The Japanese agriculture ministry has set up a study
team to spur commercialization of genetically modified crops for biofuel instead
of food, which has been largely shunned by the public because of safety
By promoting the commercialization of GM crops for fuel, the ministry hopes
to eventually gain the public's trust in using GM crops for human
Full-fledged commercial cultivation of GM crops started in
other countries, such as the Untied States, about 10 years ago.
universities and research institutes started growing GM crops outdoors on an
experimental basis from the late 1990s. Most of these projects are still in the
research and development stage.
Approved, but not
Currently, 11 GM crops in Japan are approved under a national law
based on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. The crops, including rice plants,
soybeans and corn, are mainly intended for human food and animal
But none of the crops grown for human consumption has been
commercialized. Commercial farming has not yet been established in Japan for
even inedible GM plants.
Because of strong safety concerns among the
nation's consumers, the government has found it difficult to approve GM crops
for practical use.
"Medical" GM rice
GM rice, which has been
found to relieve hay fever symptoms, is handled as a medical product and must go
through strict animal experiments before it can be commercialized.
around all of these hurdles, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
considered commercialization of GM fields for purposes other than human
The study team, comprising specialists and executives of
consumer and producer groups, will draw up a medium-term strategy and a
scheduled program for research, development and commercialization of GM
Long way to go
It is expected to propose concrete plans
to commercialize inedible GM crops in five to 10 years.
Crops under the
plan include GM rice plants, which can yield more grain than regular rice plants
for use as biofuel.
Other GM plants that can suck up underground toxic
substances, such as heavy metals, will also be considered.
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