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The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations seem to have been hijacked by American rice growers and large grain-exporting corporations. Liberalization of the rice sector would have devastating effects on rural Japan.

We cannot understand why the Japanese government should allow one small group of American producers to effectively make it impossible for Japan as a whole to maintain its food sovereignty. Consumers Union of Japan strongly rejects such approach to trade liberalization, and we, the consumers, have concluded that we have every reason to oppose the TPP negotiations. We think this will create a world where the law of the jungle prevails.

Half a year ago, American soldiers came to Tohoku to help the people there recover from the massive earthquake and tsunami. This was called “Operation Tomodachi,” and while the word “tomodachi” means “friend,” it seems that the U.S. Trade Representative now represents the “enemy” of the same farmers and fishermen in rural Japan who appreciated the support.

Farming is the backbone of all activities in Japan’s rural areas, from Okinawa in the south to Hokkaido in the north. Most rice farmers grow rice in the summer and wheat in winter. Both crops would be competing with cheap imports if tariffs were eliminated through “Operation Enemy.”

Also, Japanese farmers are properly covered by health insurance and pension systems. Their status cannot be compared to that of the many illegal immigrants who work for large landowners under minimum-wage conditions in areas of the United States.

To abruptly engage in TPP negotiations is not acceptable for consumers. TPP is not only going to harm Japan’s agricultural sector, but ruin the entire economy in rural areas. This also leads to destruction of the natural environment and food safety concerns. In particular, Consumers Union of Japan is concerned about pressure to change the rules to combat mad cow disease and the mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms.

Structural reform of agriculture — allowing large-scale corporations to run farms — will be the end of small-scale farming. Such policies are now promoted by the Democratic Party of Japan, despite its 2009 election promise to attach special importance to farmers. Small-scale farming should be seen as the model for others around the world to follow, as it requires less reliance on fossil fuels and promotes biological diversity.

We cannot help asking if it really is the intention of a small lobby group, the U.S. rice farmers, to cause such terrible distress to millions of people in rural Japan.

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.

yasuaki yamaura

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