From Bio Journal - June 2009

Aya Town adds ban on GM crops to ordinance

Known for its promotion of organic farming throughout the entire town, Aya Town (Miyazaki Prefecture, Kyushu), has amended its Aya Town Ordinance for the Promotion of Natural Ecological Farming by adding wording which bans the cultivation of GM crops. Based on the principle of "Striving to create a town that makes use of and develops the natural ecology" enshrined in the Town Charter, a clause stating that the town will not plant GM crops has been added to the banning of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the pursuit of food safety, and so on.

MHLW approves two new gene therapy treatments

The science and technology sub-committee of the MLHW Health Sciences Council gave new approvals to two implementation proposals for gene therapy at its meeting on 15 April 2009 (See BJ August 2008). One was a proposal from the University of Tokyo Hospital for treatment of GBM (glioblastoma multiforme), a kind of brain tumor, and the other a proposal from the National Cancer Center for a treatment of hematopoietic malignancies such as leukemia and lymphomas. The vectors (gene carrier) used for the gene insertion will be the herpes virus and a retrovirus, respectively. The mass media has ceased reporting on gene therapy, but the numbers of approved treatments has been steadily rising, now reaching 24. Despite the failure of the effectiveness of the treatments to improve, the gene introduction technology thus cultivated is being put to use in the latest technologies such as iPS (induced pluripotent stem) cells.

MAFF fails to alter the GM crop cultivation guidelines

A meeting of the MAFF Type 1 Usage Regulation Approval GM Crop Cultivation Experimental Guideline Panel was held on 28 April 2009 at which it was discussed whether or not amendment of the guidelines was necessary on the basis of recent research results on cross-fertilization distances and so on. Under the current guidelines buffer distances for the prevention of cross-fertilization are stipulated as 30 m for rice, 10 m for soy, and 600 m for maize (300 m in the case of an intervening shelterbelt). (See BJ March 2009) According to trials carried out in FY2008 by an independent administrative body under the jurisdiction of MAFF, cross-fertilization was confirmed at a rate of 0.001% at a distance of 45 m for rice and at a rate of 0.057% at a distance of 750-800 m for maize. However, the panel reached the conclusion that no amendment of the cross-fertilization prevention buffer distances in the guidelines were necessary for the following two reasons: 1) Large-scale trials never result in a cross-fertilization rate of zero, and 2) Staggering the timing of cultivation is effective.

GM crop approvals for April 2009

GM crops approved for open field cultivation (Type 1 usage)
(Biodiversity Impact Assessment Investigative Commission)
NameApproval Date*
MaizeAryloxyalkanoate herbicide toleranceDow Chemicals JapanDAS40278, OECD UI: DAS40278-930 April 2009
MaizeAryloxyalkanoate herbicide toleranceDow Chemicals JapanDAS40474, OECD UI: DAS40474-730 April 2009
SoybeanLepidoptera pest resistanceMonsanto JapanMON87701, OECD UI: MON87701-230 April 2009
MaizeLepidoptera and Coleoptera pest resistance, glufosinate and glyfosate herbicide toleranceDow Chemicals Japan, Monsanto JapanMON89034 × B.t. CrylF maize line 1507 × MON88017 × B.t. Cry 34/35Ab1 Event DAS59122-7, OECD UI: MON89034-3 × DAS01507-1 × MON88017-3 × DAS59122-730 April 2009
RiceHigh-tryptophanIndependent Administrative Institution: National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO)KPD627-830 April 2009
RiceKPD722-430 April 2009
RiceKA31730 April 2009
* Technically, approval is granted after public comments have been accepted.

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