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Pesticide Use in Japan

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:

Quote:

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. 

Read the reports on The Ecologist website

Japan Resources – 177

Please click here for our latest English newsletter: CUJ Japan Resources 177

We hope you will continue to stay updated with CUJ’s activities and news on our English website, and support our campaigns!

Contents:

From the Editors: Back to the Future?

New Campaign: Organic and Pesticide-free Ingredients for School Lunches

Urgent Request for Countermeasures Against the New Coronavirus

CUJ: Concerns Regarding Genome Editing of Fish

Almost Half a Million Signatures Supporting Our Gene-Editing Petition

CUJ and the No! GMO Campaign: Please Reply to Our Questions Regarding Glyphosate Use in Hokkaido

Request to cease pre-harvest glyphosate use in soybeans and please reply to our new concerns regarding its use (April 14, 2020)

To:

Hokuren Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives
Mr. Kazuyuki Uchida, Chairman of the Board

From:

No! GMO Campaign
Keisuke Amagasa
Consumers Union of Japan (CUJ)
Keisuke Amagasa, Co-Chairman
Kazuki Ono, Co-Chairman

Request to cease use of pre-harvest glyphosate in soybeans and reply to questions regarding its use

In response to our questionnaire dated March 17 2020, you responded on March 27 by e-mail, but you did not answer our questions 1 to 4.

Domestic agriculture is in a deep crisis due to trade agreements such as the TPP, the EU-Japan EPA, and the US-Japan FTA. We believe that the pursuit of safety in order to compete with cheap imported agricultural products is the best way to increase confidence in domestic agriculture and to survive. Many of the JAs under your organization are actively reducing the use of pesticides and pursuing environmentally friendly agriculture. Not only do we want you to produce safe agricultural products, but we also want to support domestic agriculture, which is responsible for Japan’s food self-sufficiency, and we worry about the health of the producers who are spraying pesticides.

Once again, we would like to ask you the following questions, and we would appreciate your sincere responses. Thank you for your time, but we ask that you respond in writing by April 28. The responses will be published on the website of Consumers Union of Japan.

1. What is your view on the fact that the herbicide glyphosate (product name Roundup, etc.) has been assessed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a specialized organization of the WHO, as “probably carcinogenic to humans” and its use has been regulated overseas and there have been a series of lawsuits.

2. You responded that you are complying with the Japanese legislation, but although glyphosate is applied to annual weeds on soybeans under the Pesticide Control Law, it is not applied as a wilting agent on soybeans. If glyphosate is sprayed on soybean plots just before harvest, not only weeds are affected, but soybeans are also affected, so we would like to raise the question about whether it is actually legal or not.

3. We heard that your Federation promoted the method of spraying glyphosate on soybeans just before harvesting to its affiliated JAs. Please stop spraying glyphosate because of these problems and concerns.

4. As a Federation responsible for Hokkaido’s agriculture, which accounts for more than 10% of Japan’s agricultural production, you have a responsibility not only to Hokkaido’s producers, but also to consumers throughout Japan who demand domestic agricultural products. Consumers expect that Hokkaido’s agricultural products are produced in cooler areas and use less pesticides, which makes them a reliable brand. We, the consumers, expect Hokkaido agriculture to reduce pesticides. The issue is not only if they are currently legal or not, but if they are harmful to the ecosystem, producers and consumers. What are your views on the pursuit of environmentally friendly agriculture?

Glyphosate on Soybeans in Hokkaido?

Consumers Union of Japan got this very brief reply from conventional soybean growers in Hokkaido, represented by Hokuren Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives, founded in 1919 in Sapporo, Japan:

Thank you very much for your valuable comments and suggestions.

All of the agricultural products handled by the Federation are produced in compliance with the Pesticide Control Law and are used in an appropriate manner.

Thank you very much for your understanding.

 

This was in response to our request to cease pre-harvest glyphosate use in soybeans as well as an open questionnaire on its use (March 17, 2020)

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From Consumers Union of Japan                        March 17, 2020.

To:

Hokuren Federation of Agricultural Cooperative
Mr. Kazuyuki Uchida, Chairman of the Board

From:

No! GMO Campaign
Keisuke Amagasa
Consumers Union of Japan (CUJ)
Keisuke Amagasa, Co-Chairman
Kazuki Ono, Co-Chairman

Request to stop using pre-harvest glyphosate in soybeans as well as a questionnaire on its use

We are a consumer organization that is committed to food safety. We have taken a variety of initiatives to oppose genetically modified and genome-edited foods. We call for prudence in the use of pesticides associated with GMOs. In particular, in recent years, the toxicity of glyphosate herbicides has become apparent, and as regulations have progressed worldwide, the monitoring of these herbicides has been intensified.

The No! GMO Campaign sent you a questionnaire on October 7, 2019 regarding the application of the harvest herbicide glyphosate on soybeans, and we received an email response on the 29th of the same month. Subsequently, when our campaign conducted a residue survey of glyphosate in soybeans, glyphosate was detected in your Federation’s Hokkaido-grown soybeans.

There is widespread concern among consumers about glyphosate residues. We would like to request that you, as a Federation, instruct your member farmers to stop the use of glyphosate in soybeans before harvest.

We also ask the following questions. We apologize for the inconvenience, but please send us your response in writing by March 31. The responses will be published on the website of CUJ.

1. In your response on October 29 2019, you stated that you “will continue to raise awareness of the proper use of glyphosate in compliance with the contents of the government’s registration”, and you recommend the spraying of glyphosate before harvesting soybeans.

2, In the wake of the results in 2015 showing a direct causal link between glyphosate and cancer by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), there has been a spate of lawsuits by victims in the United States, with agrochemical company Bayer losing one case after another. Are you aware of this fact?

3. Following the lawsuits in the United States, lawsuits were filed by victims in Canada and Australia, and their use has been banned or regulated in many countries and municipalities, including EU countries. Considering such a situation, we do not think that the logic that just because the Japanese government approves of it makes much sense.

4, We, the consumers, have come to believe that domestic non-GMO soybeans are safe because many imported soybeans are genetically modified, and genome-edited soybeans are appearing in the United States. However, with the detection of glyphosate in soybeans grown in Hokkaido, there is a concern that they will no longer be safe because just because they are grown in Japan. Could you provide guidance to stop using glyphosate before harvesting? When, if at all, do you plan to give guidance on termination of the use of glyphosate as a pre-harvest herbicide? If you do not do it, please tell us why.

WHO: IARC Monograph on Glyphosate

 

 

 

CUJ: Concerns Regarding Genome Editing of Fish

An article appeared in Tokyo Shimbun on January 24, 2020 that reported on the use of genome editing to exterminate invasive fish. The research is being pushed forward as a study by the National Research Institute of Aquaculture.

The article noted that Bluegill was introduced from North America to Japan in around 1960. It fed on everything from crustaceans and insects to young fish and aquatic plants, and had a major impact on the ecosystem, including the disappearance of native species. There was a huge influence in particular in Lake Biwa in Shiga prefecture, where the damage was enormous. The National Research Institute of Aquaculture succeeded in analyzing the genome of the Bluegill and succeeded in cutting the corresponding genes for infertility in males. In the future, they will create a near-natural environment in a controlled quarantine area and collect data for three to five years. The goal is to raise them in an outdoor reservoir and eventually release them into Lake Biwa, according to Tokyo Shimbun.

Consequently, Consumers Union of Japan wrote to the research center on January 29 to express our concern and to ask a number of questions. We consider that this type of genome editing can have a large impact on related species, the natural environment, as well as the entire ecosystem. This impact due to the release of genome-edited fish must be analysed very carefully. On February 17 we received a reply from the research center. Here follows the questions and answers:

Question 1: Please explain briefly how the sterilization will be made using genome editing, in order to exterminate invasive fish (Bluegill) and how you intend to assess the environmental impact as a result of releasing such fish.

(Answer) We are at the advanced stage of creating infertile fish that will be released. The research institute is going to carefully assess the impact on the environment after the release of the sterlizied fish and the influence on the biota in the water as well as the predation and the multiplication.

Question 2: Although the fish will be made infertile, is there a possibility that the genes for sterilization can spread to other related species including native fish and its offspring through cross breeding?

(Answer) There are no native fish of the same species as Bluegill (Sunfish family) in Japan. Because of this, we think the possibility that the sterilization genes will spread through cross breeding is zero. Also, Largemouth bass belongs to the Sunfish family but there are no reports of Largemouth bass cross breeding with Bluegill in the natural environment. Even so, we are consulting with related public administration and experts to get their opinion on wether such cross breeding is possible or not.

Question 3: Regarding sterilization, are you considering what may happen if offspring from such fish spread for example through artificial causes to water areas where they are a native species, such as North America?

The possibility that offspring of such fish will move to other water areas in Japan is being considered. It is also not impossible to imagine that eggs etc. from such fish will be transported by someone and discharged in North America. However, the sterilized populations we plan to develop will not reduce Bluegill populations in such waters unless we continue to release significant numbers into the same waters for decades. Therefore, we believe that the impact on Bluegill populations in a given body of water will be temporary, even if they move or are released. We expect to cover this point in the environmental impact assessment. Indeed, if infertile individuals are deliberately released in large numbers to their place of origin or elsewhere on an ongoing basis, this may lead to a decline in Bluegill populations in their original habitat. We plan to ask for the opinion from related public administrations and experts in order to get a clear picture of what may or may not happen and what measures need to be taken.

Question 4: Gene drive technology can be used to create sterilization. Are you considering the possibility of using gene drive technology?

(Answer) It would be very dangerous if offspring of such fish with sterilization from gene drive technology were to spread to the place where they are a native species as it can lead to extermination. Therefore we are thinking that it would be improper to use gene drive technology to extermine invasive fish in Japan. We are not planning to use it in the future either, even if there are technical developments in that field.

Question 5: If such fish and their offspring with infertility genes were to be caught, there is a possibility that they would be eaten by humans. Have you considered the food safety issue or do you plan to do such assessment?

(Answer) We are considering the possibility that such infertile fish or their offspring could be eaten. We cannot say that it would not happen. We are planning to ask related public administration and experts for their assessment of the food safety issue, once we are at that stage of development of sterilization.