New Ministers - Again - For The Environment And Agriculture

Naoto Kan has appointed new Ministers for the Environment and for Agriculture, thus making things a little more tricky as Japan hosts the UN MOP5/COP10 conference on biological diversity in Nagoya next month. Not exactly the best timing, if you ask me. Changing the people in charge of a major international conference is likely to weaken the hand of the host country.

Over at the website of the Ministry of the Environment, they are showing their commitment to biodiversity:

The National Biodiversity Strategy is a national basic plan for the conservation of biodiversity and its sustainable use. In 1995, the Government of Japan decided, as required by the Convention on Biological Diversity, the first-ever National Biodiversity Strategy, which has been reviewed twice in 2002 and 2007 so far. Since the Basic Act on Biodiversity enacted in 2008 requires the government to formulate the national biodiversity strategy, the Minister of the Environment asked the president of the Council for the review on the formulation of the national strategy. This has led the deliberation in the Biodiversity Policy-Wildlife Joint Committee of the Council, which submitted a report to the Minister on March 1. Now, "The National Biodiversity Strategy of Japan 2010" was decided by the government, based on this report.

There is more, but several days after a new minister has been appointed, their English website still shows a photo from this spring of Mr. Sakihito Ozawa, the previous Minister of the Environment... The new face to deal with Japan's environmental issues this fall is Mr. Ryu Matsumoto from Fukuoka, who does not seem to have any specific qualifications for his new job (unless you think having "participated in his family's construction business" has anything to do with sustainable development).

The Japan Times notes that Mr. Matsumoto has a "large annual income" and that he has focused on human rights issues, related to the burakumin case.

Mr. Michiro Kano, new Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, is "known for his familiarity with agriculture policy," according to The Japan Times. He served as agriculture minister in 1989.

In Nagoya, these men will be tested by the international community, who wants progress and binding rules to protect our planet's biodiversity. One problem is that so far, Japan's "strategy" has only dealt with wildlife-related issues, not directly with food-and-agriculture-related aspects of biodiversity.

Meanwhile, NHK World notes that negotiators from "...developed and developing countries have failed to narrow gaps on ways to share the benefits of products derived from biological resources." This is part of the important talks on Access and Benefit Sharing, that developing countries have long pushed for. Who is blocking progress? Developed countries with large pharmaceutical industries, and the people at companies like Monsanto, BASF, Shiseido and many more, who have already patented a number of plants from developing countries, hoping to reap huge profits.

The 4-day preparatory talks for a meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, or COP10, ended in Montreal on Tuesday. Companies and research institutions from the industrialized nations use the biological resources found in developing countries to make new medicines.

The developing countries now say that they will not provide further resources until the industrialized nations give them a fair share of the profits from the sales of these medicines. But the industrialized countries argue that this strategy would hamper the development of new drugs.

The UN delegates failed to reach a consensus and were unable to deepen discussions on other issues. The division between the 2 sides has raised concerns that a meaningful protocol may not be adopted at next month's UN meeting in Nagoya, Japan.

NHK World: UN biodiversity talks split on bio-resources

Wikipedia: International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Note that Japan (and the United States) are still not parties to this important treaty from 2001. This is definitely something the new ministers in Tokyo should prioritize, as it has important rules for farmers' rights and how to protect the genetic resources of the food plants we all depend on for our survival. The Treaty entered into force on June 29, 2004.

FAO: The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture


Pandabonium said…
Collapse is looking better and better tio me compared to the likely outcome of business as usual "talks". I guess they are called "talks" because that is all that gets accomplished.

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