Japan implements local control over GM crops

While state legislatures in the United States are attempting to block local control over genetically modified seed, Japan’s prefectures are taking the opposite approach by implementing local controls.

Ten of Japan’s 47 prefectures have their own regulations on the open-air cultivation of genetically modified plants, an Asahi Shimbun survey has found.

The local ordinances or guidelines are meant to prevent cross-pollination and hybridization of GM plants with related crops in the region.

”Once cross-breeding or mixups take place, it will be too late,” said an agriculture section official of Niigata Prefecture.

Niigata, known for its Koshihikari rice, put a stringent ordinance into effect in May. It obliges farmers to get permission to grow GM crops, while research institutes must file reports on open-air experiments. Violators face up to a year in prison or fines of up to 500,000 yen.

In Tokushima Prefecture, which implemented an ordinance in April, officials say it is part of its “farm brand strategy” to compete with other production centers.

”The image that no GM crops are produced in the prefecture is important,” said one official.

Other prefectures implement GM ordinances include Chiba, Kyoto, Hokkaido, Ibaraki, Shiga, Iwate, Hyogo, and Tokyo in May.

Hokkaido’s rules set minimum distances between GM crop fields and others. The distance is at least 300 meters for rice, 1.2 kilometers for corn and 2 km for sugar beets. These distances are about twice as long as those set by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for its research entities.

Similar local controls over GM crops are spreading to municipalities. Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, put new guidelines in effect in September. An ordinance will be proposed to the Imabari city assembly in Ehime Prefecture in the same month.

Many of these local entities are setting rules to prevent conflict between producers and anti-GM farmers and consumers.

(Source: Asahi Shimbun)

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