Washington, DC - The No! GMO Campaign, representing 53 of Japan’s leading farmer, consumer, and public interest groups, have joined the Center for Food Safety and a coalition of US NGOs in opposing the US cultivation of untested, genetically modified (GM) sugar beets. This week, members of the Seikatsu Club Consumer’s Cooperative (SCCC) have come to the US with a statement, representing nearly a million Japanese people, expressing their shared desire to keep food and feed containing GM sugar beets out of Japanese markets.
“This show of opposition to the importation of products containing GM sugar beets in Japan sends a strong message to US food and feed producers to beware of losing international markets if they use GM sugar beets,” said Lisa Bunin, Ph.D., Campaigns Coordinator at the Center for Food Safety. “In the face of weak government regulation of GM food, consumers are now turning to industry to keep GM foods off the market.”
Currently, only four major GM crops - corn, cotton, soy and canola - are grown commercially in the US. No new major GM crops have reached the market in over a decade, but the impending release of GM sugar beets into the food supply threatens to break this trend.
In addition to bringing a statement of opposition to GM sugar beets, SCCC representatives will tour Midwest farms in search of non-GM corn for cattle and dairy feed. The 14-member delegation - which includes pig, chicken, beef, and dairy producers - is meeting with farmers and feed distributors in Louisiana, Illinois, and Missouri, to identify stable supplies of non-GM corn to sell to its member farmers.
At present, Japan does not produce any GM crops for commercial consumption, although it allows the import of some pre-approved and labeled GM foods “Our goal is not only to keep Japan but also the world GM free,” said Tatsumi Tanabe, SCCC’s Business Development Department General Manager. “We believe that labeling is the best way to inform consumers about non-GM products so that they can make an informed decision whether to eat GM foods or not.”
In addition to empowering people’s food-buying choices, strong opposition to corporate control and consolidation of the food supply drives the many food and agricultural collectives flourishing across Japan. No! GMO is comprised of 53 of these cooperatives, including the SCCC, Green Coop Consumers’ Cooperative Community, Consumers Union of Japan, and the Japan Organic Agriculture Association.
“Our cooperative food movement seeks to guarantee autonomous control over our lives,” said Tanabe. “We do this by ensuring that farmers have the final decision over the seeds they save and plant, not corporations. This simply cannot happen when large multinational, GM seed conglomerates like Monsanto, control the worlds’ seed stock.” SCCC representatives plan to firm up contracts with non-GM corn growers throughout their US tour.
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Founded in 1968, the Siekatsu Club offers member access to safe, non-GM food at reasonable prices through the democratic operation and management of a collective purchasing system that supports non-profit, local, and co-operative style businesses. There are approximately 600 consumer co-operatives with 22,000,000 members in Japan. On the web at www.seikatsuclub.coop
Center for Food Safety is a national, nonprofit organization that works to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. On the web at www.centerforfoodsafety.org.