The so-called DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act, officially—and improbably—named the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, has just passed the US House of Representatives, and would ban any labeling that affirmed or denied the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in a product.
The furor accompanying the DARK Act prompts the question about the status of GMO-related food labeling in Japan.
|A carton of soy milk in Japan labeled as being made from non-GMO soybeans from Canada (red underline added).|
GMO farming has not taken off in Japan as that those engaged in agriculture here are opposed to it.
All the same, Japan is a huge importer of GMO products from the United States. As of January 2014, Japan had approved no less than 98 GMOs for foodstuffs and animal feed, among which are those banned in other countries.
According to information provided by Alter Trade Japan, Inc., Japan does allow labeling regarding GMO, and in fact makes disclosure of GMO status mandatory for eight products: soybeans, sweet corn, potatoes, rape (colza), cottonseed, alfalfa, sugar beets and papaya (pawpaw), and for 33 processed foods made from these products.
But even if there are GMO additives in foods containing any of the above eight products, so long as the three main products in the given food are non-GMO, it is permissible to label the finished product as "non-GMO." And the “non-GMO” label covers products that are not 100% non-GMO. Up to 5% of GMO is allowed in officially “non-GMO” products (compared with only up to 0.9% in the EU.)
However—and this is a big however—in Japan it is forbidden to advertise the fact that a product is non-GMO in the case of products besides the Big Eight!
Also, there are significant exemptions from the duty to label GMO products as such. Soy sauce, soybean oil, corn flakes, starch syrup, high fructose corn syrup (isomerized sugar), dextrin, corn oil, canola oil (colza oil, rapeseed oil), cottonseed oil and sugar: GMO versions do not have to be labeled as GMO. Apparently virtually all the rapeseed oil sold in Japan is GMO, and finding non-GMO rapeseed oil requires a lot of effort.
Meat in Japan does not require any indication as to whether the animal was fed GMO or not.
Half-baked as Japan’s GMO labeling laws may be, they exist only because Japanese consumers have pushed for them, those efforts having faced much the same resistance from those in government and industry in Japan as in the United States.
With the US pushing its Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) program on Japan, the obstacles to consumer-driven initiatives to strengthen GMO labeling laws are likely to grow. The issue boils down to the same two questions that GMO labeling advocates have been asking from the outset: Should people have the right to know the provenance of what they eat? and If GMOs are a good thing, what's the problem with their being identified on the label?
Thanks to Alter Trade Japan for this information.
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