From Bio Journal - January 2012

Closeup: GMOs and TPP

Teeth removed from Japanfs GM food labelling

The Japanese government has begun moves towards participation in TPP (the Trans-Pacific Partnership). During this time, globalism (globalization) has advanced, world-scale competition has occurred and we are now living in a world ruled by the law of the jungle. Things that have been created and protected in local regions have been lost and destroyed in the name of free competition. In the world of food, crops grown in local regions have been suppressed and replaced by imported food, huge amounts of food now being traded on the international market. Safety at the dinner table has come under threat as a result. Issues that have appeared in Japan are pesticide residues in vegetables grown in China and the poison gyoza (meat dumplings) incident, symbolic of the parlous state of safety management in processed foods, as well as post-harvest pesticides used on American-grown grains and fruits, and GM crops.

Import regulations have been relaxed in order to remove economic barriers. Especially problematic has been the pressure to deregulate food labelling. Firstly, in the 1990s, the date of manufacture label was changed to a ebest byf label indicating a time limit for consumption of the food. This was because the date of manufacture label was disadvantageous for food imported from the U.S. In the case of GM food labelling, the vast majority of the foods were not included among those that require mandatory labelling, and as a result edible oils, soy sauce and so on have no labelling to indicate the presence or absence of GM content, and this has enabled the U.S. to continue to export soy beans and maize to Japan without impact. However, the opposition to GM food that spread among Japanese consumers created a barrier to the development of GM rice and wheat. What TPP is supposed to do is remove that barrier.

The leading role of TPP is GM crops

In order to sell its food, its largest export item, to the world, the U.S. has continued to strengthen its pressure for liberalization. With GM crops as the greatest weapon in their arsenal, the government, Monsanto and the Bill and Linda Gates Foundation have been in the vanguard of the food marketing efforts. In Japan, the Keidanren (the main Japanese association of economic organizations) has positioned itself at the core of TPP proponents. Chairman of the Keidanren, Mr Yonekura, is also Chairman of Sumitomo Chemical, a strategic partner of Monsanto, and thus the view has spread that the leading role for TPP is to be the marketing effort for GM crops.

The U.S. government is currently strengthening pressure on New Zealand, already participating member of TPP to abolish its GM food labelling on the basis that food labelling is the greatest barrier to the promotion of trade in food. At present, Japan has such labelling for only for such foods as tofu, natto (fermented soy beans) and miso (fermented soy bean paste), but the plan is to get rid of even this minimal amount of labelling. Participation in TPP will not only destroy Japanfs food self-sufficiency and increase the amount of food imported, it will also result in the abolition of the food labelling system, the pillar of the consumersf right to know what their food consists of. The starring role in this circus will be played by GM foods.

GMO crop approvals for December 2011

GM crops approved for open field cultivation (Type 1 usage)
(Biodiversity Impact Assessment Investigative Commission)
NameApproval Date*
CottonTolerance to the herbicides Dicamba and gluphosinateMonsanto JapanMON88701, OECD UI: MON-88701-301 December 2011
MaizeColeoptera resistanceSyngenta JapanEvent 5307, OECD UI: SYN-05307-101 December 2011
* Technically, approval is granted after public comments have been accepted.

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