From Bio Journal - February 2002

3 more approvals for GM food, food additives

On Dec. 17, 2001, the Food Sanitation Biotechnology Committee of Pharmaceutical Affairs and the Food Sanitation Council at the Department of Food Safety, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) gave further approval for an insect-resistant GM corn (MON863) of Monsanto Japan Ltd. and also food additives a-Amylase (SP961) and Pullulanase (SP962) of Novozymes Japan Ltd. as safe for human consumption. Monsanto's coleoptera resistant GM corn is not approved in the US, and moreover this particular GM corn contains a type of new toxic substance (Cry3Bb1) which kills soil insects. According to Novozymes Japan's application material, this Pullulanase contains three types of antibiotic resistant genes. It has been pointed out that the overuse of antibiotic resistant genes could increase the risk of antibiotic resistant bacteria. The great number of antibiotics in use could encourage the appearance of bacteria with multiple antibiotic resistance, with increased health risks to society.

Life Ethics Committee starts discussion on human-embryo research

On Nov. 6, 2001, the Life Ethics Committee of the Council for Science and Technology within the Cabinet Office finally started a discussion on the use of human embryos, at its 9th meeting. There is already an on-going process at the Committee on Medical Technology for Reproductive Treatment to draw up a basic guideline for the use of donor sperms, eggs and embryos, but it is only for the purpose of reproductive treatment. Therefore, this will be the first time the issue of human-embryo use in Japan has been discussed publicly. However there are doubts if this will be a meaningful discussion or not. The issue should have been discussed long before drafting the Law for Regulation of Human Cloning Techniques and the Guidelines on Establishment and Utilization of Human Embryonic Stem Cells. Critics say the former Science and Technology Agency prepared those laws and guidelines in order to go forward with the new technology to use human-embryos without any basic foundation. At its 10th meeting, the Life Ethics Committee discussed the future plan to examine the issue of human-embryo research, but even the Committee members seemed confused about what really to discuss.

(English Index)