From Bio Journal - February 2003

GM tobacco field trial to be conducted in Bulgaria by RIKEN

The Japanese Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN) is going to conduct a field trial of disease tolerant GM tobacco in an isolated field in Bulgaria. This tobacco variety was developed to be tolerant against wildfire fungus, and is a joint research project with Agro Bio Institute in Bulgaria. The trial cultivation is expected to begin within the year 2003.
(Nikkei Biotech, 2002/12/16)

Cedar pollen allergen inserted into GM rice variety in Japan

A type of GM rice has been developed by a joint research group of Tokyo Jikeikai Medical University and Tohoku University. The group has inserted a cedar pollen allergen into a rice variety. The group announced the results of its study at the Japanese Society for Immunology (JSI) in December 2002. The result of an oral administration experiment on mice concluded that this GM rice would be available for hyposensitization treatment for cedar pollen allergy. However, there is a possible risk associated with mutant allergens, and also the risk of horizontal transfer of the allergen into other crops by gene flow. A safety assessment is due to be conducted. Similar GM rice research concerning pollen allergy treatments is also being carried out by the National Institute of Agrobiological Resources (NIAR).
(Nikkei Biotech, 2002/12/16)

Citizens' victory in Takatsuki JT Bio court case

On Dec. 24, 2002, the Osaka high court delivered a judgement regarding the public release of information concerning the Japan Tobacco's Central Pharmaceutical Research Institute, where genetic engineering research is conducted. The citizens have requested to see the blueprint of the institute's building that JT Bio submitted to the Takatsuki City authorities. The Osaka district court initially rejected the request in June 2002, but the citizens scored a come-from-behind victory in the high court. This was a landmark decision based on the acknowledgement of a possible threat to human life and health caused by activities undertaken at the institute. The high court ordered the information to be made available to the public because there was a possibility that this course of action could prevent harm from occurring in the future.

MHLW postpones finalization of guidelines for therapeutic uses of human stem cells

The 10th meeting of the specialist sub-committee (expert panel on the use of human stem cells for clinical research, under the MHLW's Health Sciences Council) considering clinical research using human stem cells, and which is preparing guidelines for clinical applications in regenerative medicine, was held on 26th December 2002 (see previous article). It had been intended that this meeting would finalize the draft guidelines so that public comment could be solicited early in 2003, and the guidelines published in March. However, it has proven impossible to finalize the draft guidelines due to a difference in opinion between the committee members over the sampling of cells from deceased fetuses resulting from abortions. Although the use of cells from such fetuses has been approved, the committee has been unable to reach agreement on just how this should be included in the guidelines. In the end, it was decided to postpone the decision until a further meeting.

Closeup: Japanese Government activities for 2003

MAFF: Food labelling

  • Guidelines for therapeutic uses of human stem cells
  • Reproductive assistance medicine
  • Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Food Derived from Biotechnology (MHWL website, Codex Alimentarius website)

Ministry of Environment: Cartagena protocol

Cabinet Office (Science and Technology Administration):
  • Dealing with human embryo issues
  • Establishment of a Food Safety Authority

(English Index)