From Bio Journal - January 2020

MAFF's policy of "not certifying genome edited crops as organic"

On 19 December 2019, at a Diet study meeting organized by the citizens' organizations the Japan Organic Agriculture Association and the NO! GMO Food Campaign and held in the House of Representatives Diet Members Office Building, Director Mayu Nishikawa of the Standards Certification Office of the Food Industry Agency of MAFF, who attended the meeting, stated, "No crops that have been genetically modified, including genome edited crops, will be certified as organic." In the U.S., since the vice-secretary of the Department of Agriculture indicated the intention to use genome editing technology to promote organic farming, many countries have begun to consider genome edited crops being permissible as organic.

As Japan has placed almost all genome edited crops outside the scope of application of the Cartagena laws, which regulate GM crops, discussions have been held concerning organic certification under the jurisdiction of MAFF since the autumn. Consideration began firstly at the Food and Agricultural Materials Inspection Center (FAMIC), which indicated a policy of not certifying genome edited crops as organic and initiated public comment on "Draft of Partial Amendment of the Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS)," etc. (See BJ December 2019). At the JAS Investigative Committee held on 10 December, it was reported that public comments for the amendment "... will be amended to clarify that crops produced using genome editing technology cannot be used in raw materials, etc." totaled 572 in favor and 10 against. Thus the outcome was that no crops produced using new plant breeding technologies that manipulate genes, including gene editing will be given organic certification. After the defining of the policy the operational principles will be published in the "Q&A on the Organic Crops JAS Standard, etc." on the MAFF website.

Japan's first GM fragrance moves toward approval

Isobionics Co., Ltd., an affiliate of the German BASF, applied for approval of the GM fragrance Valensen on 31 January 2019, and this will be approved in Japan soon. Valensen was manufactured using 168 strains of Rhodobacter sphaeroides.

Import of raw GM potatoes becomes possible

On 18 December 2019, MAFF amended the detailed regulations on the implementation of plant quarantine, indicated a policy for permitting the import of raw potatoes from the U.S. and initiated solicitation of comments from the general public. The Simplot RNA interference potato has already been approved for import, but since it cannot be imported in the raw form only imports of potato chips and fried potatoes has been possible. If the raw potatoes are imported it will also be possible to plant the potato as a crop in Japan.

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