From Bio Journal - June 2002
Honda Motor Co., Ltd. joins with Nagoya University to Develop a Non-Lodging, High-Yield Rice
Honda Motor Co., Ltd., which along with another car manufacturer, Toyota, has entered the biotechnology arena, has begun moves to develop a GM rice variety. As reported in several newspapers in Japan, Honda announced on April 18, 2002, that its subsidiary Honda R&D Co., Ltd., in partnership with a team headed by Professor Matsuoka Makoto at Nagoya University had elucidated the mechanism of the gene for stalk-shortening in rice. If the stalk can be shortened, the rice is less likely to lodge (be flattened by wind or storms), and this could lead to an increase in yields. Honda intends to carry out further work to elucidate related genes and hopes that at some future date this will lead to the development of high-yielding rice varieties.
DuPont's Next: High-Isoflavone Soy
DuPont currently has approval to market high-oleic acid GM soy in Japan, but according to the Nikkei Biotech newspaper of March 25, 2002, the company has announced that the next GM crop it will be applying for approval for will be high-isoflavone soy.
In contrast to Monsanto, DuPont is basing its strategy on the development and marketing of second generation GM crops, those which have some nutritional, medical, or other benefit for the consumer. Isoflavones are female hormone-like chemicals which are found naturally in the germ of soy, and are thought to be effective for menopausal disorders and osteoporosis. It is thought that DuPont will be marketing the high-isoflavone soy as a health food.
Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare Creates a Mountain of Problems with its Approval of the "Right to Know Your Roots"
The Sub-Committee for Auxiliary Reproductive Medicine (a consultative body of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare under the Council for Health Sciences), which has been deliberating guidelines for fertility treatments, had its 12th meeting on 9th May 2002. As reported in newspapers, at the previous meeting of the sub-committee a policy of recognizing the right of children to know their genetic origin was agreed on. This refers to the right to know who one's genetic parents are in cases where a child is born from sperm or an ovum donated by a third party and artificial fertilization is carried out outside the body of the mother. The sub-committee has probably given its approval to the right to know one's genetic origins as this is now the global trend. However, at the same time this creates a huge number of problems.
Firstly, just how much personal information is to be made available to the child concerning the donor of the sperm or ovum? Then there is the problem of the child's "right to know the means of birth." If the child is not informed of the means of birth, then the notion of wishing to know the genetic parent does not arise. As long as the notification of the means of birth remains the prerogative of the social parents, it is possible that this right to know one's genetic parents will not in fact be exercised. It seems that further deliberations will be necessary, including problems concerning inheritance, which are covered by civil law.