Japanese text here
Japanese text here
Dear Everyone, Date: 14 February 2020
In 2019 Consumers Union of Japan started a petition campaign and collected signatures demanding regulation of all gene-edited foods. Here are the results of the initial stage of the campaign which we have now ended.
From May 2019 to November we collected no less than 447,725 signatures in support of the petition. We did not reach our target of 1 million signatures, but we feel strongly that almost half a million signatures in such a short time is a great success, especially since almost no one in Japan seems to have heard of gene-editing or genome editing.
We organized an event at the Japanese Parliament Building on 30 January 2020 and had the opportunity to hand over the signatures to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Ministry of the Environment and the Consumer Agency. We made sure that everyone’s personal data was protected.
From abroad, we collected signatures from Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Brazil and Taiwan, in addition to 13 organizations and 10 researchers and university professors. We are very grateful for everyone’s cooperation and support.
However, in spite of almost 450,000 signatures being presented to them at the event, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare continued to argue that gene-editing is not genetic modification and thus does not need regulation or safety assessment, ignoring its effects on the natural environment.
In the same way, the Consumer Agency is ignoring the call for mandatory labelling of gene-edited foods, arguing that they are indistinguishable from mutations that may happen in the natural world.
Many consumers, however, are deeply unhappy with this state of affairs. We are saying, “We do not want to eat food which is the result of gene-editing and genetically modified organisms which have been created by the use of such technologies.” And we are demanding both safety assessment and mandatory labelling of such foods.
It is believed that gene-edited food was allowed to enter Japan by October 2019, but so far, they do not seem to go on the market. We cannot be entirely sure about this since there has been no safety assessment and no mandatory labelling.
Our movement is strong and we will continue to demand regulation of gene-edited food and mandatory labelling.
We also appreciate your continued support.
Michiyo Koketsu, Secretary General, CUJ
Martin J Frid, International Committee, CUJ
Consumers Union of Japan
Address: Nishi Waseda 1-9-19-207 Shinjuku-Ku, Tokyo, Japan
Consumers Union of Japan and the No! GMO Campaign invited Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini to speak about his landmark study that showed how Roundup causes cancer in rats. He warned about genetically modified foods, that are engineered to tolerate Roundup, especially GM soy and GM corn. Séralini is professor of molecular biology at the University of Caen, France, and president of the scientific board of CRIIGEN (Committee of Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering). The research conducted by Séralini’s team has serious implications for public health and the environment and should be addressed rationally and on scientific grounds.
Gilles-Eric Séralini has run the research group that has published the most on GMOs and pesticides toxicities in the world. Since he has discovered practices of the big companies to hide this, he was the most cited in the Monsanto Papers and he has won seven court affairs against the biotech lobbies. With his co-author of three recent books, the organic French Chef Jérôme Douzelet, he worked on how to recognize the taste of these pollutants, especially in wines, and methods of detoxication for everybody. The news and views on these topics will be detailed for the general public in a very original manner.
Everyone is welcome to learn more about the risks associated with genetically modified food.
Date: October 31, 2019
Place: Tokyo Women’s Plaza, Shibuya, Tokyo
We held a protest action outside the Ministry of Health in Tokyo today on Wednesday, 25 September to protest against the lack of rules to deal with gene edited foods. Gene editing or genome editing may soon appear in food stores as the novel technology appears to gain ground among crops abroad. The lack of labelling in Japan is a serious problem.
Some 43% of respondents to a University of Tokyo internet survey said they would not want to eat agricultural products developed with genome editing technology, according the The Mainichi Newspaper and the figure topped 53% when people were asked about whether they would eat genome-edited animal products. The poll results were unveiled at a June 5 meeting of the Japanese Society for Genome Editing in Tokyo. The survey team led by Masato Uchiyama, a guest researcher at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Medical Science, queried some 38,000 men and women aged 20-69 in May and June last year, receiving around 10,700 valid responses.
Meanwhile, Consumers Union of Japan was invited to share our views at the NHK TV program Closeup Gendai on 24 September about the lack of regulations.
The debate is certainly heating up in Japan, with this recent Mainichi editorial a good example of the many doubts people harbour:
Even if it is impossible to tell the difference between genome-edited products and those developed using conventional breed improvement, the government should create a system giving consumers the choice to put genome-edited products on the family table or not.
For such a system to work, it is necessary to mandate producers to report genome-edited products and distributors to label them as such. The scheme would also be of help to swiftly respond to unexpected risks.
Up until now, genetically engineered crops have mostly been developed by adding outside genes. Such products are required to undergo safety screenings and be labeled as genetically modified foods.
In genome-editing, meanwhile, specific genes in an existing DNA strand can be clipped out to stem their functions. It is also possible to open a space on a DNA strand to insert an outside gene.
Genome-edited food products mainly employ the former method, as seen in the development of tomatoes laden with substances that reduce blood pressure, red sea bream with increased muscle mass, and high-yield rice — all for research purposes.
The government’s latest decision excludes food products developed using this method from labeling regulations, while retaining the existing rules for produce grown by inserting foreign genes.
The government has made the labeling of genome-edited foodstuffs voluntary as gene disruptions giving rise to new breeds take place even in nature, and because it is impossible to verify the difference between edited and non-edited foodstuffs by analyzing their genomes. Therefore, producers will be encouraged but not required to report information on such edits.
However, Japan’s policy is not entirely in step with the rest of the world. While the United States has similar rules, the European Court of Justice ruled that genome-edited foods — even those without any inserted foreign genes — are subject to the same regulations as genetically modified products.
Some experts in Japan also advocate making reporting on genome-edited items mandatory in order to clarify liability, as such products are “designed” according to makers’ own aims.
Reporting of genome-edited foods will start in Japan next month. While observing how the filing of reports and the labeling of the products go, it is essential to keep considering rules that can best respect the consumers’ right to make their own choices about eating edited foodstuffs.