GM foods accelerate food crisis in Japan
Japan's GMO Free Zones already exceed 1% of Japanese farmland. They are now focusing on Hokkaido, one of Japan's biggest islands (nearly as big as the whole island of Ireland) as well as the region around the national capital, with plans to expand GMO Free Zones throughout the entire country.
Nobody in Japan wants to eat GM foods, and there have been million-signature petitions rejecting GMOs, but because of Japan's lack of agricultural self-sufficiency, GM grains are being imported from North America. This is creating problems, like the GM rape (canola) contamination being found around Japanese ports and along the transport routes for GM imports, due to spillage.
"How genetically modified foods are accelerating the food crisis"
Martin J Frid
Kurashi - News from Japan, January 19 2009
Mr Keisuke Amagasa is a well-known writer and food activist in Japan, with a number of books about food safety, genetically modified organisms, and biofuels. He is concerned about how GMOs are making the global food crisis worse. Over at Consumers Union of Japan, you can read his speech at the World Foodless Day event held in Tokyo on October 16, 2008：
"Let me emphasise that Japan is not among the GM crop cultivating countries. But Japan is a great importer of GM crops; on average, people in Japan are eating GM food the most in East Asia, followed by South Korea, and Taiwan. This is due to the low self-sufficiency ratios and the increase of GM crop farming in certain exporting countries. In addition, the Japanese food labelling system is so partial and confusing that consumers are not able to make a choice."
When I go to these meetings, I'm often struck by the earnest talking, the large number of people listening, and the sense of urgency. These people know Japan needs to change its agricultural policies, its energy matrix. You cannot import 99% of your fuel and 60% of your food. It does not make any sense. But who is going to provide the food, when transnational seed companies use WTO rules and TRIPS patent regulations to limit the varieties available to farmers? And meanwhile, who will farm?
Amagasa-san also noted that global GM research and development is being dominated by Monsanto. Currently, this company has more than a 90% share of the world's GM seeds. They reached this by suppressing the entry of other companies through patents, and by aggressively purchasing seed companies, and by creating a monopoly on the way seeds are marketed. Amagasa-san makes that point that GM crops have no real merits for the farmer:
"Yields actually decrease and the amount of agricultural chemicals will increase. Monsanto has claimed that yields will increase, but they have not introduced DNA that specifically leads to increased yields."
According to Mr Keisuke Amagasa, GM crops have been identified as a threat to the ecosystem and the biodiversity: Contamination trials in Hokkaido, northern Japan, proved that pollen from GM crops can spread further and wider than expected. Tests have been done by people all over Japan, collecting samples of wild-growing rape seed (canola) plants. They discovered a large number of cases of GM rape seed in locations where they should not be growing. Amagasa-san notes that this is an example of how serious the environmental pollution caused by GM has become in Japan. GMO contamination is a serious issue for farmers and consumers.