Science in Society Archive

News from Japan

Resistance to GMO is growing rapidly in Japan. A record 1 700 000 Japanese citizens presented a comprehensive list of demands to their Government on 31 May, 1999, including compulsory labelling, moratorium on domestic production of GM crops, suspension of research on GM rice and cloned cattle and promotion of organic farming. This marked the beginning of a week-long global days of action against GMOs involving lectures, press conferences and TV interviews in Tokyo, Chiba and Fukuoka. The petition was presented simultaneously to the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and Minister of Health and Welfare by a coalition of citizen organisations headed by the Consumer Association of Japan after an invited lecture by UK Scientist, Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, who arrived that morning from Malaysia. The full text is reproduced below, based on the translation by Mr. Tony Boys.

Demand 31 May, 1999 To: Minster of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) Shoichi Nakagawa Demand Concerning Genetically Engineered Foods (GE foods) Although GE foods have been promoted on the basis that there is no evidence of danger, there are now several concrete examples of impacts on health and the environment which give cause for concern. Because of the anxiety of consumers in Europe, major supermarkets and food giants have switched to no-GE ingredients. This has drastically reduced demand for American-grown GE crops, which has lost international competitiveness. In contrast, the world's largest importer of food, Japan, still has not introduced labelling, thus denying the consumer's right to choose. Because of the collapse of the European market, it is inevitable that GE crops will be increasingly directed towards Japan. With no labelling on GE products, we are forced into consuming them, at a time when GE crops are coming under review in Europe. To make matters worse, MAFF itself is leading the development of commercial GE rice varieties. We are therefore exposed to a double risk, that of health impacts and impacts on the environment. As if that were not enough, we now find that the meat of experimentally cloned cattle is being marketed by MAFF, who is forcing us to eat it. This has resulted in a strong feeling of distrust towards MAFF. Without sufficient investigation into the long-term impacts on health and the environment, any new technology which is rashly applied may result in irreversible damage. Is it not the case that only the precautionary principle can reduce social costs to the minimum? With the following demands for taking wise measures on your part, we submit to you this petition containing 1 700 000 signatures.

1. Compulsory labelling of all GE foods immediately (see Opinion 1078, Jan 14, from local government councils to MAFF demanding labelling).

2. A Moratorium on domestic production of GE crops.

3. Suspension of reserach on the application of GE to rice and cloned cattle such as the "21st Century Green Frontier Research" projects.

4. Recall of cloned cattle beef, and measures to ban its marketing.

5. Promotion of organic farming.

The collapse of safety - GE foods '99, May 31 World Action Day Participants.

Article first published 1999

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