From Bio Journal - August 2007

MAFF indicates the direction of GM crop promotion

On July 9, 2007, the MAFF investigative commission on how to proceed with R&D of GM farm products had its 6th meeting, at which a report concerning which GM crops would be further developed in Japan was finalised. "GM functional food varieties", "disease and insect tolerant GM varieties" and "stress resistant GM varieties" are to be brought into practical use within five years, and "high yield and functional GM feed value-added varieties", "hazardous substance absorption GM crops" and "biofuel GM crops" are to be brought to practical use within 10 years. Nothing new was presented and the GM development plan was essentially no different from those in the past.

Hyogo Prefecture test shows 60% of tofu products contain GMOs

The Consumer Science Research Institute of Hyogo Prefecture bought and tested three products each from 35 tofu brands from November 2006 to February 2007, and obtained GMO positive results from 20 tofu brands. A quantitative test was conducted on the 11 brands from which all three products showed GMO positive results, and it was found that seven brands had under the minimum limit of detection, but 0.1 to 1.7% of GMOs were detected from products of four brands. The Japanese GM food labelling regulation allows GMO content of up to 5% not to carry a label, however in the EU, GMO content of over 0.9% has to be labelled. According to the result, three brands out of five brands of organic tofu also showed a GMO positive result.

The Consumer Science Research Institute of Hyogo Prefecture

Original press release in Japanese

Kanagawa Prefecture to establish bylaw for regulation of GM crop cultivation

Having stated in his election manifesto that Kanagawa Prefecture would enact a bylaw for the regulation of GM crop cultivation, Governor Matsusawa is now initiating moves towards this end. A "Committee for Considering the Prevention of Crosspollination with GM Crops" has been formed and held its first meeting on 30 May 2007. The committee consists of eleven people, three academics, six farmers and farmers' union representatives, and two consumers. The committee is scheduled to meet four times, and to submit the draft bylaw to the prefectural council in February 2008. The bylaw is expected to be enforced from October 2008.

Human iPS cells not covered by national regulations

A meeting of a MEXT specialist panel was held on 26 June 2007 at which a policy not to handle "induced pluripotent stem cells" (iPS cells - produced from somatic cells and having almost the same characteristics as ES cells) in the same way as ES cells. Currently, Professor YAMANAKA Shinya of Kyoto University Institute for Frontier Medical Sciences has successfully produced iPS cells from the skin cells of mice and are pushing forward with research to produce human iPS cells. The specialist panel has thus discussed what regulations the state might put on this activity, but in the end it was decided that nothing need be done. The reason for this is that the production of ES cells requires the use of fertilized ova (the "germ of life"), but iPS cells can be made from somatic cells. Thus even if the product is the same, if the starting materials are different then the products can be treated as different things. The chair of the specialist panel, Research Advisor of the Riken research institute TOYOSHIMA Kumao stated that, "These two things start from different materials and if you think about them in the same way research will not be possible. Regarding human iPS cells, we will not handle them to either approve or not approve them." The other panel members agreed with him.

Human clone embryo research - discussion begins on abnormal fertilized ova

The discussions on human clone embryo research are at last entering the second stage. The draft first report completed at the last meeting of the MEXT working group covered only unfertilised ova as research materials, but at the meeting held on 26 June 2007 it was agreed that the use of abnormal fertilized ova should also be approved, and the discussions for the conditions of use were begun. At present, the abnormal ova to be covered will be the triploid ova*, which appear in ectosomatic fertilization. The background to the sudden change in policy of the working group is the success by a Harvard University research team in obtaining clone embryos from fertilized mouse triploid ova. Human clone embryo research will undoubtedly require a large number of ova. The working panel's aim is to expand the materials that can be used as much as possible in order to try to stave off a shortage of research materials. According to a calculation by Professor YOSHIMURA Yasunori of the Keio University School of Medicine, more than 10,000 triploid ova, usually discarded, are resulting from fertilization treatments annually in Japan.

* One form of chromosome abnormality. A normal somatic cell is a diploid combination of a pair of chromosomes from each of the spermatozoon and the ovum (monoploid), but when an ovum is fertilized by two spermatozoa, a triploid is formed. Triploid fetuses end in miscarriage.

MEXT begins consideration of promotion of order-made medicine

On 2 July 2007, a MEXT "Working Group for the Research Strategy for Promotion of the Realization of Order-Made Medicine" was established. (See BJ March 2007) This working group has been set up to effective usage of the samples collected since the beginning of the MEXT project to realize order-made medicine in April 2003. The collection of samples was supposed to reach samples from 300,000 patients over the period of five years of the project. At the first meeting, the project leader NAKAMURA Yuusuke, Director of Tokyo University Institute of Medical Science Human Genome Center, gave a report on the project thus far. By the end of May 2007, 258,184 samples had been collected.

GM Crop Approvals for June 2007

GM crops approved for open field cultivation (Type 1 usage)
(Biodiversity Impact Assessment Investigative Commission)
NameApproval Date*
SoyHerbicide tolerance + acetolactate synthase inhibitor toleranceDuPontDP-356043-5, OECD UI: DP-356043-522 June 2007

Brassica napus L
Herbicide tolerance + male infertility + fertility restorationBayer CropScienceMS8 x RF3, OECD UI: ACS-BN005-8 x ACS-BN-003-622 June 2007
Herbicide tolerance + male infertility + fertility restorationMS1 x RF1, OECD UI: ACS-BN004-7 x ACS-BN-001-422 June 2007
Herbicide tolerance + male infertility + fertility restorationMS1 x RF2, OECD UI: ACS-BN004-7 x ACS-BN-002-522 June 2007
* Technically, approval is granted after public comments have been accepted.

Closeup: Spilled GM canola still spreading

On 7 July 2007, the NO! GMO Campaign organised the 3rd debriefing session concerning the survey of spilled GM canola at Meiji University, Tokyo, and published the findings of this year's survey. The survey was carried out from March 2007 onwards by citizens in 43 prefectures, which was one prefecture more than in the previous year. A similar survey was also conducted in South Korea. 1620 samples were tested altogether.

Participants became more adept at using the test kit, thus the degree of precision was improved. The results were therefore based on the protein test, and only some in cases was double testing using the PCR method carried out. The results showed that 37 samples were GMO positive.

As in previous years, many co-op members and citizens all over Japan participated in the survey and the samples were collected not only around ports where canola (oilseed rape) is imported, around factories where canola oil is extracted, and along canola transportation routes, but also in some urban areas and on farmland.

A common finding in 2007 was that GM positive canola was found growing around ports in Yashiro City in Kumamoto Prefecture and Shibushi City in Kagoshima Prefecture, where animal feed factories are situated. From now on, samples will also need to be collected around other ports near feed factories.

At the debriefing session, Nouminren (farmers association) reported on its survey result, and since they conducted their survey especially near the port areas, a total of 87 samples were shown to have a GMO positive result.

The spilled GM canola problem is becoming a mundane event. It is not enough to allow oil mills to take care of imported canola seed spillage. The government and local municipalities are now being asked to take some responsibility for this problem.

2007 Survey of GM Rapeseed Volunteers from Seed Spillage
Survey SiteSample No.Positive samples
South Korea300
Other (36 sites)80200
Results from Hokkaido have not yet been compiled and so are not included.
RR=Roundup tolerant rapeseed, LL=Basta tolerant rapeseed
Nominren 2007 Survey of GM Rapeseed Volunteers from Seed Spillage
Survey SiteSample No.Positive samples
Chiba Central Port2566
Kanagawa. Yokohama Port2444
Shizuoka, Shimizu Port1021
Aichi, Nagoya Port1511
Mie, Yokkaichi Port38225
Mie, other locations1250
Hyougo, Kobe Port1510
Okayama, Uno Port842
Fukuoka, Hakata Port31149

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