From Bio Journal - March 2009

Codex Committee to restart discussion of GM food labelling

The Food Labelling Committee of the Codex Alimentarius Commission is to resume discussion of the labelling of GM foods. The committee has been working on guidelines for GM food labelling since 1993. However, little progress was made, and at the committee meeting held in May 2008 a proposal was brought forward by the United States to suspend discussions, this being supported by Mexico, Canada, Argentina, and other countries as well as by the industry. This move was opposed by the EU, supported by Norway, Malaysia, Brazil, Japan and other countries. In the end, it became just possible to resume the discussions. This time, however, "guidelines," as previously, has been changed to "recommendations," which have a much weaker binding force. The Food Labelling Committee discussions are to be held in Calgary, Canada, from 4 to 8 May, 2009, and are expected to receive quite a lot of media and public attention.

The Japan Society for Reproductive Regeneration appeals for approval for production of fertilized ova from reproductive sells produced from pluripotent cells

The Japan Society for Reproductive Regeneration (JSRR), consisting of gynaecologists and basic medical science researchers, in an opinion finalised on 24 January 2009 and published as an appeal, say that approval should be given for research that not only produces sperm and ova from iPS (induced pluripotent somatic) cells and other pluripotent cells, but for the sperm to be used to fertilize the ova to produce fertilized ova. A MEXT working group currently considering this matter has already approved the production of reproductive cells, but has formulated the basic policy of banning the production of fertilized ova for the time being, and is now in the final stages of drawing up its final report. (See BJ January 2009) This opinion published by the JSRR is in direct contradiction of the basic policy determined by the working group.

Report approving production of human embryo finalised

A meeting of the joint MEXT-MHLW specialist committee was held on 26 January 2009, at which a final report approving production of human embryo was finalised. The content of the final report is not greatly changed from that reported in the previous edition of BJ (see BJ February 2009), allowing for the first time, for example, the production of human embryos only for research purposes related to assisted repromed. This report indicates a degree of directionality for this issue, which has been debated over a period of three years and four months, including the period of discussions before the establishment of the joint specialist panel. The report will now go to the Cabinet Office for review, and when a response is received MEXT and MHLW will then begin to formulate guidelines.

Closeup: Hokkaido cross-fertilization trials - distance and nets do not prevent genetic pollution

A meeting of the "Genetically Modified Crop Cross-fertilization Prevention Subcommittee" of the Hokkaido Food Safety and Security Committee was held on 3 February 2009, at which the results of the cross-fertilization trials were announced. The pollen diffusion trials carried out in the previous two years have shown that it was not possible to prevent cross-fertilization through the stipulation of an isolation buffer zone distance. (See BJ May 2008) In 2008, for the first time, rice and maize were grown inside a fine-mesh net for the prevention of pollen diffusion in order to test the effectiveness of the net. Cross-fertilization trials for soy bean and sugar beet were also carried out as they were last year. Tests were also carried out into the diffusion of pollen by insects for rapeseed, as they have been previously.

The result of the trial for the rice and maize was that it was not possible to prevent pollen diffusion even by use of the net. In previous trials, only downwind observations were made, but this time cross-fertilization was also confirmed in pots that were placed upwind.

For sugar beet, observations were taken from pots placed at 47 locations at distances of between 50m and 2800m. All were found to cross-fertilize within 300m, and cross-fertilization occurred in two-thirds within 800m. Cross-fertilization was also confirmed at 2000m and at the longest distance, 2800m.

In the case of rapeseed, honeybees and sweat bees were found to be pollen media, but especially when honeybees were found to be most involved in pollen diffusion. In the case of soybean, cross-fertilization had been confirmed at a distance of 10m to 20m in the previous two years, but was not confirmed this time.

From the results, Hokkaido has concluded that even setting up nets and however great a distance is stipulated for the isolation buffer zone distance, cross-fertilization is not prevented. It appears that the previous guidelines will be reviewed and more stringent ones will be formulated.

Cross-Fertilization Trial Results

(2008, units %)

Table 1: Trial on the use of pollen diffusion prevention net
.With NetNo Net
Rice (Central Agricultural Research Station)Upwind






MaizeFlower and Vegetable Technical Center



Livestock Research Station



Nets were set up at an isolation distance of 1m for rice and 1.5m for maize. The figures indicate cross-fertilization rates with nets and with no nets.
Table 2: The situation at a longer distance (280m)
Maize (Flower and Vegetable Technical Center)Upwind




Table 3: Sugar beet cross-fertilization at different isolation distances
20074-50mCross-fertilization found at all 24 locations
80-2500mCross-fertilization found at all 4 locations out of 33
200850-300mCross-fertilization found at all 8 locations
301-800mCross-fertilization found at 11 locations out of 17
801-2800mCross-fertilization found at 5 locations out of 11 (furthest being 2000m)

Reference: Isolation buffer zone distances
.Hokkaido OrdinanceMAFF Guideline

At least 300m

At least 30m




Sugar Beet


No standard

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