I would like to take the opportunity to thank Jiab, the clans of Ishizawa and Iwamoto, Kazu, and last, but certainly not least, my supervisor, Dr. Takeda. It is presented in its present state in spite of the patient advice, kindfully donated by the above mentioned, to which I am ashamed, and, indeed, embarrassed to say, little heed has been given. Let it be known that none of the blame, and all of the praise, that might possible come from this labour of love, goes to them.
Mårten Engelberg Cardiff, Wales, 2003-05-06.
Food has become to the people living in the 21st century what education was to the people of the 19th century: If it is high-quality, it is not for everyone. While higher education was a sparse commodity in the 1800s, it is now taken for granted at least by most people lucky enough to live in the developed world. Good, nutritious food may not have been readily available to every single human being back then, but in a world mostly rural, where a farm was never far away, not even to city-dwellers, and bad food could be spotted simply by touching, smelling and looking at the product in question, it could be argued that life was better, albeit only in a culinary sense. The 21st century is an altogether different affair. A country so thouroughly urbanised as Japan, seem to already be what the rest of the world will become - a 'very close relationship [...] exists between the shaping of a new Japan and the shaping of a global future', as ex-premier Mori has put it (2001) - a city-world where it it is easier to get hold of food in cooked - 'processed' - form than it is to find the ingredients by themselves. You then need some knowledge of chemistry to figure out exactly how it has been processed, using the table of contents, usually printed on the manyfold wrapped product, as the only hint. Food has certainly become a complicated matter: As there are more and more of us on the planet, supply of food has become subjects of international conferences, and as an acute problem, it merits all means available to us, in order to solve it. This is where science and its progress in artificial fertilisers, weed-killers, and ways of making food stay fresh for weeks of transport, and months, possibly years, in storage, has become something to be taken for granted: A necessary sacrifice for the modern world. For fresh food delivered through short distribution lines, thus without needing longevity-additives, we have to pay more, because such food has become a luxury. It is just like that. Or is it? Personally, I am not convinced.
Luxury or prerogative, the fact is that even though the organic food industry was only holding a global 1-3 % (0,2% in Japan according to JIN, 2002) market segment, it was growing by 20-30% annually, in the first couple of years of the 21st century (Griffiths 2001). Even if it such a development would not continue indefinitely, organically grown and bred food-products have definitely establish a foothold. The growing demand for organic food can be attributed to a growing number of people who can afford, or almost afford, higher prices. But it could also be that an increasingly educated population understands the dangers that come with human tampering with something as basic and essential as food: dangers so well highlighted by the blunders and crimes committed against our environment, and by consequence, a safe supply of air and food. The 20th century was filled with such scandals, a significant number of them happened in Japan, as I will show, but also in most other countries. The explosion in, and the following radioactive leakage from, Chernobyl's nuclear power plant - which was, 14 years later, still costing Belorus, 7 km away, 6,6 % of its national budget (UNDP/UNICEF 2002) -, the radioactive leakage on Three Mile Island, the gas leakage and leakage of toxins into the groundwater in Bhopal, are events that still decades after, generate press, protest and conflict (ICJB 2002, BBC 2001). They have become known globally as symbols of environmental destruction, and have had an impact on people's perception of how safe their lifes are. Greenpeace, a non-profit organisation which aims to 'eliminate toxic chemicals and encourage sustainable trade' etc., has drawn support from such worries, and at the turn of the century it had 2.8 million members worldwide, and offices in 41 countries (Greenpeace). Much of the fear of what scientic breakthroughs will bring next, might stem from lack of knowledge. For example; in a 1999 survey, 16082 Europeans were equally divided upon whether 'ordinary tomatoes do not contain genes, while genetically modified tomatoes do' (Eurobarom?tre). But science is judged on the results that can be seen, not the perfect theories that we hear from the laboratories, and unfortunately most of the progress in the food development seems to be about taking two, possibly three steps, forward and two steps back: The cloning of animals has recently hit hard times, as the test subjects age too quickly (Dolly et al); as GMO is proven resilient to existing pests, nature comes up with new pests. As long as the sustainability of the last decades of research in agriculture, people are going to prefer the kind of agriculture that sufficed in feeding people during the preceding millenia. 'Many consumers perceive organic products as safer and of higher quality than conventional ones. These perceptions, rather than 'science', drive the market' (Scialabba, 2002). A promising sign for those who hope that organic methods will one day put an end to a relatively short reign of chemicals in the field of agriculture, is the fact that some of the farmers in Japan are getting yields that exceed those of their 'conventional', chemical-using neighbours (FFTC 1994), thus putting to rest the assumption that only by the aid of chemicals can we feed the world. I will in the following pages show what brought Japanese opinion to seriously doubt the food industry, to what extent organic agriculture is thought to be more trustworthy, and can meet the demand on safer food, and to what extent, if any, the government of Japan is helping its population in these regards. Emphasis is put on the watershed that Japan trade, politics, agriculture and public opinion are located at at the time of writing. The dissertation is organised into four parts, apart from this introduction and the conclusion. In chapter 2, 'Health Scandals', there is a sample of events that influenced Japanese opinion. Chapter 3, 'Farming', looks at agriculture in Japan, and how the organic sector emerged, whereas chapter 4, 'What Japanese individuals can do', highlights the labours of persons committed to organic agriculture. Then, a brief analyse of how Japan, particularly its farming and food security, has been governed, and how the powers that be currently are catching up to the needs of their citizens by introducing official certification for organically produced food, in chapter 5, 'Government, laws and politics'.
A series of environmental catastrophies and health issues that accompanied Japan's rise to industrial success, has influenced the generations living and working today. On the following pages are but a few of them. At the turn of the 19th century, the leakage of cadmium into the drinking water of a village in prefecture, was the first incident of large-scale destruction due to man. Then, a period of industrial growth and military build-up followed, and there was little time to attend to environmental problems that slowly arouse as a concequence. In the middle of the 20th century, the industry caused health problems and environmental destruction by way of excessive and careless disposal of biproducts to the plastic manufacture, as illustrated here by the Chisso operations in Minamata. Eagerness by companies to keep up with an ever increasing development and competition in the years following the Pacific War, led to hasteful carelessness, and health problems, in the actual manufacture of food-products such as milk, as shown in the Morinaga example. Japan's remarkable rise to global industrial dominance during the 1960s, and 1970s, was achieved not only by the Japanese people leaving the countryside in order to work in factories, but also by turning a blind eye to the increase in waste that these new urbanites caused. The dioxin-poisoning is a result of later short-sighted attempts to get rid of this surplus of waste, rather than eliminating the root of the problem; a love of single-use items.
What would be the first major environmental catastrophy in Japan, began rather inconspiciously when Furukawa Ichibei, in 1877, bought the recently privatised copper mine in Ashio. It had been closed down in 1800 due to a decrease in output. As Furukawa used modern techniques and equipment to extract more copper, the environmental problems soon followed suit: As the output for the first time since the 1600s surpassed 1500 tons in 1884, the discovery of the large ore lode, that made the rise in production possible, caused death by blight to all trees surrounding it, by the end of that year (Shoji and Sugai 1992a). The very next year, mechanic rock-crushing, and a steam-operated pump, in a neighbouring mine, also owned by Furukawa, greatly increased production, and also led to mass-death of fish in the Watarase River (Shoji and Sugai 1992a). This is the time when the word kougai (pollution) appears in legal texts, such as the River Law (APEC ?b). By 1890, the copper from this one mine made up 3,6 % of all of the national exports, the tax-money for which was welcomed by the government, and promptly converted into military and other equipment from the West (Shoji and Sugai 1992a). Output was pushed up to 6000 ton, after Furukawa introduced a hydro-electric turbine that supplied power for new pumps, ore lift, and light (Shoji and Sugai 1992a). In 1890, a flood in the Watarase river basin, brought copper-poisoned floodwater onto 1,600 hectares of farmland in Tochigi and Gunma prefectures. 28 towns and villages were affected, and later that year, a popular movement against the mine asked the prefectural hospital to test for water-borne poisons. Then, one village appealed to its prefectural governor to stop mining at Ashio: he made requests to the Agricultural University to investigate causes and countermeasures. While waiting, the farmers formed volunteer groups in order to stop the mining, and published a soil analysis made by the Agricultural University, which was immediately confiscated by the authorities. Furukawa, unfazed by the troubles surrounding him, in 1893, introduced a new kind of smelter: ore could be refined 16 times faster. By now, The governor of Tochigi Prefecture was mediating negotiations between the farmers and the Furukawa management concerning possible compensation for damages. The farmers' movement against the operations of the copper mines had slowly changed into a movement to demand compensation for damage. As for stopping the mine altogether, that was up to the Japanese politicians: The Upper House of the Imperial Diet was not influenced by elections and consisted of noblemen, bureaucrats, large landowners, and industrial capitalists, selected by Imperial Orders. It was this same group that had established the Department of Industry within the government. Because copper was an important foreign money-earner, and because his daughter married a son of the future foreign minister (Mutsu), Furukawa established solid relationships with those in government. Mutsu's secretary, Hara, became vice-president of Furukawa Mining in 1905, and two years later rose to the post of Minister of Home Affairs. In 1891, Tanaka Shozo, a Lower-House-member from Tochigi Prefecture, had demanded that mining at Ashio be stopped, 'pointing out the fact that Japan's Mining Laws stipulated a withdrawal of the right to mine if mining operations damaged public welfare' (Shoji and Sugai 1992a). The government newsletter, Kanpo, said that it was unknown what had caused the damages, but an investigation was underway, and Furukawa would be reprimanded for discharging of poisons from the mine and ordered to install ore-dust collection equipment (Shoji and Sugai 1992a). The ambiguity of the statement - if the reasons for poisoning were unknown, why reprimand Furukawa? - makes one believe the government was aware of the link between the poison and the poisoning, yet preferred to ignore it: It is a stance repeated in the case of Minamata some 60 years later. Compensation negotiation had continued. In the first arbitration round, compensation was minimal: for instance, three of the affected communities, comprising around 1160 hectares, were paid 10000 yen (about one-twentieth of the annual income from the land). Second arbitration meetings during 1896, came with a twist: Furukawa Company wanted a final solution to the problem, and offered 1,4 yen per 10 ares of land, which through third-party negotiators was lowered to between 0,4 and 0,25 yen per 10 ares, 'with the proviso that the peasants relinquish permanently the right to bring damage claims against the Furukawa Mining Company' (Shoji and Sugai 1992a). How could the mediating authorities demonstrate such open support? On the international front, Japan won the war against China in 1895, but forced by Russia, and other Western powers, having to give back conquered land, the government decided to modernise their forces for a push against Russia: more iron and steel was needed, but first, funds were needed to buy modern iron-smelters. As a consequence, the money from the copper export was of vital significance. In the Watarase River basin, however, the consequence was a wasteland: sulphur-anhydridous smoke produced by the mining and smelting had killed the natural life, and with no vegetation to prevent erosion, 'the material washed away [...] filled the middle of the Watarase River to a height of five feet' (Shoji and Sugai 1992a). In 1896 a massive flood caused the Watarase, the Tone, and the Edo to overflow their banks. Five prefectures, a total area of 46723 hectares, were afflicted with mineral toxins. Damages amounted to eight times the annual income of the Ashio copper mine. 'This was the beginning of one of Japan's first mass-based citizens' movements' (Shoji and Sugai 1992a). The year after this latest flood, some 2000 farmers went to Tokyo for the first mass rally regarding Ashio: In spite of the dispatching of riot police and military, over 800 managed to reach the responsible government offices. The public exposure caused the Minister of Agriculture and Business to visit Ashio, and a second, even larger, rally caused his resignation (Shoji and Sugai 1992a). 'The mine had practised almost no effective pollution control. Victims were forced to accept minimal compensation payments through out-of-court settlement; others were forced to move out of the affected area in return for a minimal compensation payment, and those who resisted were involved in physical clashes and arrested' (APEC ?b).
When Minamata officials invited what was later to be known as Chisso Co. to establish a carbide-factory in their town, even offering it financial help to set up its factory and connecting it with a electrical power plant in the mountains behind the town, little did they know that it would poison not only the region, but also seriously damage the country's reputation in terms of corporations and their methods to achieve profits. In Minamata Bay, on the west coast of Kyushu, the fish was on the decrease in the 1950s. From an annual average of 32656 kg caught in the years 1950-53, the catch reached 2884 kg in 1957 (George, 2002). To make things worse, the number of active fishermen dwindled at an equally alarming rate, falling victims of mysterious maladies. This is one of them, Hamamoto Tsuginori, telling us about his first symptoms, in July 1955: "I tripped [...] and fell. I thought, 'That's strange. Why would I trip on this and fall?' Then I fell again at the shore. [...] it was then that I first realized that the numbness and shaking in my hands were serious". Hamamoto's doctor recommended nutritious food, so Hamamoto stuffed himself with sashimi for a week, until his condition had got so bad that his whole body was numb. He was diagnosed with acetylene poisoning, despite having stopped using acetylene-fueled lamps 3 years earlier, and gave up fishing. Making fists, to make his hands stop trembling, he passed the physical examination and got a job with the local plant owned by industrial/chemical giant Chisso, a plant producing acetal- dehyde. Chisso had already been at the butt of numerous complaints from the fishermen for more than 30 years, and in August 1951 to speed up the process of making plastics, the company had made sacrifices in safety, with excessive emissions of toxic mercury as a result (George, 2002). In the 50 years that followed, the va-et-viens of the trials and committees put in place by various governments, national and prefectural, has made Minamata name ring in infamy around the world, as an example of corporate greed, and government negligence. To date (2003), more than 12000 people have been diagnosed with mercury poisoning due to 'Minamata-disease'.
In the summer of 1955, Western Japan was struck by another 'epidemic'. Symptoms like diarrhoea or constipation, vomiting, swollen abdomens, and a darkening of skin colour had the doctors stumped, until on August 5, at Okayama University Medical School Hospital, it was made clear that the affected children all regularly drank the same 'Morinaga MF Milk'. On August 13, the strange sickness was connected to the Morinaga Milk Company's Tokushima plant, and after the hospital told the plant's production chief, on August 19, the company made a change in the production process. It went back to using a purer form of sodium phosphate authorized by the Japan Pharmacy Bureau, instead of the 3 times cheaper industrial grade sodium phosphate of which 380 kg had been used between April and July 1955. The large area being supplied with milk meant long transports causing the milk to go off. To solve these problems with increasing acid levels in the milk, the Tokushima plant on eastern Shikoku, added sodium phosphate as a stabilization agent, without checking it for impurities, causing health problems all the way over to western Kyushu, as the cheap substitute this time happened to contain arsenic (Ui 1992). From June to August, 12 131 new-born babies were poisoned and 130 died (according to a 1956 Ministry of Public Welfare survey). In the next 26 years, 13 389 persons ingested MF milk, 600 persons died as a result, and 6 093 persons suffered from continuing health difficulties, with 624 afflicted by severe mental retardation, developmental difficulties, and brain-damage-related paralysis (Ui, 1992). On 30 September, the Okayama Victim Patient Families Association demanded that the company pay all expenses in relation to treatment, hospitalization, and hospital visits, and the poisoning aftereffects; and that compensation be set at 2 500 000 yen for each death, 700 000 yen for relatively seriously affected cases, and 300 000 yen for lesser degrees of poison-related degenerative involvement. The company did not respond, and so the struggle went national. All the victims' representatives from 13 prefectures united to press for action through Zenkyo (Morinaga Milk Victims' Association) (Ui, 1992). Legal actions continued through the 1980s. The problem with dangerous milk resurfaced in the 1990s, although not in the shape of arsenic poisoning, and the guilty company this time was Yuki milk: In 2000, a badly cleaned pipe, in addition to old milk being mixed in with new, caused more than 13000 bad stomachs in throughout Japan. It was the beginning of the end for Yuki, and eventually the decrease in sales (down to a fifth of what it had been in the late 1990s), brought the ailing company to a definite halt.
Another well-publicised problem in the late 1990s, affecting breast-milk and air, and ultimately leading to cancer, were dioxins. Dioxin is 'any of a number of mostly poisonous chemical by-products of the manufacture of certain herbicides and bactericides, especially the extremely toxic 2,3,7,8 tetrachlorodibenzo-para- dioxin' (Collins 2000), but are also produced when chlorine-based products (plastics) are burned. 'On average, Japan's air contains nearly 10 times the amount of dioxin found in other industrialized countries' (Corliss 1999). The most prominent case of dioxins escaping the industrial environment into society, took place in northern Tokorozawa, Saitama prefecture, and was a result from burning of industrial waste. The region is particularly affected because of the large concentration of incinerators in the area that not only burn local waste, but also 'import' waste from its metropolitan neighbour to the south; Tokyo. Locals concerned by dying trees and growing amounts of cancer-cases, turned to professor Miyata of Kyoto University, a pioneer in the field of pollution-research, who is responsible for detecting the toxic effects of PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) in humans (Ghahremani 2000), who had been conducting research on dioxins since the early 1980s in Osaka, where 'excessive amounts of dioxin were found in the ashes of all the municipal incinerators' (Ghahremani 2000), but Japanese society as a whole had been slow to react on his findings. Miyata's report on the situation in Tokorozawa of 1997 was used to good effect by Saitama seibu daiokishin kougaichoutei wo susumerukai, a grass-root association in Tokorozawa, who got more than 4000 signatures on a petition in December 1998, asking the local government to close down some of the greatest offenders among the incinerators, and indeed did succeed in getting some of them shut down (KTK 2001). However, large corporations like Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and NKK, who build the incinerators for domestic use, and who also are big exporters of incinerators to other countries in Asia, stand to gain from continued proliferation (Stop Dioxin Pollution Kanto Network), and it is easy to see how a industry-friendly government would weigh health issues against economic issues in this matter: In the wake of Tokorozawa and other similar cases of dioxin-poisoning throughout the country, the Japanese government has, somewhat late in comparison to other industrialised countries, put in place regulations, the latest of which went into effect in 2000, and aims to cut dioxin release by 90% from 1997 levels by 2002 (Asiaweek 2000). According to Asiaweek, Japan had 3840 municipal incinerators burning more than three quarters of Japan's rubbish in 2000. Japan has recycling schemes in force throughout the country, collecting everything from milk-cartons and newspapers to fridges and bicycles, but the recycling rate in 1997, for instance was a mere 11% of the total waste produced by households: However, the industrial sector has a recycling rate of 41 % (JETRO 2001a). The 2,266 landfill sites for domestic wastes, were in 2001 estimated to have been filled by 2012, this estimation being based on a slow-down in filling the previous year. Osaka and Tokyo's sites were estimated to fill up 2 to 1 year earlier, respectively, them being filled up slower as well (JETRO 2001a). This can attributed to an increase in waste incineration: 78 % of the 5,1 million tons of urban waste is burned, 9 % goes straight to th landfill, and another 6 % goes there after having been sorted in resource reutilisation centers (JETRO 2001b). But since ashes from incinerated waste is put in landfills, as well, the net result is that an equivalent of 24 % of the collected urban refuse ends up in landfills (JETRO 2001b). Incineration is an area subject to intensive research: gas-melting furnaces are the future, says JETRO (2001a), because 'wastes themselves are useful for making use of the heat produced from them, [and] the furnace can curb the generation of hazardous substances'. This would be because of a higher temperature during burning. But not all waste is suitable for burning: According to a survey, the discharged volume of infectious wastes was 150,000 tons in 1998 (ENV in JETRO 2001a). As the use of disposable tools in the health sector increases, the infectious waste is expected to increase as well: In response to severe criticism from neighbouring residents, hospitals have not been able to dispose of increased waste in their own incinerators, or by other means, as the rules oblige them to, and more than half of the hospitals use the services of disposal contractors (JETRO 2001a). In addition to claiming incineration to be the 'most sanitary method of refuse treatment', the Japanese External Trade Organisation (JETRO 2001a) quotes Japan's mountainous and hilly terrain, and the low amount of plain-land available for use a slandfills as reasons for disposal by burning. The organisation goes on to uphold the Japanese incineration ratio for urban refuse as being preferable to the American 15 %, the German 35 % and the British 10 %: 'Japan takes a lead over other countries. Some 1,800 incinerators [deal uniquely with] urban refuse [and] about half of these [...] keep operating for either 24 hours or 16 hours a day' (JETRO, 2001b). Even that amount of burners has a hard task of keeping up with urbanites filthy habits: 'more than 1 kg of garbage is produced per citizen per day, and experts maintain that Japan probably has the highest percentage of polyvinyl chloride plastic in its municipal wastes of all industrialized nations (Corliss 1999).
Starting from when rice was introduced into Japan sometime at the beginning of the Yayoi period (300BC-300AD) (JIN), Japanese farming has been about getting the highest yields possible: it has become the worlds most intensive. It is estimated that the average Japanese farmer in 1993 spent almost 27 times the world average of energy per hectare (OECD in Setboonsarng and Gilman 1999). When it comes to usage of fertiliser, a similar disparity can be seen. Per hectare Japanese farmers used, in 1990, 100 kg potassium, 88 kg nitrogen and 85 kg phosphate. Those are figures 5 times higher than the rates uses in Thailand, a country growing the same types of crops, and fighting simlar rates of pest-proliferation (Setboonsarng and Gilman 1999). 43 % of the world's agricultural chemicals are used in Asia: (FFTC 1994), and over-application entails: green house effect (through the nitrious oxide created by nitrogen), contamination of water supplies, depletion of the soil's innate fertility, and lower quality in produce, because of the unnatural concentration of nutrients supplied, and because of the high speed by which they are supplied (Setboonsarng and Gilman 1999). But for many years quality had to stand back for quantity in Japan, and the use of organic fertilisers, like compost and straw, declined from by more than half between 1965 and 1995 (Yamauchi 1995 in Setboonsarng and Gilman 1999).
28 % of farmers were older than 65 in 2000, compared to only 10 % in 1965 (MAFF, 2001). 'In 1960 half of Japan's farming pop. was still under 42 years old. By 1990 the median had soared to 60 - retirement age for the rest of Japan. Demographers reckon that, by 2000, as much as a third of Japan's farming pop. would have died of old age.' (The Economist 1991 in Peng-Er 1999a) However, in the 1990s, there was a slight rise of people entering the farmer's profession: It was not enough to compensate for the leaving of retiring or dying farmers, but nevertheless a significant change (Ohe, 2000).
Japan was at the end of the 20th century situated well below most of the developed countries in the world when it came to capacity to supply domestically produced food to their citizens: With a self-sufficiency ratio that had reached 40% in 2000, a dramatic drop from the 73% thirty-five years earlier, it is surpassed by South Korea, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France, the latter having a surplus production (MAFF, 2001). Most of the 60% making up the Japanese food-imports are raw materials and semi-processed ingredients: The share of processed food imports constitute only about 5 percent of the food requirements (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 1996). There has been talk in the press of the Japanese eating more, getting heavier and heavier, but on a calorie per capita and day basis, not much has changed between 1967/69 and 1997/99: 2697 at the earlier date, and 2779 at the later date (Ottaviani, 2001). The real change is hiding in the amount of fat that is eaten.'The average Japanese now spends 25 percent of total food expenditures on eating-out and processed foods' (Iwanaga 2001). An increase in the consumption of Western-style fast-food, such as hamburgers, and deep-fried chicken is thought to be at the root of the fat increase.
As a counter-reaction to the way modern agriculture was developing, with more machinery, less farm-hands, and more factory-produced chemical fertilisers, there has been a steady increase, during the 'chemical century' that was the 20th, of attempts to go back to basics. Nitrate contamination of ground water as the result of agricultural fertilisers has become a problem that does not only empoverish the fields from which the fertalising is carried out, but also puts the water supply of society as a whole in jeopardy. 'Organic agriculture is a production management system that aims to promote and enhance ecosystem health, including biological cycles and soil biological activity [...] It is based on minimizing the use of external inputs, and represents a deliberate attempt to make the best use of local natural resources' (Scialabba, 2001). In Europe 'it took 30 years for organic agriculture to occupy 1 percent of agricultural land and food markets, but food safety concerns resulted in its recent spectacular and unforeseen increase' (Scialabba, 2001). Estimated at US $26 billion in 2001, the global market is experiencing exceptional growth (OM 2001). In Europe, deaths due to BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, commonly known as 'Mad cow disease'), alongside Foot-and-mouth disease, in livestock, scared the consumers, and drove the revenues for organic products up by a third in that market during 2001 (OM 2001). With close to 50 % of the world's organic land in Australia and New Zealand, it might be a surprise that the revenues from domestic sales of organic produce amount to less than a percent of the global revenues: Most of the produce in these countries is exported (OM 2001). The European Union made up 46 %, followed by North America (37 %) of the revenues in 2001, and Japan as number three made up the bulk of the 16 % shared by Asia, Africa and South America (OM 2001). Most of Japan's food-imports come from China, and other Asian countries (), but although 'vast amounts of Asian farmland [...] do not use chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilisers, there are only 51,404 hectares of certified organic farmland' (OM 2001). That could change as more countries with economies depending on agriculture, eager to cash in on organic exports (OM 2001), take on the cumbersome process of Japanese organic produce certification (OM 2003). The latter is a possible question mark for the future as it could take on the protectionist role formally held by tariffs and quotas (OM 2001). As of 2002, there were still no official trade statistics for organic products, but according to the ITC (International Trade Centre) outlook based on estimates of the retail industry turnover, the organic sector of the global food and beverages market increased from US$ 10 billion in 1997 to US$ 17,5 billion in 2000, out of which US$ 2,5 billion in Japan: At ITC, 'careful' estimates of the global growth lie around 20 %. (Kortbech-Olesen 2002). Sales of organic products was expected to get another boost in January 2003 when the sixth case of BSE, since the first reported in September 2001, was discovered in Japan (OM 2003). Japanese food-retailers, now also selling their products on the internet, show a price-difference of roughly 20-30 % higher prices on the part of organic food. A quick look at some what clothes-shops have to offer, indicates that the price-difference is roughly the same in non-food organic products: T-shirts at a premium of 50 % (Edwin 2003), . In the U.S. the premium on organic food in 2003 was not as high. Prices gathered by Agricultural Marketing Services (AMS) employees, in Seattle, in the week ending 2003-04-29, showed that organic fruit such as apples, pears, canteloupes, watermelons and strawberries was 15% more expensive than conventional fruit - exceptions being oranges and raspberries, that were cheaper if organic (NFOPX 2003). Vegetables varied wildly; from organic zucchini being 11 % more expensive, to carrots demanding a price 2,5 times higher than conentional carrots (NFOPX). Meat (poultry, beef and pork) bought in Seattle and Boston were 40 % more expensive if labeled 'natural', 'hormone-free' or 'raised with care': figures for certified meat were unavailable due to insufficient amounts sold on wholesale level (NFOPX). According to the British Department of the Environment and Rural Affairs, the market for organic products in that country was growing by around 50% annually (Defra in O'Hara 2002) The amount of imported organic produce in the UK resemble the numbers in Japan, with 80 % coming from overseas, and price- differences, too, are similar: Organic food in the UK costs you, in 2002, frequently a third more than conventional, and sometimes double (O'Hara 2002).'Ducks in the newly transplanted rice paddies eat bugs and other pests.'. Source: Leopold Letter.
The following are a few examples of people who did not wait to be told what to do; they saw problems, thought about the causes, and went ahead, trying to solve them on their own. They are a proof that Japanese society, although for long having fostered notions of group-identity, domestically and abroad, is not devoid of 'nails sticking up', as the Japanese used to characterize individualists.
Michi Okada International Association is an organisation which has grown from the philosophy of Okada Michi, into global promotion of organic agriculture. Okada was born in 1899, and after having lost his job in the depression, he 'came to appreciate minimalism', and started growing vegetables on the cheap in his backyard in Tokyo. Herbicides, pesticides, and additives of the like were all the rage, but as money was short, and Okada's new beliefs were strictly in tune with nature, more specifically the soil, he introduced the idea of Jizen nōgyō (Nature Farming) in 1935. 'He recommended its implementation to farmers who were sympathetic to his views. Following his move to Atami, Okada set about clearing his land on the outskirts of Atami to establish an experimental farm for Nature Farming. 'Given people's overwhelming faith in scientific technology, which was so prevalent at that time, pesticides and chemical fertilizers were regarded as saviors of the agricultural industry. Because of this bias, Nature Farming was criticized, and was even called "an evil theory." Farmers who decided to put Nature Farming into practice suffered extreme hardships and duress' (MOA, 200). In 1953 he set up a Society for popularising Nature Farming, structured into regional branch offices, and started publishing a monthly magazine by the same name. The Ōhito Farm, in Shizuoka, south-west of Tokyo, the main farm among the ones operated by MOA, was founded in 1982 and now functions as the headquarters of MOA's Nature Farming operations (MOA, 2003). Apart from growing a dozen or so kinds of vegetables, paddy rice, tea, shiitake mushrooms, apples, peaches, Japanese chestnuts, figs, and flowering plants, it also contains a research institute, soil-analysis services and the MOA Nature Farming School (MOA, 2003). 'Each year approximately ten thousand people, including members of MOA producers' cooperatives, members of the Japan Agricultural Cooperative (JAC), national and local government administrators, educators, and consumers, visit the Ōhito Farm' (MOA). Practices have been standardized, and for a while the standards of MOA, together with the seals of approval, were the only nation-wide symbols of organic produce (). MOA had by the beginning of the twenty-first century become a umbrella-organization for some 300 farmer's-cooperatives selling Nature Farming products to consumer through a variety of ways, including booths in certain department stores, direct delivery and MOA's own range of shops, Orange House (MOA, 200).
Hoshi Kanji was born in 1935, in Takahata-machi, Yamagata prefecture. His publisher calls him a 'peasant-poet'. In 1970, he stopped using chemicals on his rice farm in Mahoroba, Takahata-machi, and from then on the place has been a focus for media-attention and study-tours. 'Takahata-disease', is what Hoshi calls the condition that makes students, salary-men, and people from all kinds of walks of life to come to Mahoroba in order to learn more about organic rice growing. In his book, 'Nō kara ashita wo yomu' (From farming we read the tomorrow), he uses Adachi Yōko as an example: Adachi came to Mahoroba to do fieldwork as part of her university-studies. Later on, she returned, and became eventually employed in the local city hall (Hoshi 2001).
Fukuoka Masanobu has said that, raising food is not necessarily the primary goal of farming, 'but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.' Farming as spirtual path to satori (enlightenment), that is the life philosophy of a man who was born in 1914 in a farming community, educated in microbiology, and worked as a scientist with plant pathology, but at the age of 25, contracted pneumonia, and while recovering had a vision, in which he saw that all attempts to control nature could lead to nothing but destruction (Haftl 2003). From then on, he has dedicated himself to being one with nature, a hard task when the country he was living in was busy distancing itself from farming methods used for centuries, and instead preferred imported methods (Haftl 2003). On his father's farm, which he returned to when resigning as a scientist, he grows rice grown in summer, barley and rye in winter. Over the years, Fukuoka developed the technique of working - interfering - with his crops as little as possible, putting in one-fifth of the labour invested by other farmers, yet obtaining yields of 200 to 300 grains per rice stalk. He does fertilise, but it is a completely non-chemical mixture made up by the straw from the preceding year's crop, clover and poultry manure. He does not weed, and bugs take care of pests: 'Nature, left alone, is in perfect balance', says Fukuoka (Haftl 2003). Since 1979, Fukuoka has been spreading the word about his style of farming through books and lectures all over the world (Haftl 2003). He had, by 2003, published three books, 'One Straw Revolution', 'The Natural Way of Farming' and 'The Road Back To Nature', and received several awards, including the Deshikottan Award (1988), the Ramon Magsaysay Award, and the Earth Council Award (1997).
Furuno Takao of Keisen-machi, Fukuoka prefecture (Nōsonhouchi 1999), was born in 1950, and after dropping out of his post-graduate course in 1978 (Shoku to nō no ōen 200), he turned his wet-paddy rice-farm into an organic one, spending ten years weeding his rice-fields by hand (Schwab 2002). But in 1988, he started using ducks instead, for weeding, and for a bit of fertilising as well. He is now the author of books not only on the subject of weeder-ducks - including one published in Australia: 'The Power of Duck' (Kona) - but also of a duck cook-book, and his rice sells at a 20-30% premium over the price of conventionally grown rice (Schwab 2002). 10000 Japanese farmers are estimated to be using his methods (Nōsonhōchi 1999; Leopold 2002), and, according to the Schwab Foundation, so were more than 75000 Asian farmers at the time he was chosen as one of their 'Outstanding Social Entrepreneurs' of 2002. Furuno is one of the chairpersons of Japan Rice-Duck Farming Society (Zenkoku aigamosuitōkai 2003). This is an unusual example of someone from an expensive, high-input-medium-output farming background like Japan, exporting his methods to the poorer parts of Asia, where Japan seldomly has any impact on the farming community other than in its role as an importer. Furthermore, in being recognized by the Schwab Foundation, the brain-child of the same man who started 'The World Economic Forum', held annually in Switzerland, he has reached international recognition in an arena which normally regards Japan as a country on the forefront of nothing but technological advances.
Hagiwara is a third generation vegetable farmer in Tokyo, holding hectares distributed on five small, mountainous fields in the Tama hills in the west of the city. I met and talked with Hagiwara in the beginning of the rainy season of 2002, and naturally the first subject was the difficulty to grow organic vegetables without using any sort of pest control during that difficult month or two. Hagiwara was nonetheless committed to being as eco-friendly as possible, as his daughter was at the time of the interview, a 6-year-old, and her school used Hagiwara on every occasion as an rare example of farming within metropolitan Tokyo. As of 1999, he sprayed only his daikon (a type of radish) field, once a year, during August, using smaller amounts of pesticide than his Tama hills neighbours, who sprayed at least five times throughout the year, not only during the rainy season (Engelberg 2002). In June 2002, official JAS standards for organic food had yet to be implemented, and the only domestic certification methods available to Hagiwara were the ones offered by the MOA, at exorbitant rates of 60000 yen per field, for which 6-monthly controls are funded, or the one sponsored by Tokyo Metropolitan government. Tokyo was unwilling to give Hagiwara even partial recognition as an organic producer, as not all of his crops were grown entirely without pesticide (Engelberg 2002). He used to sell his vegetables to two local super-markets, but gave that up as he saw how much profit they made, as he thought it was not helping the green movement to charge the customers 'too much'. He claims that with his home-delivery service he only adds a 12 % profit margin to the production cost: 'enough to pay for petrol for the deliveries!', and that being able to provide organic food for his own family was the main aim of keeping the farm (Engelberg 2002).
Rural depopulation means that 'the LDP cannot neglect the urban voters'. Also, because of the opening up for imports of rice, etc., 'a political backlash from the farmers is expected' (Peng-Er, 1999a). The farming community had a disproportionate influence on Japanese politics from the end of the Pacific War in 1945 through the mid-1990s (Peng-Er 1999a). This is explained by the Liberal Democratic Party's rise thanks to and depending on rural votes in the first free post-war elections (Peng-Er 1999a). But since then, rural communities have decreased dramatically in population. In 1950, 42,5 % of the Japanese lived in the country-side; in 1990 only 6,6 % did so (The Economist 1991 in Peng-Er 1999s). The LDP's rival parties, disgruntled with the inbalance in the way the parliament's seats were accorded - for example in prefecture with only inhabitants would have one representative to the national legislative body, the same as in Tokyo metropolitan area, a community with inhabitants - finally managed to get the electoral system reformed in the early 1990s, and the LDP promptly suffered a drop in the number of seats accorded to it in the 1993 election. Accordingly, all parties are expected to vy for the urban vote, as it is essential for winning the elections, and the country-side has been increasingly put aside as its low population renders it less important, in terms of political usefulness (Peng-Er, 1999a). The profit made from feeding the military efforts in the Korean War, funded Japanese investment in manufacture and industry, and technical developments in farming equipment enabled labour to move from working on farms to working in factories, in this way agriculture can be said to have had an istrumental role in Japan's recovery and growth in the latter half of the 20th century (Amyx 2000). Its importance in terms of real economic value may have been limited, but as a political tool, it became essential for the LDP: the party entered into a sort of client-relationship with the farmers, so to speak, in that the party in order to keep getting the rural vote, payed for it by protecting the rice market from cheap imports, establishing a modern infrastructure in the rural areas (roads, schools, hospitals, etc.), and maintaining tax breaks for farmers (Amyx 2000). The change came in 1993 when the LDP was swept out of power, and replaced with a coalition between three parties. This meant reform, and new laws: 'The NPO Law had been in deliberation in the Diet since it was submitted by the three ruling parties in December 1996' (Yamaoka 1998).
The Tokuteihieirikatsudōsokushinhō ('Law to Promote Specified Nonprofit Activities') that was promulgated on March 25, 1998, provided easier access to the status of corporation for non-profit voluntary associations (Yamaoka 1998). The many small voluntary groups around Japan, the likes of which the country relied on in the immediate aftermath of the Hanshin-Awaji earth-quake of 1995, had been excluded from the kind of tax-breaks a corporation enjoys, due to lack of money: For an application for incorporation under the Civil Code to be accepted, the proposed corporation has to hold approximately 300 million yen (CSMJ 1998). To add insult to injury, the application process could take up to a year and required approval from the government agencies with jurisdiction over the area of activities of the applicant, whereas under the new law, NPOs are entitled to a decision within four months of the public announcement, and they do not need to hold any assets (CSMJ 1998). The legislation process was perhaps a 'mile-stone', as Yamaoka calls it, in that the voluntary groups who were going to be affected by the new law, were lobbying and exerting influence on the legislation process to an extent that previously only large corporations had been able to muster (1998). Along the way to promulgation, they managed to broaden the scope of activities corporations could do to include health care and regional environment, and an initial proposal to prohibit corporations from criticising public officers and make suggestions about policies was done away with (Yamaoka 1998). But revenue is not tax exempt for the type of corporation, as is the case for the 'public interest corporations' registered under the Civil Code (CSMJ 1998). In 1998, it was estimated that around 10000 NPOs would opt for registration under the new law (CSMJ 1998), but in 2002, only had done so (). The volunteers of Japan are more important than meets the eye: Yamamoto claims that three out of four Japanese university students attended nonprofit institutions (1998) and that of hospital beds are in nonprofit institutions,' (). It is difficult to say to what extent the delay in getting recognition from government has hampered voluntary contributions during the 20th century. The Food Recycling Act of May 2001, put into effect in May 2001, has a lower target of improvement than the somewhat optimistic target adopted in 1999 that looked to halve Japan's final-disposal-waste-level of 48 million tons in 1996 by 2010: the new law is a specific effort to achieve a recyling-rate of 20 %, in food- related business, by 2006 (Chiba 2003). But attempts like these are merely scratching the surface of Japan's waste-problem as a whole: In 2000, 16 % of Japanese industry's unwanted biproducts went straight to the landfills, 10 % of 1 million used tires were burned or abandoned illegally, mercury-containing flourescent lamps could legally end up in landfills due to lack of legislation (JETRO 2001b).
Air pollution caused by sulfur dioxide decreased dramatically because of regulations on emissions from stationary sources and on sulfur content of fossil fuels; according to the Ministry of the Environment (ENV ?), levels dropped from a high of 0,06 ppm in 1967 to less than 1 ppm in 1998 (ambient air monitoring). Improved engines, and an increase in cars and other combustible engine vehicles, equaled themselves out, and annual average nitrogen dioxide concentrations remained high through the last quarter of the 20th century, hovering around 0,04 ppm from 1975 through 1998, as measured at 18 roadside monitoring stations, or around 0,03 ppm if measured from the 14 ambient airpollution monitoring stations (ENV ?).
MOA has issued their marks since , and Nihon Fūdo (Japanese Food , or JF) has its own standards, which also allow producers who simply reduce their use of chemicals to join in, thus reducing cost (Aoyama 2001). Government catching up. As of March 2002, producers can put a new sticker on their organically grown or bred food-products; the Japanese government has finally come up with an official seal called JAS (Japanese Agricultural Standard) for Organic Products (OM 2002). 25573 farmers were certified as wholly or partly organic by JAS standards as of March 2003 (SAO 2003). The previous lack of a reliable certification body caused some producers to ask for certification from overseas, an example being a vinegar-producer in Gifu prefecture: 'Every year an American inspector visits the company to verify that the rice used in the vinegar is being cultivated organically. [...] the company has seen its sales rise steadily' (JIN 1997). Certification for organic JAS can cost 20000, 50000, or even 200000 yen per field, depending on where the certification process is carried out (Aoyama 2001): In 2002, there were 52 certificating agencies in Japan authorised by MAFF to carry out controls, and charge for them (Ada 2002). It is also the reponsibility of the producer to install buffer areas and windbreak nets, to prevent pesticide sprayed on adjacent farm, and water used in conventional rice-fields, from entering a certified farm. The burden of responsibility falls heavily on the producer. Furthermore, there has been criticism that standards are similar to those put in place in the EU and the U.S., not taking into account that farming in those places is easier due to drier weather conditions , and as such, making it illegal for Japanese to label their products 'organic' unless they comply with JAS, is only making life harder for domestic producers and easier for foreign producers wanting to export to Japan (Aoyama 2001). Of six foreign associations authorised by MAFF to award JAS certification for organic food, five of them were (Ada 2002). On May 14, 2003, the standards for one important organic category, livestock and processed food containing livestock, will be determined (MAFF 2003), standards which will allow cheap Australian and America beef to compete with Japanese beef, and that does not bode well for the Japanese livestock farmers. Domestic production of beef was encouraged by the Japanese government during the 1960s and 1970s, grew accordingly, but began to level off in the mid 1980s, and after having hit a high in 1995, it has been steadily decreasing up until 2002 (MAFF, 2003). However, consumption rose as soon as import obstacles were dismantled in 1991 (Rae, 2001), and thanks to an increasingly Westernised diet, and in spite of a BSE-caused dip in the curve, will probably remain high along with the import. As of 2000, no further reductions of Japanese tariffs (at 39,5%) on beef-import are scheduled, as the country has already implemented all of the policy-changes required by the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) in the Uruguay Round Agreement (ERS-USDA, 2002), so as of present, the market is free to decide the future for Japanese wagyū, organic or not. Some hope that since the Japanese cow-race wagyū, with its distinct marbled meat, is still considered superior by the consumers, and foreign production of this variety cow is still relatively low, this could mean saving of the domestic beef-producers remaining, but there is already a growing production of this cattle in North America, as well as producers in Belgium and Wales, aiming to market this meat alongside 'the caviar, Havanna cigars and the Lafitte Rothschilds of the world' (Wynne-Finch), and in Japan, it would be logical to assume.
Rosenbluth and Thies (1999) base their optimism concerning the future of Japanese pollution control on the electoral reform in the 1990s, saying that as the likelyhood for coalition governments increase, so does the willingness to include other interests than big business. Recent opinion polls, shows a trend of higher awareness of 'life-style' among people in general, and a wish to experience country-life among city-dwellers in particular. In surveys carried out by the MAFF, the number of people to whom small towns and villages in the country-side were the ideal places to live, rose from 17 % in 1996 to 24 % in 2001, constituting the biggest change in that survey (MAFF 2001), and this is what people living in Japan's cities want to have more of when visiting the country-side in the future: Shopping in morning markets, local cuisine, attend harvest festivals, visiting and staying in farms, visiting historical sites, and experiencing - as well as assisting in - farming and food processing (MAFF, 2001). There is a clear connection between country-side and food in the minds of the modern Japanese, something that is not so pronounced in the West. In Europe, less so than in North America, but nonetheless clear, is an association with sports and beauty spas, rather than food production, especially if a visit is considered. In a poll carried out by Asahi Shinbun in August 1998, 2211 Japanese responded to questions regarding life during the economic recession, and they were attaching considerable weight to quality: While 59% had 'reconsidered their way of life', compared to 37% who had not, 44% still considered quality more important than price, compared to 48% naming price as more important. To the question 'What would you buy, if you could buy anything?', 'Health' was the number one response, with 54% choosing that option from a list containing 'Honour', 'Youth', 'Talent' and 'Love', as well as 'Time', which was the closest contender at 15%. In 1993, 40 % of the people responding to another survey claimed to lead a life based on their own interests and not on 'the desire for money and fame', compared to 21 % in 1953 (Peng-Er 1999b). In 1953, 65 % agreed that 'children should be taught that money is the most important thing', a number dropping steadily in susequent surveys every five years until the 35 % level was reached in 1993, when 45 % said no (Peng-Er 1999b). Peng-Er (1999b) states a Prime Minister's Office's survey of 1991 showed that 56,2 % of people asked about their attitude towards nature said they were 'concerned' (compared with 57,5 % in 1986) and 28,2 % were very concerned (up from 20,9 % in 1986). Another survey from the same office, in 1992 asked 2284 city-dwellers about their knowledge of global warming problems: more than half claimed to have a good knowledge about the problems, over 40 % said to know them quite well, and only about 8 % said 'Do not know' (in Peng-Er 1999b). What these polls coincide with a down-turn in the economy unseen in post-war Japan, and could mean that respondents simply consider themselves so far away from opulent wealth that professing a love of money, when asked for their priorities, strikes them as absurd. It will be interesting to see what priorities people claim to be having if the economy returns to 1980-levels, and how the next generation copes with high unemployment rates, apparently unavoidable in a society abound with work-saving machines. The Japanese have shown that with devotion to a cause, almost anything can be done. It is uncertain what that cause may be in the future. The youth of Japan may turn their backs on materialism with its obsession of mobile phones, and 'instant living'; the slight increase in young new farmers might be the embryo of such a change, a 'green wave' of the kind experienced in Europe and North America during the 1970s. In conclusion, taking into account the unstable condition of life at the beginning of the 21st century, it is anyone's guess whether we, as a race, will still be here 10 years from now: The scientific advances in the fields of health and food, are thwarthed, again and again, by nature thinking on its feet, so to speak, reorganising itself in the shape of 'morphing viral diseases' in order to decimate our numbers. The previous statement might be disregarded as science fiction, but many people seem to believe that the only reason for viruses and bacteria to exist is because nature has a need to balance itself out, or, as seems to be a common theme among religious sects in these times, that Nature is angry for the misuse that humans are subjecting it to. Whatever the real reason may be, the fact is that people who are unhappy with the ever more distant 'food-factories', that globalisation has by way of long-haul transport, made it possible to place literally on the other side of the world, simply only have one choice: to buy organic, or near organic, food. Conventional food manufacturers have become too big and unwieldy to control simply by talking, or writing a letter, to the CEO. Not buying their food might the easiest way to exercise some form of influence. Buying organic food for a higher price, is easier, especially if you feel assured that prices will eventually drop as demand and supply increase, or that it is worth it. In the case of Japan, this is particularly poignant, as the country emerges from an economic crisis with private purses clearly affected, but willing to spend money on what is perceived as quality. Its conventional agriculture is too expensive to compete with imports head-to-head; there is a need to diversify, to play on the national heart-string by emphasizing that Japanese food appeals primarily to Japanese people, and therefore might best be produced by people having grown up with it. Japan has two major traditional gift-giving seasons each year, at which time the majority of the people still, in a society so often - wrongfully - accused of self- affacing and giving in to Western influence, scours the delicatessen-stands in the urban centers, and, recently, internet-based, regionally located producers' showcases, for the purest, the most raffined culinary specialities. If the initially higher price of a non-market-leading segment, such as the organic one, is going to stand a chance anywhere, Japan would seem to be the perfect place; finally free from almost half a century of overtime, Nōkyō (agricultural cooperations which had a virtual monopoly) meddling and trade barriers, which have limited choice and awareness of alternative lifestyles and foods.