From Bio Journal - December 2005

Research report on cedar pollen allergenic GM rice

On 31 October 2005, the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences (NIAS), The Institute of Medical Science of the University of Tokyo, and Shimane University published experimental results showing that use of cedar pollen allergenic GM rice (see BJ Nov 2005) with mice alleviated the allergenic reaction. According to the report, in an experiment where mice were first fed the GM rice and then made to inhale cedar pollen, the IgE antibody, which causes the allergenic reaction, histamine, and the frequency of sneezing were all reduced when compared with a control group. Further, the mice used in the experiment did not suffer from pollen allergy. Apparently the next step will be to carry out experiments with monkeys, and then move on to humans, effect and toxicity being assessed.

Application for new GM food additive

San-eigen FFI Co. Ltd. has applied to the MHLW for the first GM gelatinizing agent, a polysaccharide gelan gum, for approval as food additive. This product was developed by the American CP Kelko and hitherto San-eigen FFI has been selling this company's line of gelan gums. Gelan gum is a polysaccharide made using micro-organisms and is used as a gelatinizing agent. (Nikkei Biotech 2005/10/14)

GM maize seed contamination in Hokkaido

A farmer in Naganuma Town, Hokkaido, sprayed a field with Roundup following harvest to exterminate weeds, but found that two clumps failed to die. Sending one of these for testing it was found to be GM maize. This is evidence supporting the idea that as seed contamination is becoming serious in the USA, as long as Japan uses American seed it will be contaminated with GM maize. (Japan Agricultural Newspaper 2005/10/19)

NGO conference on GM rice development in Thailand

An international conference on GM rice convened by Greenpeace Southeast Asia was held in Suphanburi, Thailand on 12-13 October 2005. 17 organisations from 10 countries took part and confirmed that they would cooperate on opposing GM rice development now being carried out in many countries in Asia. A declaration demanding that FAO suspend support for GM crops and GM food and give support to sound agriculture that protects the environment was adopted at the conference and delivered to the FAO office in Bangkok on 14 October.

Approval for Ajinomoto GM food additive

On 20 October 2005 the GM food specialist committee of the Food Safety Commission judged that the safety of the L-arginine (an essential amino acid) developed by Ajinomoto had been confirmed. It is due to be approved following the solicitation of public comments. Mass produced from genetically engineered E.coli bacteria, the amino acid is intended for use as a flavouring in health foods.

Metropolitan Tokyo drafts GM crop cultivation guidelines

On 31 October 2005 Metropolitan Tokyo finalised a "Report of the Investigative Committee on the Cultivation of GM crops". At the same time they made a call for opinions on a "Draft Guidelines for Handling GM Crop Cultivation". The draft guidelines include freedom of information and the gaining of the understanding of surrounding residents and farmers, and basic procedures for the prevention of crossbreeding and contamination, as have been included in similar guidelines from other regional authorities, but this draft also contains a section on "handling cases of economic damage". Because these are "guidelines" there will be no enforceable punishments, but the fact that a notion close to compensation for damage has been included is unprecedented.

GM regulations in Chiba Prefecture food safety by-law draft

At the end of October, Chiba Prefecture announced the publication of the Report of the Working Party on the Chiba Prefecture Food Safety Bylaw (tentative title), entitled "For a Safe and Secure 'Chiba food'" (See BJ Nov 2005). It is stated in the report that the following will be included in the by-law concerning GM crops and food.
  1. Pertinent information on GM crops and food will be provided.
  2. "Necessary measures" will be taken to prevent crossbreeding and contamination of other crops by GM crop cultivation and GM volunteer plants.
The draft by-law is due to be completed by the end of this year and presented to the prefectural council in February 2006.

Shiga Prefecture survey shows residents sceptical on GM food

Shiga Prefecture has conducted a survey of prefecture residents which shows that they are sceptical about GM food. 300 residents between the ages of 20 and 69 were surveyed in June 2005, 252 responses being received. 77% of respondents expressed "anxiety" or "some anxiety" about eating GM food, with 16.3% replying that they were "not concerned" or "not very concerned" about eating GM food. (Kyoto Shinbun 2005/10/17)

GM crop regulation guidelines and by-laws continue to appear in Japanese regions

The formulation of GM crop regulations in the form of by-laws and guidelines and so on, having started in Hokkaido, are now being considered in many other parts of Japan. Including Niigata Prefecture, where a new GM crop cultivation by-law is currently under discussion, nine regional authorities have now come out with some kind of regulation. Although they vary from the very strict by-law regulations in Hokkaido to the regulatory weak "policy" of Ibaraki, the prevention of crossbreeding and contamination is a common element in all of them.

The current state of GM crop cultivation regulation by-laws and guidelines in Japanese prefectures
GM crop cultivation regulation by-lawHokkaido (to be enforced from Jan 06)
Niigata Prefecture
GM regulation included in food safety by-lawChiba Prefecture
Regulatory guidelines on GM crop cultivationIwate Prefecture (enforced from Sept 04)
Shiga Prefecture (enforced from Aug 04)
Metropolitan Tokyo, Tokushima Prefecture
Policy on GM crop cultivationIbaraki Prefecture (enforced from March 03)

  • Where there is no mention of enforcement the by-law or guideline is still in preparation.
  • In addition to the above, Shimane Prefecture decided to cease GM crop development in October 2005 (see BJ Nov 2005)
  • Japanese administrative regions below the state are basically "prefectures", but Hokkaido is a "Do", Metropolitan Tokyo is a "To", and Kyoto and Osaka are known as "Fu", which are all the equivalent of "prefecture".

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