A bill about to be approved by the Diet would abolish the law on seeds of mainstay crops. The Abe administration intends to expand private-sector companies' entry into the seed business by terminating the law, which mandates the development and production of seeds for rice, wheat, soybeans, and barley and oats by prefecture-run agricultural experiment stations.
Even though abolition of the law could potentially have a major impact on Japan's agriculture in ways that affect food security, the Lower House quickly passed the bill last month without much deliberation, and it was endorsed by an Upper House committee on Thursday. Lawmakers should still weigh the possibility that a repeal of the law could pave the way for seeds developed and sold by big multinational firms to make significant inroads into the farming of the nation's mainstay crops.
The law was introduced in 1952 with the aim of promoting the production and spread of high-quality seeds for mainstay crops. Since the law represents the legal basis for the agricultural experiment stations' budgetary requests to prefectural governments for expenses on seed development and production, its abolition could, in the worst-case scenario, result in sharp cuts to these allocations.