On September 1, the Consumer Affairs Agency revised the regulation of food labeling for GM crops, making it possible to distribute the Hawaiian GM papaya Rainbow
in Japan. The ban on importing the papaya will be lifted on December 1. This makes it almost certain that a GM food intended to eaten raw will appear on the Japanese market for the first time. (Please see BJ April 2011
and June 2011
for related articles.
An application for approval of this GM papaya for human food was made in the 1990s, but deliberations in the Food Safety Commission were prolonged due to the possibility that the papaya might result in allergies, and also in both the Consumer Affairs Agency and Consumer Commission, where deliberations were prolonged over the labeling method. Even when sold raw, the label gGMOh and gunsegregatedh were permitted, as with the labels for other GM foods. Thus, the label gunsegregatedh was introduced for a raw food that is sold one by one, as a fruit, and proved to be very difficult for consumers to select.
In Okinawa, at the beginning of this year, there was a fuss about GM papaya trees imported from Taiwan being chopped down after they were found being planted and distributed. This caused farmers large economic losses, but now it is the turn of the consumer to bear the impact. Even so, the Philippines rather than Hawaii have currently become the papaya exporters and the situation is that it is unclear just how much of the papaya will be distributed.
Consumer Affairs Agency Investigative Commission to begin work on unifying food labeling laws
Up to now, the laws relating to food labeling have included the MAFF JAS Law (a law concerning the standardization of agricultural and forestry products and the appropriateness of labeling), the MHLW Food Sanitation Law and Health Promotion Law (the labeling of health foods and foods for specified health use), and the Consumer Affairs Agency Law for the Prevention of Unreasonable Premiums and Misrepresentation concerning Products and Services, formerly under the jurisdiction of the Fair Trade Commission. With the establishment of the Consumer Affairs Agency in 2009, a move began to unify all food labeling under one organization. A gFood Labeling Unification Investigative Committeeh was set up inside the Consumer Affairs Agency in mid-September to begin work on a new law. This is based on the fact that in July the Basic Consumer Plan was revised to show that the target for the submission of the new bill would be during fiscal year 2012. Interest will now focus on how GM food labeling and the labeling for country-of-origin information on food ingredients will be handled in the committee.