From Bio Journal - July 2002
No settlement on labeling issue in Codex Committee meeting
The Codex Alimentarius Committee on Food Labelling that discusses labelling of GM food met in Halifax, Canada, May 6-10. There are three different opinions on the debate: The US claims that labelling is unnecessary. Japan and some other countries consider labelling to be unnecessary if a product does not contain DNA and/or protein derivatives from GMO ingredients. Thirdly, India and other countries demanded full labelling for GM food. European country opinions were divided between support for either Japan or India. The prospect of reaching consensus seems to be quite distant yet.
Monsanto Japan sells herbicide business
On May 30, Monsanto Co. and Monsanto Japan both agreed to sell its agri-chemical business in Japan to Nissan Chemical Industries, Ltd. The biggest selling product RoundUp will be sold domestically by Nissan Chemical from now on. Monsanto Japan will concentrate its business around biotechnology e.g. GM crops.
Japan Tobacco Inc. pulls out of Orynova
Japan Tobacco Inc. has broken off the Orynova business engagement with Syngenta Seeds AG (Switzerland). Orynova was created as a joint project to conduct R&D on GM rice. Japan Tobacco announced on May 9, that it will cancel the contract by July 1. After the disengagement, Japan Tobacco will continue its biotech business, and Syngenta will take over Orynova and the seed breeding business. There no longer seems to be any foreseeable future for Orynova's genetically modified low-gluten rice for sake brewing.
De facto approval of import of unapproved GM crops by MAFF
The Feed Sub-Committee of the MAFF Agricultural Material Council agreed on guidelines for unapproved GM crops on April 24. A less than one percent contamination of such crops will be allowed. Although the condition that the feed has "passed an inspection of a country which has safety inspection standards at least as strict as Japan's" is attached to the guidelines, this does mean that from now on contamination by such unapproved GM crops as StarLink will no longer be an infringement of any regulation.
MAFF R&D project on "Regeneration of Food and Agriculture"
At a Plenary Session of the General Council on Science and Technology on April 23, the Japanese Government announced technology development projects for reviving the stagnating Japanese economy. The various ministries gave examples of areas which would receive budgetary priority, but notably many projects included some mixture of IT and biotechnology. MAFF revealed an R&D project called "Regeneration of Food and Agriculture" which shows that it intends to push forward with R&D centred on the post-rice genome research. Details of the research project are expected to be made public in June.
MAFF: Traceability to begin with beef in 2003?
In its "Plan for revitalisation of 'food' and 'agriculture'", announced by MAFF on April 11, the ministry has announced its intention of introducing a traceability system by 2003. This is a counter-measure against the sharp drop in confidence of food safety following the spate of deliberate food package mis-labelling and other irregularities triggered by the discovery of BSE in Japan. It is uncertain whether this system will cover GM crops or not, and there is a high possibility that it will only cover beef for the time being.
National Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences (NIAES) gives public presentation
Prior to carrying out isolated cultivation trials of four plant types from three different varieties, including a GM rice variety containing a corn (maize) gene, the independent NIAES gave a public presentation on May 30 at its facility in Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture. The presentation was a mere 90 minutes, including an inspection tour of the fields to be used in the trials, and there was apparently hardly any time for questions or serious discussion.