Strong Concerns About New Consumer Agency, Consumer Committee

Consumer Agency and Consumer Committee:


Launch amid Strong Concerns about Structure, Members and more

By Yamaura Yasuaki

Secretary General of of Consumers Union of Japan

Japan’s LDP-led government scrambled to launch the Consumer Agency and the Consumer Committee on September 1, 2009. It was clear that the launch was rushed to happen while Taro Aso was still prime minister, but the LDP-selected Sumita Hiroko, who was expected to be chairman, refused to participate after criticism. Then Hayashi Fumiko from car company Nissan Co. refused to take the helm in order to participate in the election instead. Hiwasa Nobuko from food maker Snow Brand Milk Products Co. who has previously served as secretary-general of the National Liaison Committee of Consumers’ Organizations (Shodanren) was chosen as a member while one other post is still vacant.

Why is the president of Asahi Breweries Ltd. a member of the Consumer Committee?!

Eventually, Matsumoto Tsuneo from the Hitotsubashi University Law School was elected as chairman of the Consumer Committee. Representing consumers, the members are Sano Mariko from Japan Housewives’ Association, Shimoyachi Fujiko from Japan Association of Consumer Affairs Specialists, Sakurai Keiko from Gakushuin University, Tajima Makoto from Jissen Women’s Educational University, journalist Kawada Keiko and lawyer Nakamura Masato from Japan Federation of Bar Associations. In addition, Ikeda Koichi, who is president of Asahi Breweries Ltd. was selected to represent the corporate sector.

This committee was nominated without any transparency by outgoing consumer minister Seiko Noda of the notoriously opaque LDP administration and the LDP-led Cabinet Office. The Consumer Committee is supposed to deal with matters involving consumer protection, but we cannot say from the consumer perspective that unexpectedly including representatives from the corporate sector will be seen as making the Consumer Committee independent nor will it enable the committee to give advice to the Prime Minister or the Consumer Agency. Read More »

Posted September 30th, 2009 in Uncategorized

Protect Biodiversity in Nagoya

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Protect biodiversity from living modified organisms at MOP5 in Nagoya!

Read updates here: Nagoya 2010

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.

We started this network in order to act on the United Nations’ major meeting to be held in Nagoya, October 2010, for the Protocol on Biosafety (also called Cartagena Protocol) which regulates the international trade of organisms modified by modern biotechnology (living modified organisms).

We want the meeting in Nagoya to define rules to protect consumers and the environment. The rules will be a crucial element of the global regulations regarding the integrity and continued sustainable use of living organisms under threat from certain risky applications of modern biotechnology.

Make binding global rules!

The Cartagena Protocol was adopted as a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity. It sets forth procedures for the transport, handling, and use of living organisms modified by modern biotechnology (LMO) that have the potential to adversely affect biodiversity. The protocol specifies regulations on cross-border transfer of modified living organisms developed with biotechnology, such as genetically modified agricultural seed, food products, and microorganisms. Such regulations are needed because of the possibility that LMOs can exert adverse effects on other living organisms. Read More »

Posted July 29th, 2009 in Biodiversity

Cloning: The Real Problem In Japan

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By Yasuaki Yamaura

In April 2008, Japan’s Food Safety Commission (FSC) was asked by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labour to make an assessment of the safety of food from cloned animals. Somatic cell cloning has recently emerged as an issue also in Japan, and on February 29, 2009, a special assessment group on cloned animals set up in the FSC’s Expert Committee announced that such food was safe.

On March 24, 2009, the Food Safety Commission once more discussed this topic. However, it became clear that there were a number of unresolved issues and serious problems related to this technology. CUJ raised several questions at this meeting. We were told that in Japan, some 1,240,000 cows are slaughtered annually, and among them approximately 720,000 have some defects or show symptoms of disease. The officials reluctantly admitted that in such cases, the lesions or sick parts are simply removed, and the rest of the carcass is used for food. Clearly, we must assume that the same practice will continue also in the case of sick cloned animals. Read More »

Posted July 1st, 2009 in Biotechnology

Japan Resources No 147

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cuj-jr-147-full-graphics (pdf) Japan Resources No 147 (full graphics)

cuj-jr-147-low-graphics (pdf) Japan Resources No 147 (low graphics)

Rainy season has just begun and we got some torrential downpours, but today is sunny and humid in Tokyo. We are pleased to publish two more presentations from last year’s World Foodless Day, with a focus on food prices and how to improve Japan’s low food self-sufficiency rate.

Due to the many graphs and tables, we are publishing both a low-graphics version and a full graphic version this time. Please download the pdf file of your choice. – Editors Read More »

Posted June 17th, 2009 in Japan Resources

To what level could Japan’s food self-sufficiency recover?

A quantitative analysis based on the Food Demand-Supply Table, the Guideline of Nutritional Requirement for the Japanese people, and the Local Production-Local Consumption principle

Toshiki MASHIMO

Paper presented at the World Foodless Day in Tokyo, October 16, 2008


The current world-wide food crisis has made it clear that the low Japanese food self-sufficiency ratio is the underlying cause of various food-related problems. As one of the fundamentals for our survival, food is more and more dependent on foreign political and commercial trends that are beyond our control. Also Japan hunting for food in other countries contributes to the tension on world food trade markets and tends to raise international food prices. Japan’s food mileage, the world’s highest, reaching 910 billion ton-km in total, and 7,110 ton-km/capita annually [1], is adding a large amount of CO2 into the global atmosphere. This paper looks at ways to improve Japan’s food self-sufficiency from the consumer perspective.

Demand-side Approach

Motivated by a number of concerns, we attempted a quantitative analysis on to what level Japan’s food self-sufficiency could recover. For this purpose, we used a static model based on the Food Demand-Supply Table (a statistic published by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery), the Guideline of Nutritional Requirement for the Japanese (published by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labour), and the Local Production-Local Consumption principle.

Japan’s food self-sufficiency ratio is estimated to be around 40% in 2007. Several estimates of Japan’s potential food self-sufficiency have already been made, but in general, they have focused mainly on the supply-side, assuming selectively that the demand-side of food remains out of the policy scope. However, one of the main factors causing our low food self-sufficiency can be attributed to the over-consumption of meat and fat, items that are unsuitable for the Japanese farming conditions [2].

That is why we asked, “What if the Japanese dietary habit changed to one more healthy and more suitable for domestic production?” To do this, we decided to create a model on the basis of the demand-side approach, starting with our food consumption patterns, followed by the domestic food production efforts adapted to these patterns.

Three Patterns of Food Consumption

The first food consumption pattern we took as a model is a set of food intake and nutritional data recommended by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labour. This pattern has been created as the ideal for Japanese people to maintain their health, avoiding lifestyle-related sickness (MHWL pattern). The second pattern is a set of food requirements based on the daily meal menus organised specifically for our model by Setsuko Shirone, an expert of sustainable food consumption and organic agriculture. Let us call this Chisan-chisho pattern (LP-LC pattern), after a popular movement that encourages local production and local consumption in Japan.

Figure-1 shows the differences of the consumption of each food-group or item per day per person compared with the status quo (as of 2005). According to the MHWL pattern, the ingestion of grains, potatoes and vegetables would increase, while consumption of meat, milk products, sugar and fat would drastically decrease. Turning our attention to the LP-LC pattern, we note that this tendency is even more radical. The exception is the high amount of marine products intake that is still considered to be possible; all of this, however, consists of small fish and coastal fish, as well as continued consumption of other domestically available marine species.

figure-1

Read More »

Posted June 10th, 2009 in Food Security

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