Consumers Union of Japan (CUJ) has been carrying out grassroots movements under the slogan of “For a healthy life into the future”. The deprivation of precious lives is currently happening in many parts of the world. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, military clashes between Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip have already resulted in thousands of casualties and extensive damage. Israel has also stated that it will invade the Gaza Strip militarily, which is set to cause even more misery.
We urge both sides to immediately reach a ceasefire in order to stop the horrific situation without further loss of life. It is impossible to tolerate any violence that takes human life, whether civilian or military. We also call for the blockade of the Gaza Strip to be lifted, and for the supply of electricity and water, and the delivery of food, medicine and other supplies to be guaranteed, so that people can regain a secure life.
The Constitution of Japan clearly renounces war and military action. It also pledges that “all peoples of the world shall be free from fear and want and shall have the right to live in peace” (Preamble to the Constitution of Japan).
In compliance with the spirit of the Constitution, the Government of Japan should use all diplomatic means at its disposal to urgently launch an appeal for a ceasefire, not only to Israel and Palestine, but to all the countries concerned and the UN. In particular, we strongly urge the Kishida Government, which calls for strengthening the US-Japan alliance, not to follow the US lead and not to go down the path of military expansion.
All people on this planet have the right to “live peacefully and securely”. We see the threats to this as our own, and will continue to speak out and act accordingly.
(Published 25 October 2023, Japanese original here)
CUJ has participated in several peace demonstrations this year, including the large event on 5 November in front of the Japanese Parliament in Tokyo.
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From the Editors:
Victory for Consumers
Consumers Union of Japan and other organizations have for over 50 years fought against food irradiation. This practice went on at one facility in Hokkaido that has finally been closed down.
Organic farmers and many others never allowed their produce to be irradiated with the radioactive isotope Cobalt 60. Many violations have been recorded over the years as imported foods, most recently from China, Taiwan and Vietnam, were found to be irradiated (Please see our updated list below).
We call this a victory for Japanese consumers, and appeal to others around the world to raise their voices as well. Stay tuned to our campaigns and join us as we keep up the good work…
National Meeting for Total Abolition of Irradiated Foods
Appeal Against Food Irradiation:
Global Solidarity in the Campaign to Stop Irradiated Food
In Japan, irradiated potatoes were sold since 1974 to prevent germination. Despite being an A-bombed country, Japan was the first in the world to sell irradiated potatoes. This was promoted by those who support nuclear power as “irradiated food has been approved even by Japan.” However, many consumers had concerns about irradiated potatoes and opposed their sale.
Apart from preventing germination, the Japanese Atomic Energy Commission conducted experiments to permit irradiated foods for other uses, including insecticidal (rice and wheat) and sterilising (sausages and citrus fruits) purposes. However, the experimental data showed risks and the World Health Organization (WHO) requested a follow-up study.
In 1980, the WHO suddenly declared that irradiation up to 10 kGy was acceptable, based on political rather than scientific judgement.
In Japan, we were shocked by a case of illegal irradiation of baby food vegetables, which was revealed in 1978. In the trial that followed, company witnesses argued that the WHO had accepted food irradiation and that it was practically harmless. They argued that the company was innocent. However, the court ruling did not accept the WHO’s 10 kGy safety limit and found those involved guilty.
The court noted that “the WHO report lists items that require scientific consideration for irradiation up to 10 kGy, but the required items have not been considered and scientists have pointed out that there are problems” (First trial, 1984; second trial, 1985). This ruling made Japanese consumers aware that the WHO was driven by the political considerations of food irradiation proponents.
The Japanese Government was the only country in the world to conduct toxicity tests on seven irradiated foodstuffs from 1967. The following is a list of the dangers found in the tests on potatoes and onions.
Data from animal experiments showing the dangers of irradiated foods:
Animals were fed irradiated potatoes, ovary weight loss (600 Gy), weight loss (300 Gy), increased mortality and abnormalities in the thyroid gland and pituitary gland were observed. The reproductive organs and other vital organs were also found to be affected.
Animals were fed irradiated onions (300 Gy), and a follow-up study was conducted after bone abnormalities called rib cartilage fusion and weight loss of the ovaries and testicles were confirmed in the third generation. The irradiation dose was halved (150 Gy) and the amount mixed in the feed was also halved to 2%, but the second generation showed twice as many abnormalities in the cervical ribs, which are ribs attached to the neck bones (cervical vertebrae).
Despite opposition from consumers in Japan, the Shihoro Agricultural Co-operative in Hokkaido continued its unprofitable business of irradiated potatoes, saying that the market must be enlarged so that the enormous government funds spent on research and development were not wasted. The irradiated potatoes of the Shihoro Agricultural Co-operative were also summarised as follows (1989): ”There was a big difference between the laboratory data and the irradiation of potatoes harvested in the actual field.”
1. Irradiation of damaged potatoes at harvest accelerated rotting
2. Irradiation of immature potatoes caused internal blackening
3. Immediately after irradiation, the rate of reducing sugars increased rapidly and crisps turned brown. It took about three months to reduce this rate of reducing sugar.
4. Long-term storage required temperature, humidity and ventilation control even after irradiation.
5. Storage at room temperature caused browning, so storage below 5°C was necessary.
As this shows, actual irradiation was not as effective as expected, and in reality nearly half of the irradiated products had no commercial value and were disposed of.
Fifty years passed without the Shihoro Agricultural Co-operative being able to resolve these major discrepancies. Finally, the Shihoro Agricultural Co-operative decided to stop producing irradiated potatoes, and in 2023 the irradiation facilities were dismantled. Consequently, irradiated potatoes will no longer be produced and sold in Japan from 2023.
We want to inform consumers around the world about this fact and share with them the problems with spices and beef that are now irradiated at similar facilities around the world. We also call on those countries that still irradiate their foodstuffs to stop doing so.
Please continue to campaign against food irradiation.
A long consumer campaign in Japan, lasting 50 years, was victorious and led to the abolition of irradiated potatoes.
Date: 1 November 2023
From: Liaison Group Against Food Irradiation
To: Foreign Press
Keywords: Irradiated food in Japan, Abolition of irradiated potatoes, Consumers’ organisations rally against food irradiation
Appeal for Global Solidarity in the Movement Against Food Irradiation
Request for Media Coverage:
Consumers’ groups in Japan declare victory over the 50-year-old Japanese irradiated food potato business closure and sends appeal to foreign countries (31 October 2023, Tokyo, Japan).
We, the Liaison Group Against Food Irradiation, have been campaigning against food irradiation for 50 years. In Japan, Shihoro Agricultural Co-operative in Hokkaido was shipping irradiated potatoes to the market since 1974, a world first. We are happy to reveal that in 2023, the Shihoro Agricultural Co-operative closed down its Isotope Irradiation Centre and has dismantled the facility.
On 31 October 2023, some 60 consumer organisations and individuals met at the House of Representatives Building in Tokyo. We called for the total abolition of food irradiation sold around the world. A rally and the “Appeal Against Food Irradiation: Global Solidarity in the Campaign to Stop Irradiated Food” was issued to consumers around the world.
Background: Irradiated food in Japan was initiated by the Japanese Atomic Energy Commission with the aim of irradiating seven irradiated food items. However, toxicity tests on these seven items showed that there were risks, and data were subsequently reported showing the carcinogenicity of the new products and the danger of induced radioactivity occurring.
Japanese consumers campaigned against the first permitted irradiated potatoes and boycotted them for 50 years. Opposition led to the suspension of permits for the remaining six products (onions, rice, wheat, sausage, mandarin oranges and kamaboko), which were intended to prevent germination, fungicide and insecticide.
The boycott method involved consumers across Japan searching for grocers and supermarkets that sold irradiated potatoes and asking them to stop selling irradiated potatoes. This request also conveyed the strong will of consumers. Many shops responded to this request and stopped selling them. As a result, the manufacturer, the Shihoro Agricultural Co-operative, reduced the volume of sales. The agricultural cooperative’s desire (that the market must be enlarged so that the research and development that had been carried out at enormous government expense would not be wasted) did not come through.
After 50 years, the Shihoro Agricultural Cooperative has decided not to renovate its ageing food irradiation facilities and to close down the production and sale of irradiated potatoes. Japan’s only food irradiation facility is now gone.
This is a victory for the 50-year campaign against food irradiation in Japan. The fact that the production and distribution of irradiated food has ceased in Japan is a significant change for the food irradiation administration in Japan and for the world. We believe that it will have a major impact.
The 31 October rally was a conduit for the total abolition of irradiated potatoes in Japan to be communicated to the world, which will lead to the total abolition of global food irradiation. We call on governments and consumers around the world to stand in solidarity for the elimination of outdated food irradiation practices.
Some foreign food suppliers have the wrong information that irradiation of food is allowed in Japan because irradiated potatoes were sold in Japan. This has led to problems with food irradiated in other countries being exported to Japan.
Japanese quarantine stations carry out spot checks of food imported from various countries. Although spot checks have their limitations, so far irradiated foodstuffs that have been found to be illegally irradiated have been found having originated in 14 countries (See table below).
We have made a request to the 14 countries through their embassies to “inform their governments that Japan has abolished irradiation of potatoes and that all irradiated food products are banned. Export violations should not continue” (Dated 9 September 2023).
In Japan, food irradiation facilities for potatoes have been dismantled and are now clear for all to see.
A long consumer campaign in Japan, lasting 50 years, was victorious and led to the abolition of irradiated potatoes.
This appeal to the world is written by consumers confirming their victory against food irradiation. Please report the attached appeal in your country’s media and transmit it to the world. Thank you.
By Hara Eiji, published in the October issue of CUJ’s monthly newsletter, Shouhisha Report
Every year in early spring, the Liaison Group Against Irradiated Foods has called on consumers across the country to find irradiated potatoes in supermarket shops, inform the supermarkets concerned of the problems with irradiated food and request that they stop selling them. Many supermarkets have responded to our request to stop selling them. This year, in 2023, information was sought, but the supermarkets that had sold them in previous years did not sell them. When we contacted the Shihoro Agricultural Co-operative in Hokkaido, which produced irradiated potatoes, the answer was that the irradiation project had been stopped and the facilities were being dismantled. The reason given was that the facilities had become decrepit. It has been 50 years since the Shihoro Agricultural Co-operative started the potato sprouting business, the only irradiation of food permitted under Japan’s Food Sanitation Law, but that has now come to an end.
They say the reason is that the facilities have become old, but if the irradiation project was going well, wouldn’t they have renewed the facilities and built more splendid ones? In recent years, irradiated potato production has continued to decline, to one tenth of its original volume. This is proof of the lack of social acceptance. This can be said to be the result of our opposition movement, which has been appealing to society about the problems of food irradiation. However, we must not be too optimistic. Radiation sterilisation of raw liver is being studied. Radiation sterilisation of spices is also pending and has not been withdrawn. Irradiated food from abroad, which is not permitted in Japan, continues to be imported and violated.
The liaison group held a lecture on food irradiation in September, reviewed 50 years of campaigning and shared information on future issues. We will hold another meeting on 31 October. We hope that many of you will join us and let’s put an end to food irradiation with the voice of consumers!