From Bio Journal - July 2008

Trend: Many abnormalities in somatic cell cloned cattle, pigs and goats

The Food Safety Commission's specialist working panel on newly developed foods is currently discussing the safety of foods from somatic cell cloned livestock. (See BJ December 2007, BJ June 2008) On 4 June 2008, MAFF released its "Current State of Cloned Livestock Research", covering the period up to March 2008. According to the report, although thus far 551 head of somatic cell cloned cattle have been born, a mere 86 head of these are being raised or are undergoing tests in research institutes, and 303 head were stillborn, died immediately after birth, or died from illness. There has apparently been no improvement in the large numbers of abnormalities.

Further data on somatic cell cloned pigs and goats, covering the period up to September 2007, was contained in different material presented at a meeting on Risk Communication and shows the even more horrific state of somatic cell clones than with cattle. The report contains no reference to the causes of the abnormalities.

Table 1: Current State of Cloned Livestock Research in Japan (Somatic Cell Cloned Cattle, Pig and Goat)
Unit: head. Source: MAFF
Total Number of Somatic Cell Clone Cattle Births
(as of end March 2008)




Post-natal death


Death from sickness, etc


Death from accidents




Experimental slaughter


In research facilities, testing


In uterus




Total Number of Somatic Cell Clone Pig Births
(as of end September 2007)




Death from sickness, etc


Death from accidents


Experimental slaughter


In research facilities, testing


Total Number of Somatic Cell Clone Goat Births
(as of end September 2007)




Death from sickness, etc


In research facilities, testing


NIAS transplants cedar pollen allergy alleviating GM rice

On 17 May 2008 an explanatory public meeting concerning the planting of a GM rice variety in which cedar pollen peptides (see BJ June 2007) are produced in the rice grain was held at the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences (NIAS) in Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture, and the transplanting from seedlings was carried out on 10 June. This GM rice variety was cultivated in a hothouse in the grounds of Nippon Paper Industries Co., Ltd. Komatsushima Mill, in Komatsushima City, Tokushima Prefecture. The harvested rice will be to carry out animal and clinical testing.

Negative opinion on the production of reproductive cells from “pluripotent cells”

On 20 May 2008 a meeting of the MEXT working panel discussing the pros and cons of the production of reproductive cells from “pluripotent cells” (see BJ June 2008), human ES cells and so on, was held at which a hearing with Professor KAWANO Tomohiro of the Tokyo Agricultural University Faculty of Applied Life Sciences was conducted. Prof. Kawano researches in to the asexual generation and cloning of mammals and has published a paper about the mouse named Kaguya he produced from just an ovum in the journal Nature in April 2004. At the end of the hearing, Prof. Kawano concluded by stating that there are numerous problems from the ethical and social point of view to the production of reproductive cells from ES cells and so on, and that, “At the present time, we are at the stage of basic research on the mouse and judging where to go from that.”

Discussion on ova provision by volunteers at the joint committee on the human embryo
A meeting of the MEXT-MLHW joint committee working towards the formulation of guidelines on the production and use of human embryos (see BJ June 2007) was held on 2 June 2008. It was agreed that gratis provision of unfertilized ova would, on principle, be the method of obtaining ova for research purposes. Opinions among the committee members was split on the issue of whether or not to recognize the gratis provision of ova from volunteers. Because of the possibility that the provision of ova was not carried out through the ‘free will’ of the donor in the case that there were some expectation to donate ova on women connected with the research the secretariat had submitted an opposing proposal. To that, several members of the committee expressed opinions in favour of volunteer donation, saying that, “pure volunteers should be accepted.” Professor YOSHIMURA Yasunori of Keio University’s School of Medicine went one step further in stating, “Gratis volunteers are extremely difficult. I would feel far better if there were a firmly fixed remuneration for this. If we are going to do this through volunteers, it can probably only be done through remuneration.” No conclusion was reached before time ran out, and so the conclusion has been held over until the next or subsequent meeting of the joint committee.

GM crop approvals for May 2008

Table 2. GM crops approved for open field cultivation (Type 1 usage)
(Biodiversity Impact Assessment Investigative Commission)
Crop Trait Application
Name Approval Date*
Soy Bean Herbicide tolerance BASF Agro OECD UI: BPS-CV127-9 20 May 2008
Soy Bean Stearidon acid producing Monsanto Japan MON87769, OECD UI: MON-87769-7 20 May 2008
* Technically, approval is granted after public comments have been accepted.

Closeup: Two international meetings on biodiversity
The fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties, serving as both the meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP-MOP 4) and the ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 9) were held in Bonn, the former capital of West Germany. COP-MOP 4 was held between 12 and 16, and COP 9 was held between 19 and 30 May, 2008.

The Convention on Biological Diversity consists of 191 Parties and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety consists of 147 Parties (as of July 2008).

Timed to coincide with the COP-MOP meetings, an international conference called "Planet Diversity" was held between 12 and 16 May in a location close to the meetings' venue, attended by environmental organizations, citizens' organizations and farmers' organizations. Some governments together with multinational corporations are working towards globalization, which is a kind of unification, so in competition with that citizens of the world were gathered and stood together for the diversities of our world.

The citizens' conference was started in 2005. The first and second conferences were held in Berlin, Germany, and the third one was held in Brussels, Belgium, as the GMO Free Zone European conference in 2007. The participants were mostly Europeans. 721 participants from 100 countries took part in Planet Diversity this year.

On the first day, more than 6000 people attended a big demonstration "for biological diversity – regional, fair and GMO-free!"

The Japanese government acted as the mouthpiece of the USA and biotech companies

At the COP-MOP 4 meeting, the most controversial part of the negotiation was how to deal with the "Liability and Redress" issues concerning environmental impact and economical damage caused by the international trade of GMOs. Many cases of GMO contamination have been already occurred, and there is a strong demand for an international agreement. The biotech companies and the US government put a lot of effort into blocking the negotiations, in order to avoid taking responsibility for any incident. The US government, however, because it is a non-member of the parties to the Protocol, and the companies, since only countries can be parties, have no voice at the meeting.

Instead, the Japanese government, together with Brazilian government, maneuvered to interfere with and block the negotiations as they were about to move forward to the liability and redress issue, as almost all the parties were in favour of doing. Most of the parties to MOP-COP as well as observers from citizens' organizations were deeply disappointed with the Japanese government's attitude.

MOP 10 will be held in Nagoya, Japan. Not only the citizens' organizations but the parties to COP-MOP expressed the feeling that Japan is maybe not a suitable country to host the meeting.

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