From Bio Journal - May 2013

GM papaya growing wild in Okinawa

The Japanese MAFF and Ministry of the Environment released the results of the survey on GM papaya volunteers on 26 March 2013. (See BJ February 2012)This was a follow-up survey to the discovery in 2011 of unapproved GM papaya seeds gTaino No.5h being illegally sold and cultivated. Farmers have already been forced to dispose of any papaya trees or fruit suspected of being a possible GM variety. This new survey, conducted between February and September 2012, was designed to discover GM papaya trees that might be growing along roadsides, on vacant land or in private gardens. Of 69 samples taken along roadsides or on vacant land, two were found to be GM. Of 627 samples taken from private gardens, 57 were found to be GM papaya. Of the 627 samples, 432 were not planted but had germinated and grown from seeds that had somehow found their way to the location naturally. 16 of these samples were found to be GM papaya. Overall, the proportion of GM-positive samples was 8.5%, indicating the difficulty in eradicating GM crops once they have spread out into the environment.

Table 1. Unapproved GM Papaya Volunteer Survey
-No. of SamplesGM Papaya% Positive
Roadside, vacant land




Private gardens (total)




Private gardens (unplanted)








Into the second year of GM rice for the treatment of pollen allergy

The National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences (NIAS) will again this year, as in the past, cultivate in open fields herbicide tolerant soybean, insecticide and herbicide tolerant maize for exhibition, as well as the pollen allergy alleviating GM rice (cryptomeria japonica (Japanese cedar) pollen peptide-containing rice) it has been growing for several years and the GM rice for the treatment of cryptomeria japonica pollen allergy (modified Cry j accumulated rice) which it began to cultivate last year. The allergy treatment rice is being grown this year for the purpose of conducting a biodiversity impact assessment. The pollen allergy alleviating GM rice uses no antibiotic-resistant marker gene, but the GM rice for the treatment of cryptomeria japonica pollen allergy uses a streptomycin resistant marker gene.

Closeup: TPP and GM crops

Prime Minister Abe has announced Japanfs participation in the negotiations for joining the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership). Once a country initiates TPP participation negotiations, there is no pulling out, and thus not only food and agriculture, but the whole nature of the country will undergo huge changes.

Up to now, there has been an acceleration in the influx of cheap raw materials and products from overseas due to globalization. As a result, the import of GM crops has continually increased, to the extent that it is thought that the Japanese are now eating more GM foods than any other country. Participation in the TPP negotiations will mean increased control over food by the big multinational companies that deal in GM crops, Japanfs agriculture will be destroyed and the danger to our dinner tables will be far greater.

As we noted in the Biojournal last month, the agricultural land area planted to GM crops in 2012 rose to 170.3 million ha. The vast majority of that was planted with seeds developed by the US company Monsanto, thus advancing the monopolization of seeds and indicating that control over food by multinational companies is strengthening. The pressure by the USA to force other countries to liberalize their trade and economies will bring about further advances in that control.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative 2011 Report on Technical Barriers to Trade identified mandatory biotechnology food labelling in partner countries as one of the greatest barriers to the furtherance of food exports. If the Japanese government participates in the TPP negotiations, pressure will be applied to Japan to abolish GM food labelling, depriving consumers of the right to know the content of their food. The USA and EU have already decided to go ahead with negotiations toward the conclusion of an FTA (Free Trade Agreement), and the US Trade Representative has stated that one of the most important themes of the negotiation will be GM crops. The US considers that the EU food labelling system obstructs the distribution of GM food and is therefore preventing the export of US agricultural produce. The USA will undoubtedly demand the relaxation or abolition of the labelling system, and thus the talks will be closely observed.

The advisory lawyer to the Korean Federation of Sustainable Agriculture Organizations (KFSAO), Song Giho, visited Japan in early March 2013 and reported on what had occurred due to the Korea-USA FTA. Mr Song stated, gAreas that are designated as exceptions have time limits fixed to them and we were forced to promise that the exceptions would be definitively and quickly eliminated. Furthermore, if an exception is requested, there is inevitably some trade-off demanded for it. When that happens, the US strategy is to take advantage of any compromise that is offered.h The Japanese government will undoubtedly be led around by the nose by this tough US negotiating strategy.

It is certain that the US government will demand that the Japanese government streamline not only GM food labelling, but safety assessments and biodiversity impact assessments. Import conditions for beef have already been relaxed and massive influxes of US beef, for which BSE countermeasures are almost non-existent, have begun. Food additives that have been approved in the US are also being quickly approved in Japan. It is also being demanded that strict Japanese standards for pesticide residues be relaxed to match with the far looser US standards. In addition, pressure will inevitably be brought to bear on Japan to accept the use of growth hormones on livestock, irradiated spices and meat, and GM livestock for human consumption.

GMO crop approvals for February 2013

Table 2. GM crops approved for open field cultivation (Type 1 usage)
(Biodiversity Impact Assessment Investigative Commission)
NameApproval Date*
SoybeanLepidoptera pest resistance and gluphosinate herbicide toleranceDow Chemical JapanDAS81419, OECD UI: DAS-81419-228 February 2013
MaizeGlyphosate herbicide toleranceVCC JapanEvent VCO-0981-5, OECD UI: VCO-01981-528 February 2013
RapeseedGlyphosate herbicide toleranceMonsanto JapanMON88302, OECD UI: MON-88302-928 February 2013
SoybeanDicamba and glyphosate herbicide toleranceMonsanto JapanMON87708×MON89788, OECD UI: MON-87708-9×MON-89788-128 February 2013
MaizeGlyphosate-induced male sterility, lepidoptera and coleoptera pest resistance, and gluphosinate and glyphosate herbicide toleranceMonsanto JapanMON87427×MON89034×B.t. Cry1F maize line 1507 ×MON88017×B.t. Cry 34/35 Abl Event DAS-591222-7, OECD UI: MON-87427-7×MON-89034-3×DAS-01507-1×MON-88017-3×DAS-59122-728 February 2013
MaizeGlyphosate-induced male sterility, lepidoptera and coleoptera pest resistance, and glyphosate herbicide toleranceMonsanto JapanMON87427×MON89034×MON88017, OECD UI: MON-87427-7×MON89034-3×MON88017-328 February 2013
MaizeGlyphosate-induced male sterility, lepidoptera pest resistance, and glyphosate herbicide toleranceMonsanto JapanMON87427×MON89034×NK603, OECD UI: MON-87427-7×MON89034-3×MON-00603-628 February 2012
* Technically, approval is granted after public comments have been accepted.

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