From Bio Journal - September 2011

Safety assessment of GM crops to be streamlined

On 8 July 2011, MAFFfs Consumption and Safety Agency submitted a draft that would allow exemption from the safety assessment for foods (milk, meat and so on) that have been produced using feed that is a GM crop for human food and which has previously passed the safety assessment of the Food Safety Commission.

Up to now, there have been large numbers of crops and varieties that have been approved as both GM foods and feed, but these have all been required to pass separate assessments as foods, feed or feed for food use (milk, meat and so on) in order to gain approval for use. This new proposal introduces the concept of gexclusive food use GM crop,h and crops that have passed the safety assessment as human food would be exempted from a safety assessment when they are used as feed for producing a human food (milk, meat and so on). The streamlined screening is due to be based on gcriteria set down by the Minister for Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries that show that there is no hindrance to the securing of safety of feed that is included among the organisms that have been obtained through recombined DNA technology.h The proposal is expected to be approved following the solicitation of public comments.

Procedures for GM crops and food approval

As mentioned above, MAFFfs Consumption and Safety Agency have submitted a draft that would significantly streamline the safety assessments of GM crops. Letfs have a look here at a brief outline of how GM crops and foods have been passing through the safety assessment procedures and out onto the market.

At present in Japan, three safety checks are necessary.
  1. A biodiversity impact assessment based on the Cartagena laws under which crops and foods that are assessed as having no impact are approved by both MAFF and the Ministry of the Environment.
  2. A food safety assessment under which approval is granted by MHLW following an assessment by the Food Safety Commission.
  3. A feed safety assessment under which a safety assessment for livestock is conducted by MAFFfs Agricultural Materials Council and a food safety assessment conducted by the Food Safety Commission. The foods assessed in this case are those produced through the provision of GM feed to livestock (milk, meat and so on). Following these two assessments, approval is granted by MAFF.
Only foods or feed that have passed all three of these assessment procedures will be granted approval for import, distribution, use and cultivation. Even items to be used exclusively as feed or exclusively as food have had to undergo the assessment procedures for both food and feed because of the possibility of cross-fertilization and contamination. Now, however, the novel concept of gexclusive food use GM croph is to be introduced.

In the future, as stated above, GM crops that are intended exclusively for human food and that have been assessed as safe under 2. above will be exempted the safety assessment under 3. for foods (such as milk and meat) that have been produced by feeding the GM crop to livestock.

National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences refuses to release information on incident contravening Cartagena laws

At the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences (NIAS) on 9 September 2010, an incident occurred in which a GM crop cultivation experiment was being carried out in a greenhouse while a roof ventilator was in an open condition (See BJ November 2010. When an experiment is taking place, greenhouses must be in a closed condition isolated from the surrounding environment in order to prevent the spread of pollen. This incident is a clear contravention of the Cartagena laws. Further, a similar incident occurred only five days later, on 14 September. The Tsukuba Citizensf Conference for the Environment and Human Rights have been demanding an explanation for the cause of these incidents, but NIAS has replied formally that gthe cause is unknown.h

Hay fever alleviating rice to undergo outdoor trials

On 9 July 2011, the independent administrative entity the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences (NIAS), located in Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture, held an explanatory meeting concerning its hay fever alleviating rice that it plans to cultivate in isolated fields within the research institute. The plan is to carry out cultivation and overwintering trials from July 2011 through to early March 2014.

GMO crop approvals for June 2011

GM crops approved for open field cultivation (Type 1 usage)
(Biodiversity Impact Assessment Investigative Commission)
NameApproval Date*
SoybeanStearidonic acid enrichmentMonsanto JapanMON87769, OECD UI: MON-87769-724 June 2011
MaizeLepidoptera and coleoptera insect pest resistence + gluphosinate and glyphosate herbicide toleranceDuPont 1507 × MIR604 × NK603, OECD UI: DAS1057-1 × SYN-IR604-5 × MON-0003-624 June 2011
* Technically, approval is granted after public comments have been accepted.

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