Conspiracy Bill

Statement: Reject the Anti-Conspiracy Bill

NPO Consumers Union of Japan

May 24, 2017

 

Consumers Union of Japan was founded in 1969 as an independent organization working for a sound and healthy future. Our activities are guided by the principle that ordinary people have the right to live in peace and safety. This is the reason we are taking a stand against the proposed “anti-conspiracy bill” which was approved in a rushed manner on May 23, 2017 by the House of Representatives plenary session, and sent to the House of Councilors.

We oppose this proposed bill that has become increasingly contentious the more it has been deliberated. It is ambiguous and far-reaching, deeply influencing people’s lives and activities, with only suspicion needed to instigate wire-tapping, internet surveillance and other invasive methods that the law enforcement authorities can use.

Consumers Union of Japan Anti Conspiracy Bill Event Hibiya Tokyo May 31 2017 Koketsu Michiyo

Koketsu Michiyo, CUJ, at the large May 31 2017 event in Hibiya, Tokyo to oppose the Anti Conspiracy Bill

For example, CUJ is working on a number of campaigns for the benefit of consumers to protect the environment and human health. This includes lobbying for strict regulations and putting pressure on government and corporations that make harmful detergents or promote genetically modified crops and GM food, which we strongly oppose. Other campaigns target agricultural chemicals and pesticide use, especially neo-nicotinoids which hurt both humans and animals. Many such activities and campaigns can now become regarded as illegal if they are interpreted to interfere with laws covered by the proposed conspiracy bill, including patent laws and other laws that protect corporations and their intellectual property rights.

Another law that is covered is the Plant Variety Protection and Seed Act. The purpose of this law is to protect the commercial interests of anyone who produces, registers and sells seed. Now, if you were to buy registered seed at a gardening store, grow plants from the seed, and then share the plant’s seed with others, this could be regarded as a conspiracy crime – a nightmare! By introducing the conspiracy bill, our normal world may be changed in an instant. Will this nightmare really come true? We do not want to make such a world become reality and we will have no part in living in such a world.

Consequently, Consumers Union of Japan strongly urges the government to scrap this proposed bill.

Posted May 31st, 2017 in Civil Rights

Street Event with the “Moms’ Project to Change our Food in Japan!”

Sticker questionnaire in Futakotamagawa, Tokyo on Mothers’ Day, May 15, 2017

A new citizens group has recently been formed in Japan by people who oppose genetically modified food plus moms who participated in the March, 2017 events with Zen Honeycutt of Moms Across America. The group is called “Moms’ Project to Change our Food in Japan!” We are Japanese mothers who want to give safe food to their children, wishing to reduce the amount of pesticides and artificial additives in their food, as well as avoid GMOs. During the first event in the Tokyo suburb of Futakotamagawa we used a visual questionnaire to let people place stickers based on their opinions and knowledge about GMO food.

201705 Japan Mothers Against GMO Event1

We held the event outside the busy Futakotamagawa train station where many families with baby strollers are passing by. All of us had decided to wear something pink and we also brought pink balloons. For about one hour, 27 people participated by placing stickers on our board with questions.

201705 Japan Mothers Against GMO Event2

Here are some of the results:

21 people indicated that they worry about genetically modified food and 6 people indicated that they are not worrying or do not understand the issue. We also gave participants an opportunity to indicate which foods they think may be GMOs. 19 people correctly indicated that salad oil may be GMO and nobody indicated olive oil (there is indeed no GMO olive oil on the market). Only one person indicated that they did not know the answer. We thought it was encouraging that so many people share our concerns and also that so many knew the right answers regarding GMOs and are aware of the issue. It was also a good opportunity to explain that many GMO foods are not labelled, and that we want to change the labelling legislation so that people who wish to do so can avoid GMOs. “It’s a problem that we can’t choose” as one participant expressed it.

This was a brief event and we want to thank everyone who participated in making it a success. We will continue to hold similar events all over Japan in the near future.

Posted May 24th, 2017 in Biotechnology, Food

Event: The International Day for Biological Diversity

May 22 is designated by the United Nations as the International Day for Biological Diversity. Genetically modified organisms (GMO) are known to have negative effects on biodiversity and there are international rules for handling GM crops to try to deal with the risks. There are indeed many examples of how GM crops threaten the environment and human health in the countries were GM crops are grown. This year, on May 28 we will screen two documentary movies that highlight such problems in the United States, Argentina and Romania. The movies are in English and Romanian (with English subtitles) but the seminar with our experts will be in Japanese. Read More »

Posted May 19th, 2017 in Biodiversity, Biotechnology, Food

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