New GMO Food Additives To Be Introduced Without Full Safety Appraisal

Labelled only as “amino acid and others”

On September 14, 2009, two new food additives from Ajinomoto were judged to be “safe” by the Expert Committee for Genetically Modified Food and Others at the Food Safety Commission (FSC). The appraisal was open for public comments and it seems likely that the two novel amino acid products will be approved by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labour by the end of November. 

So far, several GMO food additives have been approved, but they were basically used for food processing, as in the case of enzymes like alpha amylase for improved productivity. There have been no cases of GMO food additives that are used directly as seasoning as is the case of amino acids. Thus, when Ajinomoto first submitted these GMO products, there was no established method for safety appraisal. 

That was why the Food Safety Commission has published a “Directive for safety assessment of food additives which are produced using genetically modified micro-organisms and which are highly refined and have non-protein characteristics, including amino acids.” (Many studies have verified that the process of genetic engineering can produce unpredicted toxins or allergens.)  Continue reading New GMO Food Additives To Be Introduced Without Full Safety Appraisal

World Social Forum: Challenging The Economic Order

CUJ and other NGOs including Attac Japan, People’s Plan and Space Allies/Allies Law Office are preparing for the World Social Forum 2010 to be held on January 24, 2010 in Tokyo and on March 21, 2010 in Osaka.


Before that, on November 23, 2009, a meeting will be held to discuss how we can challenge Davos and the economic order promoted by global leaders, who created the current financial crisis. Speakers include Christophe Augiton from France and Chico Whitaker from Brazil.

It is the first time in 10 years we have an opportunity to invite two of the founders and main actors of the WSF movement. What is World Social Forum and what does it mean for you and your future? Come and participate on Monday, which is Labour Day holiday in Japan!

Date: November 23, 2009 Time: 13:30-16:30

Venue: Nambu Rosei Kaikan  (Ozaki Station)

Address: Gate City West Tower, Ozaki 1-11-1, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo

Charge: Y800

Tokyo Social Forum (Japanese website)

World Social Forum (International website)

Biodiversity In Focus: Genetic Modification Of Living Organisms Is A Threat

Christine von Weizsäcker visits Japan: Genetic modification of living organisms is a threat to biodiversity

In October 2010, an important international conference will be held in Nagoya, Japan, to discuss the integrity of biodiversity, as genetic engineering threatens to influence and disturb the ecosystems around the world. The topic of genetically modified organisms is on the agenda in Nagoya, because there is concern that the shipping and handling of imported GMO crops can contaminate local varieties of similar crops.

091027 Christine von Weizsacker

In October 2009 Consumers Union of Japan and other NGOs in the Japan Citizens’ Network for Planet Diversity (JCNPD) invited Christine von Weizsäcker, biologist, author and activist from Germany who has been closely following all the negotiations about the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). She gave several lectures and met with activists and politicians in Japan.

JCNPD held citizen meetings in Nagoya and Tokyo to learn more about her views about the negotiation process and the issues that are currently being discussed at the United Nations level. These include access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of their utilization (ABS), and international rules and procedures on liability and redress for damage resulting from transboundary movements of living modified organisms in the context of the Cartagena Protocol.

At the meeting in Nagoya on October 24, citizens’ groups also made detailed reports about the nation-wide investigation in Japan, showing how imported GMO canola seeds have fallen from trucks, taken root and crossed with other related species in many locations, especially near ports.

This has clearly shown the environmental pollution involved when importing GMO crops, a risk that has caused anxiety among many people.

Parliament symposium with elected politicians

Talking directly to elected politicians in Japan, many who may never before have heard about the Convention on Biological Diversity or the Cartagena Protocol in such detail, Christine emphasized that parliamentary initiatives and decisions can help to promote new topics and tasks. She also expressed hope that the international association called GLOBE should participate in Nagoya: “Representatives of cities come to Nagoya, civil society comes, business comes, why not members of Japan’s parliament?”

Christine von Weizsäcker spoke to about 100 participants at the Diet Members Building in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo on October 27. Among the audience, some 25 were elected members of parliament and some 40 were secretaries of Upper and Lower Houses members. She noted that nature and people worldwide are hoping for Japan to act as an “excellent” host of the meeting, having prepared a coherent national position, consolidated between the different government ministries, and led by the Environment Minister: the position should not be led by other ministries, such as the Trade and Agriculture Ministries. 

091027 CUJ Biodiversity Symposium Tokyo Japan Parliament

Developing countries in particular are waiting for a legally binding agreement on equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of their genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge. Their motivation to conserve and to sustainably use biodiversity is being destroyed if justice is not established,” Christine said.

She pointed out that the negotiations should finalize legally binding international liability rules for potential harm caused by GMO (called living modified organisms in the CBD context for historical reasons). The harm can be both to biodiversity and to human health, in addition to human socio-economic and cultural well-being. Even “spiritual” harm is identified in the text that is currently under negotiation. “Nagoya must succeed in taking a major step in international environmental governance, making the polluter pay and ensuring that no victim shall go without compensation,” said Christine.

The visit of Christine von Weizsäcker was all the more successful because she was invited by Mr. Sakihito Ozawa, Japan’s Minister of Environment, who will be the chair person at the Nagoya meeting in 2010, to give him a special briefing on what Japan needs to do as the host country in order not to repeat the failures of the past meetings.

Read More:

Japan Resources No 148

cuj-jr-148 (pdf) Japan Resources No 148

We are having warm days and chilly evenings right now in Tokyo, with a lot of activities and conferences, in addition to the busy political climate. Here is our English newsletter. We think you will find this issue particularly interesting, with articles about nuclear energy protests, the “failure” of cloning as well as food safety. Feel free to download the pdf file and print it for your library.

– Editors


The Problem With Econa Oil
Protect Biodiversity At MOP 5 In Nagoya
Consumer Agency And Consumer Committee – Our Concerns
7000 People Saying No To Nuclear
Cloning: The Real problem In Japan
Researchers Recognize: “Cloning Has Failed”

Cloning In Japan Has “Failed”

Report From Our Visit to the National Livestock Breeding Center:

NLBC Researchers Recognize “Failure of Cloning”

By Koketsu Michiyo, CUJ/FSCW


Food Safety Citizens Watch visited the National Livestock Breeding Center (NLBC) in Fukushima Prefecture on September 9, 2009. This is the center that has been designated to continue the work that started in 1998 to improve the productivity of cattle breeding using somatic cell clone technology. In June, Japan’s Food Safety Commission stated that “somatic cell cloned livestock is safe for use as human food,” i. e. that meat and milk from from cloned cows, pigs and so on will be safe. However, among consumers, a strong sense of doubt and insecurity remains, as researchers have not been able to eradicate problems such as stillbirths and abnormal deaths among the cloned animals. In order to investigate the current status of the research, we visited the NLBC. 

First of all, we were surprised by the low success ratio of somatic cell clones, which is not even 3% among domestic animals. At the NLBC ranch in Tokachi, Hokkaido, researchers have so far attempted to create 1,509 cloned cattle, but only 391 were conceived properly, or around 26%. Among them, we were told that only 42 heads survived feeding and achieved normal growth, or 2.8%.  

During our visit, the center frankly admitted, “We have currently not achieved any rapid improvement.”

  Continue reading Cloning In Japan Has “Failed”