From Bio Journal - July 2006

NIAES GM soy outcrossing research

On 18 May 2006, the National Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences (NIAES) announced its research project plan for this year concerning outcrossing of GM soybeans and Tsuru (wild soybean) legume that the institute began last year (See BJ March 2005). Last year, they carried out 1) crossbreeding of GM soybeans and conventional soybeans, 2) crossbreeding of GM soybeans and Tsuru legume. For the research 2), a basic study was conducted to examine the flowering period as well as the characteristics of crossbred seeds. According to this year's plan, to be carried out at the institute's own research farm land, Tsuru legume will planted 2 meters to 10 meters away from GM soybeans and then the gene sequence of the resulting Tsuru seeds will be analyzed.

GM rice transplanting at NARC

Definsin-producing GM rice, developed by Hokuriku Research Center of the National Agricultural Research Center will be transplanted on 20 July 2006. On 20 April, the Center held a briefing session including only persons who live within 300 meters of the Center. 13 persons attended. There was another session for wider participation planned for 25 April, but it was cancelled without any explanation.

According to the Center, their plan is to plant out 1000 seedlings of the GM rice on two are (200 m2) of paddy field. Last year, the Center planted out the GM rice twice; on 31 May and on 29 June, and for the second planting the time of flowering was considered not to coincide with the flowering of Koshihikari (the most popular rice variety). However, the timing did not work out as planned, and this year's single planting was set to come much later.

METI supports pharmaceutical production from GM plants

The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has been calling for institutes to take part in a plan for producing high value-added substances from GM plants and so on. The list of participating institutes was announced on 30 May 2006, and includes the following as concerns GM plants.

List of institutes involved in producing chemical substances from GM plants
Substance producedGM plant usedInstitute involved
Raw material for livestock oral vaccinePotatoAIST - National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology and others
Miraculin for prevention of diabetesTomatoTsukuba University and others
Thioredoxin, skin anti-inflammatory agentLettuceNara Institute of Science and Technology - a graduate university - and others
Antitumor activity substanceMiyakogusa (lotus japonicus) and mini-tomatoKyoto University and others

Metropolitan Tokyo government draws up GM crop cultivation guidelines

On 18 May 2006, the Bureau of Industrial and Labor Affairs under the Tokyo metropolitan government drew up its policy for GM crop cultivation entitled "Guidelines concerning GM crop cultivation within the Tokyo Metropolitan district".

One of the unique characteristics of the guidelines is that economic damage caused by GM crop cultivation is included for the first time in Japan. However, there is a notandum which states that it will not consider losses caused by "harmful rumours" and so on. Therefore the guidelines will not go as far as indemnifying all farmers' damage.

Codex Task Force on Biotechnology WG meeting held

The Codex Task Force on Biotechnology, Animal Working Group (See BJ November 2005) met from 30May to 1 June 2006, in Brussels, Belgium, in order to develop a safety assessment standard for food derived from GM animals. The working group previously met in February in Tokyo, and produced a draft based on the Australian proposal that was developed by using the guideline for food derived from GM plants, taking into account the views of the WG members. However, the draft was rather shoddy as in many of the clauses the word "plants" had simply been replaced by "animals", and therefore the WG met again because the draft could not be submitted as it was for the Task Force meeting planned for November.

GMO-free-zone movement begins in South Korea

A rally to declare the inauguration of the GMO-free-zone movement in South Korea was held at Tianri, Wonju City, Kangwondo on 6 June 2006. The rally was sponsored by the Seoul Uri Agricultural Cooperative, the Tianri Branch of the Catholic Farmers Association that does business with the Agricultural Cooperative, and the Wonju Co-operative Union Movement Congress. On this day each year the Branch, in order to promote organic farming, holds an event in conjunction with consumers from the Uri Agricultural Cooperative to release ducks into paddy fields, and this year the ceremony to declare the beginning of the GMO-free-zone movement was timed to coincide with this event.

GM wheat symposium in Rome

A GM wheat (See BJ May, June and August 2004) symposium sponsored by the Italian non-governmental organization Consiglio di Diritti Genetici (Committee for Genetic Rights [CDG]) was held in Rome on 10 May 2006 to publicize the recently completed report on the investigation of possible effects of GM wheat on Italian society. Up until recently the Italian government had opposed the introduction of GM crops and food, but a possible policy shift is now anticipated following the Italian general election in April where the incumbent center-right government of Silvio Berlusconi was narrowly defeated by Romano Prodi, leader of the center-left The Union. The symposium was organized in order to apply strong pressure to the new government. Overseas participants included Dennis Olson, the GM wheat issue specialist from the U.S. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and consumer groups from Japan. Representatives from food- and agriculture-related organizations, and a specialist on agricultural issues from the new government were also invited.

Preliminary draft report on human clone embryo

The MEXT working group studying the production and use of the human clone embryo completed its preliminary draft report at a meeting on 6 June 2006. Guidelines have been formulated to remove the ban on research following the publication of the report. The report approves methods for obtaining and use of the basic research materials for the human clone embryo, the unfertilized human ova, such as ova taken for infertility treatments but unused, and ovaries removed in the course of sex-change operations. Gratis donation by volunteers is banned for the time being, but the working group will continue to consider under what conditions it could be allowed in the future (See BJ June 2006, BJ April 2006). Human clone embryo research will be limited to institutions that have already have sufficient research experience with monkey clone embryos.

Further, a central figure in HWANG Woo-suk's human embryonic stem cell research team at Seoul University (ROK), which produced the paper containing fabricated data concerning the production of ES cells from human clone embryos, Professor MOON Shinyong, had been invited to a hearing of the working group on 25 July 2005 (See BJ September 2005). However, since information given at the hearing was not used in the preparation of the preliminary draft, the working group has decided to commit the hearing to institutional amnesia.

GM crop approval data for June 2006

GM crops approved for open field cultivation (Type 1 usage)
(Biodiversity Impact Assessment Investigative Commission)
NameApproval Date*
RapeseedHerbicide tolerance and male stertilityBayer CropScienceMS8, OECD UI: ACS-BN005-812 June 2006
* Technically, approval is granted after public comments have been accepted.

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