Genetically Engineered/ Modified Food
Labelling of Genetically Engineered Food in Japan
Toward a Historical Victory over Genetically Modified foods
Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food in
On August 10, 1999, Japanese government approved plan for GMO labeling.
The mandatory labeling will start from April 2001.
Method of labeling (example of labeling)
|| EHigh oleic acid
soybean and its oil and the products derived therefrom
|| Mandatory labeling
||Soybean (high oleic acid genetically modified)
- Tofu(bean curd) and Tofu products
- Frozen dried Tofu, Okara (soy pulp), and Yuba (Tofu sheet)
- Soybean (for cooking)
- Green soybean
- Bean sprout
- Natto(fermented soy bean)
- Soy milk
- Miso (Soybean paste)
- Cooked beans
- Canned soybeans
- Soybean powder
- Roasted beans
- Corn snack
- Corn starch
- Corn (fresh)
- Frozen corn
- Canned corn
- Food made from frozen corn or canned corn as a main ingredient
- Potato (fresh)
- Food made from soybean powder as a
- main ingredient
- Food made from plant protein as a main ingredient
- Food made from corn flour as a main ingredient
- Food made from corn grits as a main ingredient
| Products made from GM
food on list B as a main ingredient
||Soybean (genetically modified)
||Soybean (genetically modified soybean is
Products made from food on list B which may contain GM food as a
||Soybean (genetically modified soybean is
Products made from non-GM food on list B
||Soybean (Not genetically
||Soybean (non genetically modified
soybean is segregated)
- Soy source
- Soybean oil
- Corn flakes
- Corn starch syrup
- High fructose corn syrup
- Corn oil
- Rapeseed oil
- Cotton seed oil
- Mashed potato
- Potato starch
- Potato flakes
- Frozen, canned and retort packed potato
- Food made from frozen, canned and retort packed potato as
a main ingredient
| No need
Products made from Non-GM food on list C are allowed to label as
||Rapeseed (not genetically modified)
||Rapesheed (non genetically modified rapeseed
Would you like to know more about genetically engineered food?
Video for educational purpose is available.
Toward a Historical Victory
over Genetically Modified foods
Japan Offspring Fund (JOF) Monthly Newsletter
1999, October, No.126
|Once rapidly spreading, GM crops
have suddenly lost market share as food companies have
started to reject them. This turn around, the most successful
consumer campaign in history, is still underway. Let's
enjoy this historical event together.
victory in the history of consumer campaigning GM
Major grain producer, Cargill, starts segregating produce
Labeling requirements for GM foods, which the Japanese Ministry
of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) adopted on August
10, will take effect in April 2001. Despite a two-year moratorium
before implementation, famous Miso (bean paste) maker Hanamaruki
and Natto (fermented soybean) maker Fujikko have already begun
broadcasting TV advertisements claiming, "We don't use GM soybeans
in our products." Hanamaruki is also using newspaper advertisements
to publicize its rejection of GM ingredients. Given this change
among Japanese food companies toward non-GM crops, Cargill, the
world largest grain producer has started promoting the segregation
of GM and non-GM crops.
In the U.S., it is not easy to secure non-GM crops this year since
GM crops have already been widely processed. As a result, severe
battles have occurred among distributors trying to get hold of
limited supplies of non-GM crops. This is the first time in history
that several types of crops have been refused by the market simultaneously,
and the phenomenon continues to spread. Consumers are taking the
environment into account and saying "No" to the unknown risks
GM crops pose. As a result, the food industry and markets are
also rejecting GM produce.
How to participate
in making history
This issue's Special Feature will help you experience this historical
event. The first part explains how to replace your foods with
non-GM foods. If each individual tries to make his or her diet
safer, the shift to non-GM foods in the business sector will further
accelerate. The second part explains the approaches of various
business sectors, such as the food industry, trading companies,
grain producers and inspection organizations. Understanding the
procedures and approaches of these sectors, readers will be better
able to enjoy following this historical shift on TV and in the
press. In the final section we take a look at Monsanto Co., which
is facing an increasingly difficult business environment. The
last section also covers recent JOF activities and a recent report
on an OECD meeting where a heated debate unfolded between the
U.S. and the EU.
How to avoid GM foods
Although GM crops have been rejected by consumers, imported agricultural
products still contain GM ingredients as shown in Table 1. Unless
consumers avoid these products, GM foods producers remain ready
to stock store shelves with these products, causing a new round
of anxiety. Here we take a closer look at easy ways to avoid these
Avoid what is easy
We can easily avoid most GM foods, though we cannot avoid them
completely. In fact, no one knows to what degree highly-processed
GM products should be avoided. Take a look at Vitamin C. First
starch is made from corn, and enzymes are added to the starch,
which turns it to glucose. After further processing, Vitamin C
is produced. Corn and enzymes can be genetically engineered; however,
the final product, Vitamin C, does not have any trace of protein
or of genetically engineered DNA, and therefore it is nearly impossible
to prove the Vitamin C has been engineered. Given this fact, it
is not worth getting overly concerned about these products. Instead,
let's avoid foods that we can keep away from practically.
The way to avoid GM products before labeling takes
The Japanese labeling requirement covers 30 types of GM food products.
The importation of many GM crops, such as fresh potatoes, is prohibited:
these crops cannot be sold in the Japanese market. Besides these,
select products with labels such as, "organic non-pesticide,"
"domestic," and "GM-free soy beans." This principle should be
applied to highly processed foods as well.
our disclosure of fake "organic non-pesticide" labeling on Tofu
products last March, most companies changed their labeling to
a read "Domestic product." At that time, labels reading "Domestic
product" could only be used on Tofu made with at least 50% domestic
soybeans. Since August 10, however, only Tofu made from 100% domestic
soybeans can be labeled as such. So Tofu containing imported soybeans
is labeled differently like "soybeans rigidly selected."
<Miso: bean paste>Soybeans imported
from the U.S. are not used in Miso ingredients since the types
of soybeans are different. Therefore, Miso rarely contains GM
<Natto: fermented soybeans>Most natto
is made from Chinese soybeans, so natto too rarely contains GM
<Cornstarch>Change to starch made
from domestic potatoes.
products with "non-GM" labeling; these will appear shortly on
the market here.
Select correct products even
with no labeling
Products exempt from labeling requirements, such as soy sauce,
vegetable oil, corn flakes, potato products, and margarine can
be also be easily avoided as well.
Nisshin Food's, "using organically-grown corn -- 'Grain principle.'"
<Vegetable oil> Instead of oil made
from soybeans, rapeseed, corn, and cotton, choose ones made from
safflower, sesame seed, sunflower, grapes, olives and rice.
<Margarine> Choose butter, which also
offers less calories and is cheaper, since the amount of oil used
is usually less than in margarine. If you still prefer margarine
to butter, choose "Safflower high-plus," by Sokensha, for those
with a light taste preference, and "Olive soft," by Meiji Nyugyo,
for full-bodied preference.
products> Choose those made from domestic potatoes. Since
fresh potatoes cannot be imported into Japan, sliced potato chips
are made from domestic produce. Most types of croquettes, including
frozen ones, are made from domestic potatoes.
<Eggs and Meat> Almost 99% of stock feed is
imported, therefore, it is difficult to avoid non-GM feed. Nevertheless,
some farms use only domestic feed, for instance, two farms introduced
in the JOF last newsletter:
* Uozumi Farm (tel & fax: +81-299-43-6826) One set of eggs and
vegetables is about 5000 Japanese yen. A chicken is 1200 yen (delivery
charge is not included).
*Masumi chicken farm (tel & fax: +81-859-72-0655) One set of 50
eggs is about 5000 yen (delivery charge included).
Trading companies, manufacturers
and retail stores start taking action
Since the announcement of the labeling requirement for GM foods
by MAFF, news about GM foods has dramatically increased. Even
products that are exempt from the requirementd are to be labeled
"non-GM." To meet consumer demand, severe battles among corporations
have started. For example in the beer business, on exactly the
same day Kirin announced its shift to non-GM ingredients, Sapporo
announced the same policy as Kirin. Corporations had already decided
that consumers will choose "Non-GM" products, instead of "GM"
or "non-segregation" products. Therefore, let's support the purchase
of "non-GM" products. Such action accelerates competition among
corporations to provide non-GM products. In fact, the label, "Non-segregation,"
is equivalent to "GM," so it is necessary to encourage the boycott
of products labeled "non-segregation" from now on.
Quick reactions by large, chain grocery stores
- Nihon Seifun (milling) announced the sales of non-GM corn (corn
grit) from this October and flour for tempura within this year.
These prices are expected to be higher than general products (
Nikkei newspaper, Aug. 13).
Labeling on products
exempted from the requirement
Kirin announced that cornstarch, an ingredient of Kirin beer,
will be shifted to non-GM by 2001. Sapporo also announced a similar
plan. Asahi and Suntory are investigating their own countermeasures
(Nikkei, Tokyo and other newspapers, August 24, 25).
Signs of volunteer labeling among restaurants
* A chain restaurant, Jonathan, plans to label menus marking those
items that are made using non-GM materials. Its subsidiaries,
Skylark and Aiya also have the same plan (Nihon Nogyo newspaper,
* Skylark, a family restaurant chain, will label "non-GM soybeans
used" entrees on its menu from as early as this November (Mainichi
A rush of requests to inspection
The Center of gene analysis (Shiga prefecture) has received a
rush of requests, three times as many as last year. One of the
largest inspection organizations, Genetic ID, opened its analysis
center (Yokohama City) in October, a half year earlier than its
original plan. In the U.S., requests for inspections have greatly
increased for products destined for the Japanese market (Tokyo
newspaper, Aug. 18).
Problem corporations also
take quick responses
* Nisshin Seiyu (oil manufacturer) decided to change to non-GM
soybeans in sales to Tofu manufacturers from this December; however,
its main soy oil ingredients will remain the same.
* Nisshin Shokuhin has announced a shift to non-GM ingredients,
such as fried bean curd and Miso soup, in cups of instant noodles
from September 2000.
Trading companies had expected
the adoption of labeling requirements
* The Association of Kanto soybean wholesales will buy non-GM
soy from the U.S. from this fall. It had a deal with trading companies
for two hundreds tons of such soy per month from this November
at the earliest (Nikkei newspaper, August 18).
* Itochu trading company will switch to non-GM for most all of
its imported soy to be used in food products from this October
(Nikkei newspaper, Sep. 7).
third-party organizations is likely to increase
* The Japanese Association of Oil Certification will start inspecting
and certifying mixtures of GM ingredients, such as soybeans, from
this fall. * Nissho Iwai will start business on a consignment
basis with inspection companies. * Mitsubishi trading will establish
a certification company with Takara Shuzo (distilling) (Nikkei
newspaper, August 27).
finally begin to take action
* The Ministry of Health and Welfare will start sampling inspections
of imported soy, corn and rapeseed in five harbor-quarantine stations,
such as Tokyo and Yokohama, from this fall (Nikkei newspaper,
Strong influence on the U.S
* National associations related to agriculture have asked farmers
to choose non-GM corn for the next planting season. * Manufacturers
of baby foods and pet foods which use only non-GM ingredients
have increased, which in turn has lowered the price of GM crops
(Kyodo news, Aug. 29, Nikkei, Sep. 16). * A major grain distributor,
ADM, warmed farmers and grain suppliers to segregate ordinary
crops from GM ones (Kyodo news, Sep. 2, Nikkei, Sep. 16). * A
U.S. agribusiness giant, Cargill, the largest grain trading company,
will reexamine its collection measures and plans to strengthen
its segregation system (Nikkei, Sep. 16).
victory has been achieved
In May 1998, the EU put labeling requirement into effect. Since
then, the brakes have been put on the rapid growth of GM foods.
Food companies stopped using GM crops and retailers also avoided
them. Accordingly, almost all GM-food products disappeared from
the EU market.
A paper in the British science magazine "Nature" in May accelerated
the international campaign against GM foods. The magazine reported
the negative impacts of GM crops on the environment. Since then,
procedures for permitting new GM crops have been temporary frozen
in many parts of the world.
As a result of these circumstances, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
attempted to speak positively--though with great deliberation--about
labeling GM foods with higher nutritional value, allowing these
GM crops to be sold at higher prices than traditional crops. He
also touched on segregation as a means to sell non-GM crops at
higher prices. In short, the U.S. tried to encourage selling GM
crops with high nutritional value at a higher price, other types
of GM crops at the same price as before, and non-GM crops at a
slightly higher price. This strategy was a poorly disguised attempt
to bolster agricultural earning by increasing prices on all crops,
both GM and non-GM.
Then, this August, Japan's MAFF adopted labeling requirements
for three types of crops, covering 7 varieties, 30 food products.
In contrast, labeling requirements in the EU apply to only two
types of crops. Japanese labeling requirements became stricter
than those in the EU, and Japan imports more crops from abroad.
Therefore, it was easy to imagine that the new Japanese requirements
would have a great impact internationally. However, the change
so far has been far beyond anyone's expectations. Now, the exclusion
of GM foods is no longer a dream.
is put in a very difficult position
Monsanto expected large profits from development and sales
of GM crops, such as soybeans resistant to the pesticide "Roundup."
Although Monsanto eagerly spread its name around the world, strong
consumer resistance put its sales in danger.
Stock price down
In spite of good sales of pesticides for GM crops and in its pharmaceutical
business, Monsanto's stock price has fallen 11% in the past six
months. During the same period, there was an 18% decline in the
stock price of a recent Monsanto acquisition, the company that
produces "terminator seeds." As demand for GM crops has plummeted
and dark clouds have gathered over future sales, stock traders
are avoiding purchasing Monsanto stock.
Monsanto is a U.S. biotech company, which developed and sold pesticides
containing the notorious chemical, PCB, sales of which have been
prohibited in many countries. Monsanto hoped that the development
and sale of GM crops, which the company expected to be highly
productive and environmentally friendly, would help erase its
Within 4 years in the U.S., 55% of the area under cultivation
for soybeans was planted with Roundup-resistant soybeans. Sales
of GM seeds, technical fees added to GM seeds, and sales of the
pesticide Roundup seemed a revolutionary success. Mergers of seed
companies and aggressive marketing increased internationally,
resulting in GM crops being planted in increasing numbers all
over the world until 1999.
Resistance from consumers
changed Monsanto's fate
Monsanto, which seemed to be dominating the world market for GM
crops, faced difficulties in Europe first. Beginning with consumer
boycotts, food manufacturers and grain merchants began avoiding
purchases of GM crops since the implementation of GM food labeling
in May 1999. The procedure for permission to plant new GM crops
was frozen. As a result, Monsanto cannot introduce its new variety
of GM seeds to the EU market. Although Monsanto expected Brazil
to be a good customer, a federal court judged ruled that Monsanto
should carry out an environment impact assessment before selling
its GM seeds. As a practical matter, Monsanto will not be able
to sell these seeds in time for the next planting season. In addition
to Japan, movements against GM crops have been spreading to other
Asian countries, including India, South Korea and the Philippines.
Criticism against GM crops gets stronger in
In the U.S. , where GM crops have been widely accepted, voices
against GM crops and requests for labeling of GM foods have finally
begun to increase. Being sensitive to consumers' needs, big merchants
and Japanese trading companies have started placing premiums on
non-GM crops and encouraging farmers to segregate non-GM crops
from GM ones. The prices of GM crops have become relatively lower
and buyers are hesitating to purchase them. Monsanto's business
outlook may worsen even further next year, as sales of GM seeds
are likely to decline.
Let's deliver consumers' opinions
to the food industry
Labeling will be required for 30 types of food products
due to the new labeling requirements. Therefore, JOF has been
working on companies that sell products exempted from the labeling
requirements by advocating consumers' opinions.
JOF shares consumers' opinions with all business sectors,
in particular seven baby food companies which are exempt from
the labeling requirements. We also research the companies' current
plans by sending them questionnaires.
JOF has requested that Japanese agricultural cooperative associations
declare a five-year moratorium on the plantation of GM crops.
As for baby foods, the Japan Association of baby foods has agreed
to switch to non-GM ingredients. We will soon receive a list of
baby food products that contain GM ingredient. This baby food
industry would be the earliest to switch to non-GM ingredient.
An effective measure---JOF video
Our comment supporting the MAFF labeling requirement was only
picked up by one newspaper; however, our video about genetically
engineered foods, especially a scene showing an insect dying after
eating a GM potato leave was widely used by the mass media. After
we released its copyright, more than 10 TV programs put it in
Even in one discussion dominated by supporters of GM crops, the
video clip made their discussion appear to be an exercise in making
exuses for the use of GM crops. This visual measure makes audience
understand the potential and unknown risks of GM crops. The video
was used in Taiwan more than 10 minutes in total and CNBC's Asian
coverage broadcasted the comments of our staff. JOF has been active
in international field as well. Ms. Kumasawa, a JOF staff member,
attend the OECD meeting and took part in high-level discussions.
The next issue will report details of that meeting.
First participation in OECD meeting
as a consumer group Appeal for abolition of the concept
of "substantial equivalence"
Recently, a JOF staff member was an official participant
in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
meeting on genetically modified foods. At the meeting, held in
Paris from September 15, Mr. Tim Lobstein of Food Commission UK
and Ms. Kumasawa of Japan Offspring Fund spoke out in favor of
labeling all GM foods, as well as called for the abolition of
the concept of "substantial equivalence," which was proposed by
the OECD itself.
JOF has gained more international power to speak out. IACFO*,
of which JOF is a member, was invited to participate by the OECD.
The OECD wields considerable influence in world politics and economics.
Our staff took part in the first meeting of the "Task Force for
the safety of Novel Foods and Feed" for three days in September.
IACFO is the first consumer group allowed to attend and participate
in official talks. Following the meeting, JOF was contacted by
a Japanese OECD staff member who praised the first participation
of a Japanese NGO.
* The International Association of Consumer Food Organizations,
founded in 1997, consists of three organizations, JOF, the Center
for Science in the Public Interest (U.S.), and the Food Commission
Insist on the abolition of "substantial
The OECD brings together 29 countries, including European countries,
the U.S., Canada and Japan to exchange information and opinions
and cooperation on policies. OECD proposed the concept of "substantial
equivalence," which would weaken safety evaluation regulations.
Substantial equivalence takes the position that a new product
is safe as long as the product has the same nutrients, and no
toxic substances have been added. Therefore, GM corn is judged
as substantially equivalent---therefore safe---unless GM corn
has less nutritional value and Bt toxin is toxic to human beings.
As shown in the JOF video, insects die from eating GM crops, while
no insects die from eating ordinary crops. The OECD concept, however,
would assume that both potatoes are the same, and thus "safe."
JOF insisted on the abolition of this concept. When Ms. Kumasawa
stated the JOF position, citing the example of the Bt potato,
representatives from EU countries nodded in assent. A representative
from Austria came up later to shake her hand and personally praise
The OECD keeps away from labeling
At the OECD meeting, JOF called for comprehensive labeling of
GM foods as a consumer right. The report of this meeting will
be distributed to representatives by the next G8 Summit to be
held next year from July 21 in Okinawa, Japan. Due to the time
limitations at this meeting, Discussion of labeling standards
were left to Codex the task of GM labeling.
There is a huge gap between the U.S. and Canada on one side, which
insist that safety of GM foods is guaranteed, and European countries
on the other side, which seek to evaluate the safety and impact
on the environment of GM foods, based on the principle of precaution
and prevention. JOF will continue to keep an eye on the international
arena, including WTO, and keep reporting to consumers.