Tag Archives: Trade

Wild-growing GM Canola Still a Problem

Activists have for many years participated in actions around harbours all around Japan. They collect and test wild-growing canola along roads and near food oil factories. The import of Genetically Modified canola, which started in the late 1990s, led to GM plants growing wild, an unintentional effect that poses a risk to the biodiversity of similar plants. Canola is a member of the Brassica genus and many other edible plants are grown in Japan, thus increasing the risk that cross-contamination will occur of related foods like cabbage or broccoli.

In 2006, the government started taking an interest in this issue, after intense lobbying by CUJ and the No! GMO Campaign, who are helping to organise the testing. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (MAFF) has again this year announced that they have found GM canola growing wild around seven harbours (Tomakomai, Kashima, Chiba, Nagoya, Yokkaichi, Kobe and Hakata). They also found wild-growing GM soy at one harbour (Hakata).

It is believed that the imported seeds easily fall off conveyor belts and lorries as they are transported from the ships that enter the harbours. According to Bio Journal, when 165 individual seeds of Brassica napus were tested, 20 were discovered to have resistance to both glyphosate and glufosinate.

Read more: MAFF reports results of GM rapeseed, GM soy wild volunteer survey

Read CUJ’s 2010 report about wild-growing canola

Open Letter to Australia: Please Regulate New GM Technologies Strictly


Minister Bridget McKenzie

Parliament House, Canberra  ACT 2600


February 20, 2019

We are Consumers Union of Japan, founded in 1969, as a member-based consumer organization. One of our main concerns is the many problems with genetically modified organisms (GMO) and GM food. Consumers in Japan are strongly opposed to GM technology and do not want to eat such products.

In light of this, we are alarmed to hear that Australia is considering to deregulate new GM technologies, including CRISPR, in animals, plants and microbes. Japanese consumers would not at all be willing to eat such products, either. We do not believe the claims that these new technologies are “precise” or “predictable” but regard them with the same mistrust as older GM technologies, that can harm biological diversity, as well as pose unknown risks to human health.

Please regulate new GM technologies as strictly if not even stricter than older GM technologies, or you risk harming Australia’s image as a food producer here in Japan, and we will boycott all such products.

Best regards,

Keisuke Amagasa (Co-chair)

Kazuoki Ono (Co-chair)


Consumers Union of Japan

Nishi Waseda 1-9-19-207

Shinjuku-Ku, Tokyo

Japan 169-0051

Japan’s Consumers See No Merits from TPP


Statement of Consumers Union of Japan

Japan’s Consumers See No Merits from TPP

March 9, 2018

With the controversial signing today of the TPP11 in Chile, Consumers Union of Japan is concerned that “consumers” are not mentioned even once in the formal agreement. “There can be no merits to our health or the environment, or to future generations, when only the interests of private corporations were taken into concern by the TPP negotiators,” says Koketsu Michiyo, General Secretary of CUJ. “More trade in products like cars and beef will further harm the climate, and make life even more difficult for Japan’s farmers, without any consideration of our democratic rights as citizens,” notes Ono Kazuoki, Co-chair of CUJ. “We are not in favour of a trade agreement that erodes rather than strengthens consumers’ right to know, for example if the imported food and feed is genetically modified or not,” says Amagasa Keisuke, Co-chair of CUJ.

The lack of proper consultation with stakeholders by the Japanese government, the secrecy during the negotiations, and the rush to sign the agreement even after the United States pulled out, are further problems that Consumers Union of Japan have identified, together with other allies in civil society in Japan and in the 10 other countries involved.

Consumers Union of Japan

1-9-19-207 Nishi-Waseda,

Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan

Consumers Union of Japan (CUJ) is a politically and financially independent non-governmental organization (NGO). CUJ is funded by membership fees, sales of its publications and donations. CUJ was founded in April 1969 as Japan’s first nationwide grassroots consumer organization.


Consumers in Japan and Europe want Guarantees for a Positive Trade Agreement

Consumers Union of Japan and The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) would like to provide input on the EU-Japan trade agreement. The technical negotiations between Japan and the EU are about to start and the final agreement will cover a broad range of economic sectors and inevitably affect consumers. This phase provides the opportunity for both sides to demonstrate that trade can deliver to consumers.

Commissioner Cecilia Malmström
European Commission
Rue de la Loi, 200 1049 Brussels Belgium

Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko
Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Cabinet Secretariat
1-6-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100 – 8968, Japan

September 6, 2017

Subject: Consumers in Japan and Europe want guarantees for a positive trade agreement

Dear Commissioner Malmström,
Dear Minister Seko,
Dear Minister Kono,

Consumers Union of Japan and The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) would like to provide input on the EU-Japan trade agreement. The technical negotiations between Japan and the EU are about to start and the final agreement will cover a broad range of economic sectors and inevitably affect consumers. This phase provides the opportunity for both sides to demonstrate that trade can deliver to consumers.

Place consumers at the heart of the agreement
A trade agreement is not only about getting better market access for companies. It is also about delivering real benefits to consumers while ensuring they are protected. Unfortunately, the benefits for consumers are not yet clear. This is because consumer benefits have not been placed at the heart of the agreement at the early stages of the process. For this to happen, we recommend applying the checklist in attachment to the entire agreement.

Better involve consumer organisations
Modern trade agreements like the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement are supposed to be designed for all, including consumers. For this to happen, consumer organisations must be involved in the negotiations phase and beyond. If properly involved in the negotiating and implementing processes, consumer organisations can provide constructive input and contribute to a deal which benefits consumers. We call on you to explicitly mention consumer organisations as stakeholders in the article on the domestic advisory group of the Chapter for Trade and Sustainable Development.

Refrain from including an investor to State dispute settlement
Investor to State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) systems have proven harmful to consumers and the public interest in the past, as foreign investors have used them to challenge and undermine consumer protections. Despite some improvements proposed by the EU with the Investment Court System and the idea of creating a multilateral court, there are high risks for consumers. Foreign investors will still be able to threaten governments with lawsuits for compensation when governments, for example, adopt ambitious laws that protect consumers. This could deter governments from introducing new protections and lead to a regulatory chill. Moreover, we need to see empirical evidence of the need for such a system between the EU and Japan which would only protect investors and keep foreign direct investment flowing. Therefore, our organisations call on you to refrain from introducing such systems in the final agreement.

Ensure better food labelling rules

This trade agreement should improve food labelling rules so that Japanese consumers have at least the same level of information as consumers in Europe. This is especially the case for food additives, the right to know what foods are genetically modified or not, and which foods contain, consist of or are obtained from GMOs. Country of origin labels should be encouraged as they provide consumers with the right to know where food is coming from.

Make sure regulatory dialogue benefits and protects consumers
Dialogue between EU and Japanese regulators should have the firm objective to enhance consumer welfare. These regulatory exchanges must remain voluntary. However, a trade agreement is not the place to define guidelines on good regulatory practices, notably as Governments want to protect their right to regulate.

Transparency must continue
Transparency is a precondition for people to trust trade agreements. We welcomed the publication of the agreed texts on the EU side by the time of the political conclusion. To restore consumer trust in trade deals, we urgently call on both sides to publish their negotiating positions, texts, including consolidated versions, and communicate better on the content of the future agreement during this technical phase. In particular, the agreed texts must be translated into Japanese and published as soon as possible.

We trust that you will take our views into account and we remain at your disposal for further discussion.

Yours sincerely,

Monique Goyens
Director General
European Consumer Organisation

Ono Kazuoki & Amagasa Keisuke
Consumers Union of Japan

Critics Want UNIQLO to Improve Factory Conditions

Interview with SACOM’s Sophie Chen: “Violation of Human Rights at UNIQLO Factories Continues”


Fast Retailing (FR) has grown to become Japan’s top fashion enterprise, known for selling high quality clothes at relatively low prices under the brand name UNIQLO. One would assume that such high performance is due to efforts including planning and reducing waste in the entire chain from production to sales. Instead, there is a dark side to the success of FR and UNIQLO including long overtime conditions and general violations of workers’ human rights. Consumers Union of Japan talked to Sophie Chen at the Hong Kong-based NGO Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) when she visited Tokyo in March, 2016, together with Human Rights Now. This was her second visit to Japan after revealing the results of SACOM’s first investigation in January, 2015.


Q: Please tell us about the purpose of your second visit to Japan!


A: In January 2015, Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM), Labour Action China (LAC), and a Tokyo-based organization, Human Rights Now, jointly launched the first investigation into labour conditions at two of UNIQLO’s key suppliers in China: Pacific Textile Ltd (Pan Yu) and Dongguan Luen Thai Garment Co., Ltd. Fast Retailing acknowledged the validity of several of our findings. In July 2015 they released a CSR action report listing the corrections they claimed to have done. For example, they suggested reducing the amount of overtime at the factories and a renewal of the drainage system to avoid exposure to toxic chemicals. Following this, we completed a follow-up investigation to examine whether the corrective measures FR claimed had in fact been done, and to check the current working condition in both factories. We found that employers still don’t pay the mandatory social insurance premiums, which include pension and maternity leave insurance. Workers are not educated about the risks associated with chemicals, and protective gear is not made available. As for overtime, it is still not unusual for workers to do up to 150 hours a month, in addition to their regular 160 hours.


The purpose of this visit is to make Japanese consumers aware of the violations against workers’ human rights in new factories in China and Cambodia. This is the reality. For example, labour unions that should represent the workers and propose improvements are being pressured by the factory owners, and fair union elections are difficult to carry out. There have even been cases of dismissal and police arrests of union leaders.


Q: What does Fast Retailing say?


A: Well, the factories that makes UNIQLO’s clothes insist that the responsibility lies with Fast Retailing, but at the same time, the brand itself is where the real profits come. Thus UNIQLO’s role in the big supply chain means that they should shoulder the largest responsibility. It could be argued that the severe working conditions are a direct result of FR’s high quality standards. Factories that don’t deliver will not get the contracts, and penalties are imposed when there are delays or issues. Due to the low profit margin at the factory level, the workers’ salaries are low. This means that workers must work overtime to be able to make a living. Companies like H&M have shown that it is possible to step in and change the conditions for the factory workers that supply their clothes. We are simply asking Fast Retailing to make these changes.


Q: What can consumers do?


A: When buying clothes, people need to think about the working conditions and imagine the situation that those who make them are in. When consumers start making an appeal to producers, their voices cannot be ignored. For example, it is effective to ask Fast Retailing about their CSR report. It will also be necessary to accept that we have to pay a higher price. It is worth pointing out that the inexpensive clothes are the reason people are being exploited. Don’t you think it is important to walk around dressed in a way that you know you have paid a fair price for?

(Interview by Yoko Sugiura & Kaori Hirouchi. Article first published in CUJ’s newsletter, Shouhisha Report No. 1584 April 20, 2016))