Researchers call for relaxation of regulations on means of obtaining human embryos
A meeting of the joint MEXT-MHLW working group which is now drawing up guidelines for the production
and use of human embryos was held on 8 December 2006, at which means of obtaining embryos for use in
research was discussed. According to the current guidelines on human ES cells,
unused frozen embryos remaining after repromed
(see BJ December 2006
can be used for research purposes only after assent to do so has been given by both the husband and wife involved.
The guidelines which are now being drawn up also limit use of human embryos to repromed research purposes.
Kyoto University Graduate School
Professor Ryuuichi IDA and Sopia University Graduate School Professor Saku MACHINO stated that the new
guidelines should contain the same conditions as the human ES cell guidelines, since essentially
identical material is being dealt with. Researchers reacted very strongly to the arguments of these
two legal scholars. Norio NAKATSUJI, Director of the Kyoto University Institute for Frontier Medical
Sciences and others insisted that the assent from one of either the husband or wife involved should be
sufficient for use of the embryo. Unable to reach agreement before time ran out, the conclusion has
been held over until the next meeting of the working group.
On 29 November 2006, the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences
(NIAS) in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, showed a harvest of its cedar pollen
allergenic GM rice called
"Kita-ake" (in Japanese)
to the public. In total 450 kg, including the August harvest, will be used to conduct
human testing for safety assessment purposes in 2007.
In addition, on 27 November, 2006, the Nippon Paper Industries Co., Ltd.
responded to questions raised (in Japanese)
by a citizens'
organization regarding cultivation of the cedar pollen allergenic GM rice , as a project sponsored
by the MAFF, in a glasshouse at its factory in
Komatsushima (in Japanese)
, Tokushima Prefecture . The facility is capable of producing 700 kg of GM rice per
year, and "Nihonbare" will be used as the cultivated rice variety. There is no plan
to hold a public briefing concerning this project. The company said that there is a confidentiality
obligation in the agreement with the MAFF, and that therefore it cannot
comment any further.
There have been several reports published one after the other, concerning
the links between GM crop cultivation and bio-fuel development. On
21 November 2006, the US Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO)
published a report on bio-fuel. The report proposed measures to enable
US producers to play a role in producing raw material for the bio-fuel
industry. Additionally, on 17 November 2006, the USDA stated that there
is a need to relax regulations in order to help the growth of the US bio-fuel
industry. (Nikkei Biotech 2006/12/04)
In the same week, a research team at the University of Tennessee summarized
a report that stated that in order to reach bio-fuel goals,
a hundred million acres of agricultural land and pasture land
would be needed for producing crops for bio-fuel in addition to the current
800 million acres of agricultural land in the US.
On 16 November 2006, the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy
(NCFAP), a private-sector institution for th US biotech industry,
published its report on the effects of GM crop cultivation in the US. The
report mentioned that the GM maize growing area needs to be increased in order
to produce both food and bio-fuel.
(Agriculture online news 2006/11/21)
In Japan, the Agriculture and Livestock Industries Corporation (ALIC),
an independent administrative institution, published a
report (in Japanese)
entitled "Bioethanol production will produce fundamental shifts to the US agriculture".
The report concluded that after conducting a field survey in Minnesota, US production of bio-fuel
is continually increasing, and since it has the support of the
government will therefore "over a medium term be the only promising global
scale substitute fuel."