CUJ and the No! GMO Campaign have published a new booklet about the dangerous herbicide glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and other brands. Written by Amagasa Keisuke, it outlines the recent events including lawsuits in the US and new data about the toxic effects. Here in Japan, residue of glyphosate has been found in bread made with imported wheat.
The booklet also exposes how in 2017, the Japanese government increased the legal residue levels in many foods:
Wheat flour: From 5 => 30 parts per million (ppm)
Rye wheat flour: From 0.2 => 30 ppm
Soba flour: From 0.2 => 30 ppm
Corn: From 1 => 5 ppm
Canola: From 10 => 30 ppm
In Japan, many soybean farmers are using glyphosate-based herbicides including Roundup as a pre-harvest chemical, in order to dry the crops while they are still maturing. CUJ and the No! GMO Campaign have been successfully campaigning to get soybean farmers in Hokkaido to stop this practice. In other countries, especially in North and South America, farmers are growing crops that are genetically modified to tolerate glyphosate. In Japan, there is no commercial farming of such GM crops, but imported feed and food oils often contain GM ingredients such as GM soy, GM corn or GM canola (rapeseed). Look for the label on products including soy, such as tofu, soy sauce and natto if you want to avoid GM ingredients that can contain glyphosate residue.
The 64 pages booklet is in Japanese. You can order it here:
Request to stop using pre-harvest glyphosate on soybeans
We are a consumer organization working for food safety. We are engaging in a number of initiatives to oppose genetically modified foods and genome-edited foods and demand prudent use of the herbicides and pesticides associated with them. In recent years, we have strengthened our monitoring of glyphosate herbicides, especially in light of the recent revelations of their harmfulness and the progress of global regulations.
In the midst of this situation, we were informed that the glyphosate was detected in soybeans and processed foods shipped from your prefecture’s JA plant. Glyphosate is a suspected carcinogenic with other toxic effects. We are concerned to learn that it is being sprayed as a wilt agent before the wheat harvest in North America and that pre-harvest spraying is being carried out on soybeans here in Japan as well. We are concerned that the spraying of harmful pesticides has a high risk of harming the health of farmers, and that spraying just before harvest can lead to significant residues in the harvest. While the Pesticide Control Act allows for the application of herbicides and pesticides in the field of soybeans prior to harvest, the purpose of using glyphosate is solely for weed control. We believe it is illegal to use glyphosate for soybean wilt or to use them in such a way that they affect the soybeans.
We, as consumers, used to think that domestic soybeans were safe because many imported soybeans are now genetically modified and new genome-edited soybeans have appeared in the United States. However, we are concerned that the detection of glyphosate in domestically produced soybeans may make it impossible to say that such soybeans are safe because they are domestically produced.
We would like to ask you to instruct your prefecture’s JA to stop using glyphosate in soybeans prior to harvest, and ask the following questions. We would like to ask you to respond in writing by 8 September. We plan to publish your answers on our website.
Have your prefecture’s headquarters ever advised JAs in your prefecture to recommend or allow spraying with glyphosate before the harvest of soybeans?
Do you know whether or not your prefecture’s JAs apply glyphosate before the harvest of soybeans?
Are you aware that in 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer evaluated glyphosate as a possible carcinogen for humans, and that in the United States, a large number of plaintiffs have won lawsuits against glyphosate manufacturers?
Could you instruct JA in the prefecture to stop using glyphosate before harvest? When, if at all, will you instruct them to stop? If not, please tell us why you will not do so.
Have you ever heard of Neonics (Neo-nicotinoid insecticides)? Even though it is getting banned in EU and throughout the world because of its danger to human health, it is used in Japan. Children’s lives, nature and Japanese agriculture must be protected. This is why Coop Shizenha, choose to be Neonics-free.
You can reduce your exposure by adopting an organic diet – do watch the videos.
Translation by Tasaka Koa, Consumers Union of Japan
As part of our ongoing work to get rid of the herbicide glyphosate (active ingredient in Roundup and several other herbicides) the No! GMO Campaign wrote to all major railway companies in Japan early in 2020. Many people are concerned about the spraying of this cancer-causing chemical to kill weeds along train tracks. And several railway companies have revealed in their environmental reports or sustainability reports that they are trying to reduce the use of herbicides. Unfortunately, none of the railway companies replied to our letter and did not answer our questions. As part of our campaign, we also asked the railway companies, including JR, Odakyu Line, Keio Line, Seibu Line and others to completely stop using glyphosate.
When we wrote to them a second time this spring, only a few companies replied:
JR East Japan: We do not reveal the names of individual herbicides that we use
We would like to highlight the interesting reports in The Ecologist about pesticide use in Japan. Phil Carter, a freelance environmental journalist, explores how broad-spectrum pesticides used mainly at rice paddy fields are harming insects and the environment:
Chemical companies are taking advantage of Japan’s weak laws on pesticide use by selling a wide variety of broad-spectrum pesticides for use in rice farming, including neonicotinoids banned in other countries.
But other pesticide types with similarly devastating effects on aquatic ecosystems continue to be sold and promoted, such as Trebon, a synthetic pyrethroid sold by Mitsui Chemicals, and Prince, containing fipronil, a phenylpyrazole sold by BASF.
Simultaneously, a worldwide insect extinction event is ongoing in which broad-spectrum insecticides are implicated as a leading cause.
Japanese rice fields are losing aquatic insects such as iconic autumn darter dragonflies that use the flooded fields in the nymph part of their lifecycle. The resulting pollution of rivers and lakes has also led to the collapse of the fishery in Lake Shinji in Shimane Prefecture, which scientists have connected to neonicotinoid use in surrounding rice fields.
The process of removing dangerous pesticides from use is an arduous one, with companies like Bayer fighting bitterly to continue sales of each product both in court and with campaigns to discredit any critical scientific studies. In recent years, this scorched-earth approach has led to environmental groups focusing their energies on neonicotinoids, eventually achieving bans on some products in the European Union.