GMO Rape Seeds Threaten Major Japanese Vegetables, Grandmothers Resist

Tue, 01/03/2011 – Jude Fanton

One of our former interns during 2001, Masami S, writes from Japan:
One thing I am concerned about is GMO rape [canola] seeds. They are scattered beside the road from the port to the mill. The situation is especially bad in Mie and Chiba. We Japanese are proud and fond of the diversity of our Brassica vegies like daikon, turnip and green leaves like Mizuna and Mibuna. Some, such as turnips and those green leaves, possibly cross-pollinate with rape seeds. But I have good news too, about young people and grandmothers.
I will not swap my Brassica seeds with other people because GMO rape seedlings are growing along the main road in Mie within two kilometres of one of my gardens. Some alternative people have stopped exchanging seeds with miscellaneous [unknown] people.
On a brighter note, I am very glad to report that I go to the countryside and see grandmas on weekends in Mie. Some of them are very old close to 100. Some of them are still growing vegetables. Most of the gardens near mountains are damaged by wild animals like monkeys, pigs and deer. Most of them stopped saving seeds but some of them are still saving seeds and give me them.
Even in this one prefecture we have several climate different zones. We have different cuisines and cultures. Some people eat more fish near coast than in mountains. Some people eat rice porridge all the time near mountains. These porridges are made with Japanese brown tea. I am learning how to cook as well as how to save seeds.
Alternative young people have started to swap seeds all over Japan. I met several seed savers during COP10 in nearby Nagoya, October last year. I have kept in contact with them. I heard Mr. Kami is very busy having seed gatherings in several places around Japan.
Here are some photos we took of Grandmother seed saving group in Chiba Prefecture in October 2009 – Michel and Jude Fanton.

IMAGE: Grandmas saving daikon seeds

IMAGE: Kikoyu with her aduki and bean seeds