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Japan was a participant or observer in the following events:
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) passes conference resolution 3/2001, approving the Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, popularly known as the International Seed Treaty. The vote is almost unanimous with only two countries abstaining: the United States and Japan. [The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 11/3/2001 ; Financial Times, 11/6/2001] The treaty—under negotiation for seven years [Financial Times, 11/6/2001]
—requires countries to share the genetic resources of all seed varieties from 35 food crops and 29 forage crops, officially designating them as part of the global commons. The seeds will be deposited in a network of seed banks for use by all member countries, free of charge, for research and experimental plant breeding. The treaty prohibits using the seeds for chemical or pharmaceutical research. Companies using the seed for commercial purposes are required to pay an equitable share of the resulting profits to a trust fund, which will finance efforts to improve the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources in developing countries. A multilateral system will be set up to facilitate countries’ access to the 64 selected crops. [Australian, 10/31/2001; Reuters, 11/5/2001; Financial Times, 11/6/2001; Food and Agriculture Organization, 6/29/2004] The treaty also affirms farmers’ rights “to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed and other propagating material, and to participate in decision-making regarding, and in the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from, the use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture… .”
[Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture,, 11/3/2001 ] The US refusal to sign the treaty was based on its concern that the treaty does not do enough to respect intellectual property rights. Specifically, the US wanted “WTO rules on intellectual property rights [to] be applied without modification to the new treaty,” according to the Financial Times. It also wanted any references critical of intellectual property scrubbed from the text. But the Chair, Ambassador Fernando Gerbasi of Venezuela, would not permit it. The US, along with countries like Australia, expressed concerns during negotiation that there would be little incentive for biotech companies to invest in crop research if they were required to share their patented GM genes. [Australian, 10/31/2001; Financial Times, 11/6/2001] Additionally, the US wanted a provision in the treaty that would have allowed for germplasm embargos against Cuba or other “enemies” of “enduring freedom.”
[ETC Group, 11/4/2001] The treaty will enter into force 90 days after the 48th country ratifies it. [Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture,, 11/3/2001 ]
Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, top US diplomat for East Asia, says the Obama administration believes that policy continuity is critical in preserving ties with Japan’s new government, which desires more equitable relations with the US. According to Campbell, both countries have agreed to close and replace Okinawa’s Kadena Air Base, the hub of airpower in the Pacific. The two countries have agreed to relocate Kadena on the overpopulated southern Japanese island of Okinawa, but Okinawa citizens would like the base completely removed from their homeland. The removal of Kadena Air Base is also supported by government members of brand new Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. Hatoyama’s Democratic Party has expressed a desire to review US military presence in Japan, although the prime minister has carefully emphasized that the US, Japan’s major military ally and trading partner, shall remain the keystone of Japan’s foreign policy. Just recently, Campbell returned from Tokyo where he met with the new government. “The Obama administration will be very clear about how important it is to respect each other as equals, although we support a strong and independent Japanese foreign policy. As an alliance partner and a strong friend of Japan, at this early stage, we cannot be in a position to dictate,” he said, adding that, “In private, we will, however, underscore areas where we think continuity in policy is important.” The new Japanese government also would like to end its country’s Indian Ocean naval refueling operation in support of US and coalition forces in Afghanistan, although the US says it would like Japan to continue cooperating. [Taragana, 9/21/2009; Associated Press, 9/21/2009]
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