Protection of our food culture

Regarding the July 26 editorial “TPP-ready fishing industry?“: If Japan participates in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, many agricultural foods will come from America, New Zealand, Asia and elsewhere. Japanese farmers are concerned that they can’t win in low-price competition and that demand for domestic-grown produce may decline. At worst, Japanese farmers might give up growing rice and vegetables, and some Japanese-grown foods might disappear from dinner tables.

It is not just about food safety; Japanese food culture will be threatened by the TPP. We already have enough to worry about. For example, genetically modified (GM) crops, which involve recombinant gene technology, have been developed to resist pests and to increase yields. But do you want to eat tofu and bread from GM soybeans and wheat. My answer is no!

If possible, I would like to eat food grown without the use of agricultural chemicals. Some people who are concerned about food safety now prefer to buy brown rice and seasonal organic vegetables directly from farmers or over the Internet. Me too! Going the natural route is one way I can support local farmers.

When Japan made a free trade agreement with the United States, oranges, cherries and rice were imported from the U.S. There was worry about declining demand for domestic fruit, but Japanese farmers worked hard to upgrade their produce quality and ended up developing new types of fruit that were also more delicious.

This time I believe that they can eliminate the risks from the TPP, and Japanese food culture will develop more than ever before. We Japanese have to make a wise choice for ourselves and the next generation. Japanese producers and consumers must make a collective effort to protect Japanese food and culture.

yoshiko okazaki
tokyo

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

  • tomado

    So against TPP and then for TPP?

  • ConstablePlod

    TPP, like other ag-trade deals before it, will make the lot of the Japanese farmer

    even more untenable. There will always be a niche market supplying the ultra-nationalists and foodies, but unless Japanese agriculture reforms and rationalises, it will lose major market share to multinationals.

    Unfortunately, the small-holding, sole-farmer, the backbone of Japanese agriculture since the end of WWII, is no longer a viable business proposition and this is slowly killing Japanese agriculture.

    Most smallholders are of retirement age but they have an inbuilt aversion to selling off the farms, even though their offspring show little interest in taking over the family business.

    Small holdings need to be combined into larger cooperative units staffed by well-paid youngsters taught to maximise yields and profits through high-tech operations. They need to skip the profit-draining distributor and supermarket chains and market directly to consumers and food cooperatives.

    This won’t be cheap, but government loans and subsidies could get it off the ground and, if developed properly, could usefully educate and employ many of the younger generation who are currently wasted as freeters and hamburger flippers.

  • Spudator

    If Japan participates in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, many agricultural foods will come from America, New Zealand, Asia and elsewhere.

    Imagine that! Imagine a world based on free trade and fair play; a world where Japan enjoys the privilege of selling its goods and services to other countries but has the obligation of buying something in return instead of selfishly and arrogantly using those countries purely as a source of income.

    Japanese farmers are concerned that they can’t win in low-price competition and that demand for domestic-grown produce may decline.

    And what about Japanese consumers? Don’t they have a right to be winners, too, by enjoying the benefits of living in a modern, civilised country? Isn’t the availability of an abundance of good food at reasonable prices one of the defining features of such a country?

    If possible, I would like to eat food grown without the use of agricultural chemicals.

    Then do so. And if everybody else feels the same way, they’ll join you in demanding organically grown produce, a demand that Japanese farmers will be able to meet if they make the effort and don’t charge too high a premium for such produce. Of course, if the premium is too high, consumers will look elsewhere for a cheaper alternative. It’s called freedom of choice; nobody’s being forced to eat anything they don’t want to.

    When Japan made a free trade agreement with the United States, . . . Japanese farmers worked hard to upgrade their produce quality and ended up developing new types of fruit that were also more delicious.

    I’m glad to see Japanese farmers understand the concept of competition. Knowing that the world doesn’t owe you a living—that consumers have a choice and can take their business elsewhere—is a wonderful antidote to complacency and laziness, giving you the incentive to always do your very best for consumers and so attract new customers and keep them loyal once you have them. Whether you’re a farmer or a fitness club operator, the customer is king.

    Japanese producers and consumers must make a collective effort to protect Japanese food and culture.

    No; the producers can make such an effort if they want, but consumers are free to do whatever’s best for them. If ordinary people feel that Japanese food and culture are important, then fine, they’re entitled to support Japanese farmers and pay through the nose for doing so; it’s their right. But if they prefer not to throw their hard-earned money away on overpriced Japanese produce and spend it instead on, say, their children’s education, that’s their right, too.

    • Selchuk Driss

      “It’s called freedom of choice; nobody’s being forced to eat anything they don’t want to.”

      You must be joking. The earth is not a closed system. If the use of chemicals and GMOs is not strictly regulated, it will affect the purity of the organic food I am willing to pay for. But I’m sure free market will settle everything, right? It’s easy to glorify capitalism when you are on the winning end.

  • Jeffrey

    Japan already imports most of its food. Imports could be reduced some with the adoption of modern agricultural technique – larger scale farms employing greater mechanization where physically possible, which would help address the second problem of the rapidly declining number of farmers. However, until Japan’s population declines by 20-30 million, it will remain import dependent to feed itself for the foreseeable future. The TTP really has nothing to do with this other than, perhaps, spurring the government to adopted new national agricultural policy. I’m not holding my breath.