Fwd: GE in Japan
Thu, 09 Apr 1998 07:11:15 -0700
>Date: Thu, 9 Apr 1998 06:22:48 -0500
>From: BIODYNAMIC MAIL LIST <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Subject: GE in Japan
>From: Ban-GEF <Ban-GEF@lists.txinfinet.com>
>To: Ban-GEF@lists.txinfinet.com <Ban-GEF@lists.txinfinet.com>
>Date: Wednesday, April 08, 1998 3:28 PM
>Subject: HEALTH-JAPAN/ NO GENETICALLY-ALTERED FOOD PLEASE
>HEALTH-JAPAN/ NO GENETICALLY-ALTERED FOOD PLEASE
>April 8, 1998
> TOKYO -Inter Press Service via NewsEdge Corporation: A growing
>number of Japanese consumers are up in arms against the imports of
>genetically modified food products, which are not subject to labelling
>despite their easy availability here.
> Despite assurances from the government, consumer groups say these
>products could be hazardous to health and carry serious environmental
> "The Japanese are being used as guinea pigs by rich countries and
>their corporations in the experiment of expanding genetically modified
>food," says Setsuko Yasuda of the Consumer Union of Japan. "But the
>message from us is 'Stop.'"
> In 1996 the health ministry approved the local sale of 20 types of
>genetically modified food products, including soybeans and rapeseed
>that are an essential part of the Japanese diet.
> Genetically engineered soybeans and rapeseed, 90 percent of whose
>supply comes from imports, are resistant to herbicides. Bacterial genes
>in these crops allow them to tolerate chemical weed-killers. Genetically
>modified corn and potatoes secrete insecticidal toxins that kill pests.
> These innovations, produced under a process that involves taking
>genes from bacteria and carrying desired properties, then introducing
>them into plant genes. Plants are often genetically altered to become
>more resistant to herbicides and pests, making them easier to grow,
>cheaper and have longer shelf life.
> But Japanese activists are not all convinced about the merits of this
> The leading company Kirin Brewery recently paid an American
>company to obtain technology to develop in Japan genetically recombined
>tomatoes, which have longer storage lives.
> But the company decided to delay introduction of the tomatoes
>because Japanese consumers are "not ready", Kirin officials said. To
>keep the pressure up, Yasuda is leading a boycott campaign against
>Kirin products, an unprecedented move in Japan's usually docile
> Activists are also in the midst of a campaign, called "Down with
>Genetically Engineered Food," that was launched in November 1996 to
>press Tokyo for tighter regulations on genetically modified food. The
>campaign groups Yasuda's organization with environmental groups and
>500 local assemblies.
> As part of the campaign, Yasuda presented one million signatures to
>the health and welfare ministry last year, from consumers who asked
>that the imports of genetically engineered food products be halted till their
>health risks be scientifically evaluated.
> They demanded that the government establish a mandatory labeling
>process that would clearly differentiate between genetically modified
>products and those grown conventionally.
> "Europe, a major importer of genetically modified food from the U.S.,
>has a clear labeling system. This is the very least that can be done to
>protect the consumer," explained Yasuda.
> Officials say compulsory labelling would be difficult because Japan
>relies heavily on imported food and farm products.
> Yasuda, however, says the issue is tied to Japan's commitment to step
>up imports from overseas. "The government is dragging its feet on the
>issue because of pressure from the United States to increase imports of
>its products," she explained.
> In December 1997, the agricultural ministry dropped plans requiring
>food producers to state on labels whether a product was developed
>using genetic engineering technology. The reversal came after the U.S.
>complained that obligatory labeling would constitute a non-tariff trade
> Already, agricultural exports from the United States top the list of
>Japan's massive bill for food imports --10 percent of the national budget.
> Japan has been under pressure from Washington to open its markets,
>and in 1993 for instance had to open its rice market. Criticized for its
>ballooning trade surplus with the U.S., Tokyo has promised to join
>multilateral negotiations toward further liberalisation in 1999.
> Citizens' groups say the issue of food imports has highlighted Japan's
>heavy dependence on overseas markets and foreign farmers, since
>more than 50 percent of Japanese' calorie intake relies on foreign grown
> Noriko Iseki, an official at the health and welfare ministry, says
>genetically modified food imports are safe and cannot understand what
>all the fuss is about. "If the government thought the imports are a health
>hazard, then imports would be banned in the first place," she pointed out.
> The ministry now checks safety certificates that come with imports of
>genetically engineered food products from the U.S. and Canada.
> But Koa Tanaka, a chemistry professor at International Christian
>University, says consumers' fears may not be unreasonable.
> For instance, he cites reports that the use of chemical weed-killers on
>transgenic soybeans stimulate production of a soybean estrogen, a
>harmful substance similar to the female sex hormone.
> Since Japanese eat a lot of soybean products, ingesting products
>made with genetically modified soybean might have the harmful effect of
>making a male fetus become feminine or prevent the full formation of male
>genitals in babies, he explained.
> But proponents see genetically modified food products as an answer
>to global agricultural and food problems.
> "Genetically altered food will benefit farmers by enabling them to
>cultivate crops easier in shorter periods," said Tomomi Sakamoto of
>Monsanto Japan Ltd, which imports soybeans from the U.S. "With more
>food developed there can be distribution to people in developing
>[Copyright 1998, Inter Press Service]
>Opinions expressed through this list, whether by the moderator or by list
>members, are simply the opinions of the poster and do not necessarily
>reflect the opinions of BIODYNAMICS journal or of the BD Association of
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