The Diet passed a bill into law Tuesday for regulating the use of genetically modified organisms.
The GMO law, expected to take effect next year, provides Japan with a legal framework to ratify the 2000 Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.
The biosafety treaty, adopted in Cartagena, Colombia, in January 2000, regulates international trade of genetically modified organisms to prevent imported GMOs from damaging ecosystems and to preserve biodiversity.
The law covers not only the genetic engineering of farm products, but also tinkering with the genetic map of microorganisms for purposes such as cleaning up the environment or pest control.
While GMOs have found widespread commercial use in farm produce, the genetic engineering of microorganisms is also expected to become big business.
Under the law, GMO handlers must obtain government approval before conducting experiments or using them in the open air, and provide the government with a plan outlining their use as well as an assessment on the likely impact on biodiversity.
The government will have the power to issue a retrieval order if problems are found in the plan.
On indoor usage, the law stipulates that handlers must take specified measures to prevent the organisms from leaking outside.
Violators will face imprisonment and other penalties.
While the government has already introduced standardized safety inspection measures on GMOs, the new law is the first to define environmental responsibilities of different governmental bodies according to the way the GMOs are handled.
The inspection of genetically modified foods was made compulsory under a separate law enacted in 2001.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.