From Bio Journal - March 2010

Trend: Tohoku University implements new GM rice trial

A new GM rice trial cultivation will be implemented at the Tohoku Universityfs fields at Naruko Hot Spring, Miyagi Prefecture. (See BJ June 2006(a) and June 2006(b)) The seeds are due to be sown in early April and transplanted to fields in early May. The trials are to be carried out for three years.

This GM rice has been genetically engineered to be either more sensitive or more resistant to UVB light, two varieties being created, one more sensitive and one more resistant to UVB light. The rice variety used for the experiment is Sasanishiki, and the GM rice is due to be harvested in early October. Following harvesting, the GM rice will be compared with the parent Sasanishiki plant to examine whether or not there has been any effect of UV light on yield.

For the time being it is thought that the goal of the project is to obtain patents, and in the future to develop a high-yield rice variety. Further, according to materials submitted, the distance to the nearest farmland from the experiment is about 300 m. In cross-fertilization experiments carried out by the Hokkaido government it was confirmed that rice can cross-fertilize at a distance of 600 m, and so genetic pollution is feared.

Second trial begins in Joetsu GM rice case

On 25 January 2010, the second trial in the case concerning the outdoor cultivation trials of GM rice at the Hokuriku Research Center in Joetsu City, Niigata Prefecture, began at the High Court in Tokyo. (See BJ November 2009) This GM rice contains a gene for the production of an antibacterial protein known as defensin and was developed in an attempt to provide resistance against multiple diseases.

Since the trials have already been completed, the focus of this trial is how the plea for the injunction should be judged. According to the plaintiffs, since there is still a possibility that resistant bacteria might appear, even though the trials have been completed, the plaintiffs demand an investigation of this and removal of any genetic pollution. In addition, since there is also the possibility that further similar experiments will be planned in the future, the plaintiffs demand that these not be carried out. In the first day of the trial, the plaintiff farmers and consumer representatives stated their opinions and the trial was adjourned until the next session on 26 April 2010.

Solicitation of public comments ends on approval of the production of reproductive cells from pluripotent cells

The results of the solicitation of public comments concerning the new draft guideline to approve the production of reproductive cells from pluripotent cells such as human iPS cells were announced at the MEXT working group meeting held on 3 February 2010. (See BJ February 2010) Of 45 comments received, 41 are said to have been in favour of the new guideline. On hearing the results, the chair, NISHIKAWA Shinfichi, Vice-Director of Rikenfs Center for Developmental Biology, cheerily stated that gwe have gained the basic support of the Japanese people.h However, he was sternly rebuffed by several of the working group members, who stated that it was far too early to say that support had been gained on the basis of the public comments. IDA Ryuichi, Professor of Kyoto Universityfs Graduate School of Law, stated, gI think almost none of the Japanese people knows about the solicitation (of public comments). There is a necessity for thinking about how we carry out the solicitation of public comments in order to make then truly public.h This meeting brought to an end the activities of the working group. The new draft guideline will now be forwarded to the Cabinet Office Council for Science and Technology Policy for examination, and will come into force in FY2010, after the response has been received from the Council.

GMO approvals for February 2010

Table 1: GM crops approved for open field cultivation (Type 1 usage)
(Biodiversity Impact Assessment Investigative Commission)
NameApproval Date*
MaizeColeoptera pest resistanceSyngenta Seeds Ltd.Event 5307, OECD UI: SYN-05307-101 February 2010
* Technically, approval is granted after public comments have been accepted.

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