From Bio Journal - October 2015

Nagoya University finalizes GM plant pollution investigation committee report

GM thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) volunteers were discovered on the campus of Nagoya University in May 2015 (see BJ June 2015). The results of an investigation by a Nagoya University investigation committee headed by an external committee member were recently submitted to MEXT. According to the report, the GM volunteers were caused by inadequate inactivation of the GM plants. There had also been inappropriate handling of some of the GM plants before inactivation. As emergency measures, Nagoya University retrieved the GM thale cress and soil, sprayed herbicide in the surrounding area, and subjected the soil to heat treatment. As a result, there have apparently been no further reports of GM plant volunteers.

Revision of Japan's food labeling system advances at snail's pace

Food labeling in Japan is handled by the Consumer Affairs Agency, but since the enforcement of the Food Labeling Act in April 2015, the agency has been busy with the functional foods labeling issue and the revision of the food labeling system that is high on the priority list for consumers has not moved forward at all. In discussions with consumers organizations on 27 August 2015, the secretary general of the Consumer Affairs Agency, Kumiko Bando, stated, "We are scheduled to deliberate on the GM food labeling issue along with Internet food labeling, processed food ingredient country of origin labeling, and food additive labeling and intend to set up a deliberative body by the end of the year," but at the same time also said, "Consumer groups have various views, and while listening to the views of the industry organizations I would like to take all of these views as materials for judging how difficult it will be to realize the views of consumers," thereby stating that the revision of the system will proceed from the areas in which a revision is possible by setting up an order of priority.

While the movement demanding labeling in the US is picking up steam and stricter labeling is being mooted in Asia, the vast majority of foods such as edible oils and soy sauce are still exempt from labeling in Japan. Demanding the GM food labeling system revision, which is only moving forward at a snail's pace, the citizens' organizations Consumers Union of Japan and the NO! GMO Campaign have jointly initiated the One Million Signature Movement for the Strict Labeling of GM Food.

GM rice harvested

The four varieties of GM rice developed by the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences (NIAS) have reached harvest time. The Japanese cedar pollen treatment rice planted at an isolation field at NIAS was harvested on 15 September 2015, and the multiple disease-resistant rice is due to be harvested on 6 October. The Japanese cedar pollen peptide-containing rice planted at the high-performance isolation field at the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization was harvested on 30 July, and the flowering time controlled rice planted at the National Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences' isolation field was harvested on 14 September. The outcomes and any problems are due to be announced at a later date.

Hokkaido Research Organization (HRO) apologizes for refusal to respond

When the Hokkaido Farmers' Association demanded that the Hokkaido Research Organization (HRO) implement the trial cultivation of GM crops, the citizens' organizations Consumers Union of Japan and the NO! GMO Campaign demanded that HRO not implement the trial cultivations and submitted written questions to HRO asking about its future policies on the matter. HRO, however, refused to respond to the questions, stating that "Disclosure cannot be made due to the information containing personal data on individuals that is covered by the Hokkaido Ordinance on Personal Data Protection" (see BJ July 2015). The citizens' organizations reiterated their protest, insisting that "This has nothing to do with personal data," and demanded demanded public disclosure of the information. On 14 August 2015, HRO responded by saying that "It was a mistake to refuse disclosure based on the Ordinance on Personal Data Protection" and that "If an application for information disclosure is made, we will make a judgment on whether or not disclose the information."

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(English Index)