News 2013/10/22

Solidarity among People in Japan and Korea for Biodiversity Preservation

 
 

The Seventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP-MOP7) will be held in Korea in the autumn of 2014. The Japan Citizens’ Network for Sustainable Food and Agriculture organized a conference in Tokyo on October 19, entitled "One Year from the COP-MOP 7 in Korea: Global Spread of Genetic Contamination," and invited two speakers from Korea. Information on genetically modified (GM) crops growing wild both in Korea and Japan was shared, and a Korea-Japan resolution on joint activities on the conservation of biodiversity was adopted. (Posted on 22 October)

People both in Korea and Japan are concerned about GM crops growing wild

In Japan, GM canola grows wild every year in places like ports where GM canola is unloaded and along the roads from the ports to edible oil factories. A government institute in Korea also found GM canola, corn, soy beans and cotton growing wild along roads and in and around dairy farms. While GM crops are not grown commercially in Japan, and their cultivation is prohibited in Korea, GM crops grow wild due to spills of imported seeds.

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty governing the movements of GM crops from one country to another. It was adopted as a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity and entered into force in 2003. As a member of the Japan Citizens’ Network for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, the Seikatsu Club Consumers' Cooperative Union (SCCCU) has pressed the Japanese government to implement the Cartagena Protocol strictly at home in order to prevent adverse effects of GM crops on the environment.

Citizens in Korea and Japan declared their intention to work together to protect biodiversity

Ms. Kim MikyungCOP-MOP currently meets every two years in conjunction with the regular meetings of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity. As the seventh meeting (COP-MOP 7) will be held in Korea in September 2014, a symposium was organized inviting two speakers from that country. Ms. Kim Mikyung, Executive Director of the Life Movement Solidarity against Genetically Modified Foods, is a farmer who grows watermelons and rice in Busan. She currently works in Seoul from Monday to Friday as the executive director of the Korean Women Peasants Association. She talked about the citizens’ movement in Korea, such as their activities to press the government to improve their GM food labeling system. “I was impressed by her presentation about Korean women who work to preserve indigenous seeds,” says Ms. Junko Asakura, a board member of the SCCCU and who works as a member of the steering committee of the Japan Citizens’ Network for Sustainable Food and Agriculture. Women peasants in Korea play an important role in preserving biodiversity. “We are concerned that genetically modified crops were found growing wild in areas where women are working to preserve indigenous seeds,” says Ms. Kim.

Mr. Kim Sung-ChulMr. Kim Sung-Chul, Joint Representative of the Life Movement Solidarity against Genetically Modified Foods talked mainly on GM crops growing wild in Korea. “In 2012, GM corn was found in six areas. The situation is very serious because three of these areas are in Kangwon-do which is one of the main cereal-producing areas,” says Mr. Kim. According to Mr. Toshiki Mashimo, Joint Representative of the Consumers Union of Japan, “COP-MOP7 will discuss the article on ‘Handling, Transport, Packaging and Identification’ which we think ought to be directly related to the problem of GM seed spills.” He emphasized that the themes discussed at COP-MOP 7 will generate wide public interest.

“We have not yet launched a nationwide citizens’ network in Korea,” said Ms. Kim, looking toward next year. “We have learned from Japanese experiences and will work to prepare for COP-MOP7.” At the end of the conference, participants adopted a statement which says “People in Korea and Japan will work together to preserve biodiversity from GM crops.”