A big question mark hovers over the future of genetically modified organisms in Japan
TOKYO (majirox news) — Genetically modified crops and organisms (GM and GMOs), according to their promoters, offer greater efficiency in production, resistance against disease and pests, and overall greater profitability for all.
On the face of it, this would seem to be ideal for all involved: farmers, food processing companies, and consumers. Inside the United States, according to some sources, GMOs now comprise two-thirds of the crops grown.
However, there is significant opposition to the introduction of such biotechnology outside the US, especially in Japan, the EU, and Australasia (in 2008, according to the UK’s Soil Association, the use of GMOs had cost the US $12 billion in lost exports since 1999). One company, Monsanto, has a large stake in this aspect of agribusiness, but suffered a setback in 2003, when the British government released the results of three studies on the effects of GMOs, wherein lasting damage to the environment was predicted if GMOs were introduced.
In addition, a British poll at that time showed that 93 percent felt that not enough was known about the long-term effects of the so-called GMO Frankenstein food products, and 86 percent saying they would not eat it. This popular reaction and these findings forced an effective halt to Monsantos’ research operations in the UK (and in other European centers).
In Japan, food may be labeled as containing GMO ingredients or as being GMO-free, but this would change if a key clause in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement was to be implemented. According to the Sustainability Council of New Zealand, “the US has made clear that a priority for it in the proposed TPP is the abolition of laws requiring the labeling of GMO food” as well as the acceptance of the import of such products. This clause would apply to the Japanese market and Japanese consumers.
If this clause were to be agreed, Japanese consumers would be unwittingly exposed to any potential health hazards caused by ingestion of such food. Critics of the GMO business claim that many such health hazards exist, but that they have been swept under the rug by the companies involved.
Acceptance of this part of the TPP could also force Japanese farmers to accept the use of GMO crops, which might provide short-term profits. Though even this future profitability is subject to debate (a 2003 study showed that a Monsanto GMO cotton grown in India produced between five and seven times less net income than the indigenous variety according to an official governmental report), introduction of GMOs could bring about dramatic and drastic changes to Japan’s ecology – fragile at the best of times.
It would seem imperative for the Japanese TPP negotiation team to be well aware of the ramifications associated with this aspect of the Partnership, and to think carefully before allowing Japanese consumers and the Japanese ecology to be unwittingly exposed to a technology imposed from outside, the effects of which have yet to be objectively and definitively assessed.