Monday, January 19, 2009

"How genetically modified foods are accelerating the food crisis"

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; in 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.


vegetablej said...

Great infrmation on the state of GM foods in Japan, Martin. While I was there I was never sure if what I was eating was safe, though I felt fairly sure that the organic foods were at least, safER.

Here in Canada I'm pretty sure that many no-organics are GM but because the supermarkets aren't required to disclose what foods are GM, they ALL could be, for all I know. And that bothers me.

Yes, I think Monsano is to blame for a lot of GM pollution, and predatory practices on farmers, but I wonder whatever possessed governments to allow seeds to be patented? Maybe they were overawed by the fact that DNA sequences could be identified and engineered. Don't know, but it was a bad decision, and needs to be changed.

Probably Japan feels rather helpless in trying to identify and control all the GM fods coming in, so even if they make a ruling to ban them, it will be a big job to do so. Do you know what the EU did about it?

Pandabonium said...

The purpose is not improved food or crop yeilds per se, but profit - and not profit for the farmer, but for the producer of seed and herbicides.

We need genetically modified CEOs who serve the public good, not GM food that serves the corporate good.

steveb said...

Another eye-opening entry. Thanks, Martin. We stick mainly to organic whole foods, and I had felt fairly safe about the foods in Japan, but now I'm wondering if there is a way to verify or at least recognize the probability of the food I eat being non-GMO. Can you recommend any resources or Internet sites?

Thanks. Great blog!

Martin J Frid said...

Steve, a good source would be True Food Guide, a carefully researched project that lists different foods and what the companies say about the ingredients. Very useful!

steveb said...

Thanks, Martin. I'll check it out.