No. 5 — February 4, 2000


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Table 1: Japan Offers Proposal on Genetically Modified Organisms
for the Upcoming World Trade Organization Negotiations

In its "Proposal of Japan on the Upcoming World Trade Organization Negotiations," which was submitted in June 1999, Japan expressed the view that it was necessary to address new issues, including genetically modified organisms, from a broader perspective.

To elaborate on this point, Japan prepared the following proposal on GMOs in September 1999. Japan first expressed its desire to offer this proposal at the Quint Agricultural Ministerial Meeting, which was held September 30 to October 1, 1999. The proposal has recently been communicated to the Secretariat of the WTO.


Proposal of Japan on Genetically Modified Organisms

I.Progress Report Due

A.There has been much discussion on GMOs in international fora, including the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Codex Alimentarius Commission, as well as through the United Nations Convention of Biological Diversity. The communique of the Cologne summit of the Group of Seven Industrialized Nations issued June 1999 stated that the results of the examination made through the expert meetings of the OECD on biotechnology and food safety should be reported by the time of the next summit.

B.Under such circumstances, it has become necessary for the WTO to discuss the issue of trade on genetically modified products, such as their relations with the WTO agreements, while considering the results and the progress made through discussions in these international fora and elsewhere.

II.Discussion Points

In discussing issues related to GMOs, due consideration should be given to the following points:

A.The great potential of genetic engineering should be appropriately acknowledged.

B.The impact of genetic engineering and its application on the environment and human health should be fully evaluated, based on the most advanced scientific knowledge and expertise.

C.Consumers' concerns on the use of genetic engineering should be addressed appropriately.

III.Measures Taken by the Central Government

In the light of the above-mentioned points, Japan has been taking the following measures on GMOs.

A.Actively promoting the research and development for an appropriate and effective use of genetic engineering.

B.Checking the safety of GMOs in accordance with the relevant guidelines so as not to cause any damage to the environment and human health.

C.Adopting a policy which aims at introducing a labeling system for genetically modified food, while securing the safety of GMOs; after spending two years in deliberation based on the wide-ranging opinions from various sectors of the society, the policy was adopted from a viewpoint of taking feasible, reliable and appropriate measures for providing consumers with information.

IV.Providing an International Forum

A.In its proposal for the next WTO agricultural negotiations submitted June 1999, Japan proposed to establish an appropriate forum to address new issues, including GMOs. Such a forum would hold discussions from a broad perspective in order to analyze the current situation of GMOs, to examine the issues which need to be addressed and to consider their relationship with existing WTO agreements.

B.The proposal has been made based on two reasons:

  1. First, the new challenges, such as GMOs with a wide range of applications, require examination from a broad perspective as these are related, not only to the Agreement on Agriculture, but also to other WTO agreements.
  2. Second, it was deemed necessary to identify the issues to be addressed in connection with the relevant WTO agreements.

C.As a forum for such discussions from a broad perspective (hereinafter referred to as "the examination group for new issues including GMOs"), it would be appropriate to form a group as, for example, a subgroup of an independent negotiating group on agriculture to identify topics on food-related matters of GMOs. It is appropriate for this subgroup to deliberate within a reasonable period of time.

V.Suggested Further Discussion Topics

While the topics for examination in the above examination should be further considered, the following, for example, could be included as possible topics for examination.

A.What is the current situation of members with regard to their evaluation on the safety of GMOs and the labeling of food containing GMOs. In order to have discussions on these subjects, how can the relevant topics of discussion be identified?

B.What would be the appropriate way for the WTO to deal with the contents and outcomes of discussions of other international fora?

C.Whether the relevant WTO agreements such as on SPS [Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures], TBT [Technical Barriers to Trade] and TRIPs [Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights], which could be related to GMOs matters, are capable of responding to the matters. If not, what are the problems.

Source:Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, MAFF Update, No. 331, October 15, 1999. Available at

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