From Bio Journal - February 2015

Cotton seeds imported from China contaminated with GM seeds

On 25 December 2015, MAFF instructed the dealer of cotton seed for cultivation imported from China to be recalled as they were contaminated with Monsanto GM cotton seeds. This was discovered by chance during the development of an inspection method for GM cotton. The import of GM cotton is recognized for food and feed purposes, but is not approved for cultivation since there has been no application for such a use.

The GM cotton seeds were imported from China by the Sapporo Seed Co. between April 2010 and July 2012 and sold in DIY and other stores under the product name gTall Cottonh by Kaneko Seeds Co., Ltd. and Nikko Seed Co., and under the product name gNatural Fiber Cottonh by Daiichi Engei Co., Ltd. The two comingled seed types were Monsantofs insecticidal cotton gMON531-6h and herbicide-resistant cotton gMON1445h. MAFF has said that GM cotton is becoming widespread overseas and it therefore intends to strengthen its inspections as there is a strong possibility that similar cases are likely to become more frequent in the future.

Japanfs ongoing GM crop trials

On 9 January 2015, the independent administrative body the National Institute of Agricultural Sciences (NIAS) announced that it would carry out outdoor cultivation trials of four types of GM rice. The types to be cultivated are, as in 2014, gcomplex disease resistanth GM rice, regulated inflorescence GM rice, a rice variety to be used in the treatment of Cryptomeria japonica pollen allergy, and a Cryptomeria japonica pollen allergy peptide-containing GM rice (GM rice for alleviating pollen allergy). (See BJ April 2014) Besides these, NIAS will continue on from last year to cultivate an insect pest-resistant tobacco (chloroplast transformed tobacco), a herbicide resistant GM soybean for exhibition purposes, and a herbicide resistant/insecticidal GM maize, totalling eight types of GM crops that NIAS will continue to cultivate from last year.

The complex disease resistant GM rice is a rice plant into which a gene known as a gWAKY geneh, which has been extracted from rice and which activates control functions against rice blast and several other diseases, has been inserted. When the WAKY gene is switched on, several genes are activated, and this is said to be capable of conferring resistance to rice blast and bacterial leaf blight. Outdoor cultivation trials began in 2013, and in FY2014 four lines of the Nihonbare rice variety were cultivated on 50 m2 of paddy, while four lines of the Tachisugata variety were grown on 320 m2 of upland field. From late April this year (2015), the cultivation will be carried out in two locations, NIAS and the National Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences (NIAES).

The regulated inflorescence GM rice is a rice plant into which has been inserted a gene associated with an flowering hormone (florigen) which is activated through the use of a commercially-available chemical substance (an agrichemical). Outdoor cultivation began in 2013, Nihonbare and Kitaaona being planted on a 15 m2 field in FY 2014. The rice will be cultivated at NIAES from mid-May this year.

The rice variety to be used in the treatment of Cryptomeria japonica pollen allergy is a rice plant into which has been inserted the gene, structurally altered, associated with the main allergen responsible for the pollen allergy. Outdoor trials began in FY2013, and in FY2014 the rice was grown on a fairly large field of 20.8 ares (2080 m2) to secure experimental animal feed. The rice variety used is Koshihikari.

The above types of GM rice have undergone outdoor trials since FY2013, and these trials are continuing on isolated fields in FY2015. There is also the Cryptomeria japonica pollen allergy peptide-containing GM rice, which was in development before FY2013 and for which trials are continuing. These trials, however, were carried out on 15 ares of ordinary field in FY2014, and will be planted at the national Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO) from early April. This rice has had inserted into it a gene which has the seven types of epitopes from the allergens that give rise to the Cryptomeria japonica pollen allergy linked together. An epitope is the part of the Cryptomeria japonica pollen that causes the allergy. The rice variety used for this is Kitaake. Thus far, the harvested rice has been used in animal experiments on such animals as mouse, rat, and monkey. The rice cultivated this year is also probably for the purpose of securing rice feed for animal experimentation.

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