Newsletter -SAFETY OF OUR FOODS AND LIFE-
1998, October, No. 114
By Junichi Kowaka
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery (MAFF) proposed a labeling requirement for genetically modified foods (GMOs) with an explicit conception of "segregation" of GMOs and non-GMOs. The Industry is fiercely opposing the proposal. A critical point lies in whether the labeling will be "compulsory" or "voluntary."
On August 27, the MAFF Committee of Food Labeling Issues publicized a proposal on the labeling of GM foods. There are three kinds of labeling, "GMO," "not segregated" or "GMO free." The inclusion of "not segregated" makes this proposal viable.
A volunteer labeling scheme B (see the table below) will not help inform consumer food choices, but scheme A could be the best labeling requirement in the world.
In an additional issue of their newsletter Plant Biotechnology News, the food industry criticized this proposal. We point out flaws of their arguments as following
Let's support the Proposal A and challenge the self interest of the food industry.
The MAFF accepts public comments until October 9, 1998. The comment may be sent either by letter or by e-mail, and should contain information such as name (and name of organization), age, occupation, address, and comment. The address of the MAFF and e-mail address are:
The Association of Pesticide Industries requested that pesticides be deleted from the list of endocrine disrupters. The chemical industries are trying to defense the issue of endocrine disrupters.
Our strategy lies in urging municipal governments not to use pesticides.
On June 8, The Association of Chemical Industries handed in questionnaires and appealed to the Environmental Agency about the list of endocrine disrupters. On July 16, the API also requested that agricultural pesticides be deleted from the list as well.
The API mentioned, "The Agency list causes unnecessary confusions and fears among the Japanese." However, it is clear that pesticides cause negative effects on the environments, for instance, the decline of fish in rivers and other wildlife impacts.
The API insisted, "considering the fact that pesticides on the list had been assessed and then registered, the Agency listed these pesticides without any scientific evaluations." This comment sounds as if the pesticides regulation is fully comprehensive, but not pesticides are assessed for the impact on the endocrine system.
Agricultural pesticides are not safe by nature. The current evaluation only gets rid of significantly dangerous ones only.
Pesticides companies consider a law suit
Some foreign-own companies may try to file a law suit. Yet, this would not be a problem. It is said that pesticides are checked from the perspective of endocrine disrupters internationally. However, this is not true. According to Dr. Smolen in the WWF, timing is critical when assessing the effects of endocrine disrupters. If the timing is missed, endocrine disrupters does not cause permanent effects at all. Given conventional testing methods, the full potential for harm cannot be demonstrated.
The Industry said that intake of all pesticides is below five percent of maximum allowance quantity per day. However, the dose is not the critical issue, rather the timing. A minute dose of an endocrine disrupting substance can cause impacts on reproduction, such as decline in sperm count. Industries also said that the total active amount of endocrine disrupters is only 1/40 millions of active estrogens of plants. Yet, synthesized chemicals cause different effects because they cannot be dissolved easily in our body, compared to plant estrogens.
All in all, industries judged that there are no urgent or significant problems among pesticides and asked to delete pesticides from the list, with groundless reasons.
While almost all people know some effects of pesticides on the environment, only pesticide industries have not admit the effects.
Let ask municipal governments not to use pesticides in the list.
Dr. Oshio will be a speaker with Dr. Skakkebaek in the coming symposium of the Citizen's Table on Endocrine Disrupters on October 13.
A Danish research team led by Dr. Skakkebaek showed that the sperm count has declined to the half in Western countries compared to one in the 50 year ago. This study became a momentum of sperm studies there, though it was even discussed so much in Japan.
It was six years later of this study when the endocrine disrupters draw attentions in Japan. In 1998 spring, this study meant a lot as an our problem to the Japanese due to one shocking news. Dr. Oshio at Teikyo University publicized his study, "Only one sperm sample out of 34 samples of young Japanese men could pass the WHO standard of healthy sperm.
The reason of different study results lies in the different study methods
Dr. Oshio answered interview with an interesting story.
There are three methods to count sperms, and his study targets general population. This "general" means without any terms or condition to choose the sample.
After sperm debates got hot in Japan as well, there are studies which show no decline of sperm count at present compared to the past.
Dr.Oshio said that one study checked sperms from partners of pregnant women. In this sense, this study could be said only to target sperms of men with reproductive ability. So, it is no wonder that their sperms counts are close to the average. Another study resulted in 15 % decline of sperm count. It uses six thousands samples which were collected for the purpose of artificial insemination, for example from sperm banks. For successful artificial insemination, sperm has to be good quality: enough sperm counts and high motility rate. So, samples of abnormal sperms have been eliminated at the beginning of this study, thus skewing the sample.
"An ideal procedure to study sperms is, first collecting sperm samples from general public. I would like to collect a few hundreds samples within this year." Dr. Oshio said with sigh.
Difficulties in study that targets the general public
"It is difficult to find men who offer their sperm samples." This is the reason why Dr. Oshio could not collect a large amount of samples.
A lot of mothers are willing to offer their breast milk samples to check their dioxin levels. However, it is much more difficult to recruit volunteer males because of privacy issues. Some men do not have self-confidence in their sperms and might hesitate to offer their sperm for study.
"It is not only Japan that faces difficulty in collecting sperm samples." Doctor Oshio said. That is why most scientists abroad in spmermatogenesis use samples collected at sperm banks.
"As such, sperm studies targeting general public have just started internationally. To get the correct data, we need more sperm samples." Dr. Oshio has been asking for volunteers.
Would you try?
The JOF started to ask for volunteers of sperm samples to help sperm studies. If you (men at 20-49 year old) are interested, please give us a call by phone or fax.
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