What Caused the Food Price Hikes During 2008?

Here is the presentation made by Yasuaki YAMAURA, Secretary General of Consumers Union of Japan (CUJ), as one of the programs at the World Foodless Day in Tokyo on October 16, 2008.

The Present Situation of the Food Crisis

yamaura_yasuaki_cuj 

In April 2008, rice prices started to increase rapidly in the Philippines and several parts of Asia. This induced hoarding and export restrictions of grains, which in turn led to even higher grain prices around the world. There were food riots happening in a number of countries.

This also affected Japan, as increasing general food prices hit Japanese consumers hard. In addition, we experienced the problem of frozen gyoza made in China, contaminated by a very toxic insecticide. On top of that, there was a scandal of wrongfully distributed pesticide-tainted or moldy rice for human consumption, and melamine-contaminated milk products produced from imported milk. Such events caused deep anxiety among many consumers.

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Posted February 24th, 2009 in Food Security

Japan Resources No 146

cuj-jr-146 (pdf) Japan Resources No 146

Cold and sunny in Tokyo today – it is February and we are pleased to publish our latest issue of Japan Resources. Read about how Genetically Modified foods are accelerating the global food crisis, our concerns about antimicrobial resistance, and more. Please download the pdf file. – Editors

Contents:

  • Avon Awards To Women for Kamiyama Michiko, FSCW
  • Keisuke Amagasa: How genetically modified foods are accelerating the food crisis
  • Demands to the Japanese government on the Codex guideline on antimicrobial resistance
  • Illegal financial activities of the UNIC
  • Letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Posted February 17th, 2009 in Japan Resources

How genetically modified foods are accelerating the food crisis

Here is the presentation made by Keisuke AMAGASA, Chairperson of NO! GMO Campaign, as one of the programs at the World Foodless Day held in Tokyo on October 16, 2008.

Good afternoon. In my brief presentation, I would like to summarise the present state of genetically modified (GM) crop and food in 13 points, referring to their relationship to today’s food crisis.

1. The farmland planted with GM crops is continuously expanding in the world.

Most of the GM-planted farmland is located in North and South America, with the United States accounting for about half of the global total GM-planted area. The number of countries cultivating GM crops remains limited. This is because GM crops are concentrated in regions that are dominated by Monsanto and/or closely involved in the U.S. food strategy. On the other hand, countries free of these influences also remain free of GM crops.

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Posted January 15th, 2009 in Biotechnology, Food Security

World Foodless Day in Tokyo

Rising food prices, food contamination, reduced food production induced by climate change — food insecurity is spreading all over the world.  Japan is suffering from low food self-sufficiency (barely 40% on calorie basis), a string of food safety scandals and frauds. The occasion of World Food Day on October 16 organised by the FAO is an opportune time to send a strong message of food sovereignty and highlight consumers’ strategies to address the food crisis. 

How can consumers cope with this crisis? Several NGOs will organise a forum, Another World Food Day, in Tokyo to discuss a wide range of current food problems and solutions.  

The forum titled “Sky-rocketing food prices and crisis: hype and reality” will include the following themes: 

  • The real cause of the rising food prices
  • How genetically modified foods are accelerating the food crisis
  • Can Japan feed itself?

Organised by: 

  • NO! GMO Campaign
  • Consumers Union of Japan
  • No to WTO/FTA Grass-roots Campaign
  • Japan Organic Agriculture Association

Date and time: 

  • October 16, 2008
  • afternoon session: 14:00-16:00
  • evening session: 19:00-21:00

Venue:

  • Taito-ku Shogai Gakushu Center
  • Nishi-Asakusa 3-25-6, Taito-ku, Tokyo
  • Nearby stations: JR Uguisudani St. (South exit)/Tokyo Metro Iriya St. (Exit No.1)/Tsukuba Express Asakusa St. (Exit A2)

For further information: NO! GMO Campaign (email: office(at)gmo-iranai.org)

Posted September 30th, 2008 in Food

Rice Scandal: Protest Declaration and Questions

080919-cuj-rice-contamination (pdf)

September 16, 2008

To:
Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare
Mr. Masuzoe Yoichi
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Mr. Seiichi Ota

From:
Food Safety Citizens’ Watch
Kamiyama Michiko (Representative)
Consumers Union of Japan
Tomiyama Yoko (Chairperson)

Protest Declaration and Questions

“We demand rapid clarification about the current situation, where the government is responsible for not being able to regulate the circulation of the contaminated rice”

Over 3000 metric tones of contaminated rice, most of it Minimum Access (MA) rice, was imported to Japan and resold to food manufacturers. It has been widely used as raw material for food products and even as food rice. This is an illegal criminal business activity, and the legal responsibility must be thoroughly investigated. The government’s responsibility in failing to check and regulate the illegal dispersion of MA rice in the country must be carefully questioned. We strongly request the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare and the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to understand the deep concern consumers already have this year about food safety, and we demand answers to the following points before the end of September.

1) Did the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries perform any kind of inspection of the imported MA rice, which was sold to Mikasa Foods Co., Asai Co. and Ota Co. and what kind of inspection was performed of the imported MA rice?

a) Was the contaminated rice registered at the quarantine station of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare? And was it specified for industrial use or for use by the food industry?

b) Was there any question about the possibility that the contaminated rice, intended for industrial use, violated the Food Sanitation Law or not?

c) How was the inspection at the quarantine station carried out?

d) Why was it not possible to return the rice contaminated with aflatoxins?

e) Why was it not possible to return the rice with illegal levels of pesticide residue?

f) When was it discovered that the rice was contaminated with aflatoxins and pesticide residue?

g) Regarding this kind of defective imported rice, was the exporting country paid, and why?

2) How and where is MA rice normally dealt with if it is illegally contaminated with mold and pesticides?

3) Is it possible that the rice contaminated with aflatoxins is used as animal feed?

4) Why was the rice which was intended to be processed into industrial products including glue used by food manufacturers?

5) How is the industrial glue actually being used? For example, is it used as wallpaper glue in people’s houses?

6) Is other MA rice which was not involved in this scandal being circulated inside Japan as food?

7) Has the rice involved in this scandal also been used as food aid to other countries?

8) Regarding the bidding and inspection of the rice, it has been reported that the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries have offered certain advantages to Mikasa Foods Co. and others. Is this true? If that was the case, why did the government offer such advantages?

9) How will the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare and the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries take responsibility for this latest problem?

Consumers Union of Japan
Nishi-Waseda 1-9-19-207 Shinjuku-ku
Tokyo, Japan

Note: Based on the Uruguay Round agreements of global trade negotiations, Japan accepted the so-called “Minimum Access” measure (MA) as a special treatment in order to get extensions for its rice tariffs. MA rice should only be distributed to the rice processing industry. Japan’s self-sufficiency ratio for rice is 100% and the country only accepted MA rice after much pressure from other trading partners.

Posted September 24th, 2008 in Food

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