Japanese soy sauce manufacturers want US non-GMO soybeans

Japanese soy sauce manufacturers require a stable supply of non-genetically modified soybeans. That was a key message given by Osamu Kaneko, managing director of the Japan Federation of Soy Sauce Manufacturers (JFSSMC), who spoke at the Midwest Specialty Grains Conference in Minneapolis this past August.

Kaneko attended the conference along with 10 other members of JFSSMC, all executives representing the leading soy sauce manufacturers in Japan.

1,600 soy sauce manufacturers
Kaneko gave an overview of Japan’s soy sauce industry, which has 1,600 manufacturers. Soy sauce is a local industry in Japan with each township having its own brewery. However, the number of soy sauce breweries has declined by more than 50% since 1965 due to the influence of the Western diet and a declining population.

Soy sauce is the main seasoning and condiment consumed in Japan, used in a variety of Japanese foods including sushi, sashimi, tempura, and sukiyaki. Kaneko said that a recent craze in Japan is to pour soy sauce over ice cream.

Like wine and beer, soy sauce is a product of fermentation. The main ingredients are soybeans, wheat, and salt, and production takes six months.

Japan uses about four million metric tons of soybeans each year with about one million of those used to produce soyfoods, such as tofu, miso, soy sauce, and natto. Soybeans for soy sauce account for 40,000 metric tons. Another 170,000 metric tons of de-fatted soybeans are used to make soy sauce.

Won’t accept GM soybeans
Eighty percent of soybeans used to make soy sauce in Japan come from the United States.

Kaneko said that Japanese consumers will not accept anything other than non-GMO soybeans. He cited a Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries survey showing that 70% of Japanese consumers are very concerned about the health and environmental impacts of GM foods.

In closing, Kaneko emphasized Japan’s need for non-GMO soybeans at a “reasonable price.” He said that while Brazil and Canada are also producing non-GMO soybeans, the soy sauce manufacturers would like as much as possible to keep using US soybeans.

© Copyright The Organic & Non-GMO Report November 2008