The Noah Project

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US-Japan agree to make it easier to import each other’s organic products

9 Comments

The Associated Press announces a new US-Japan deal that could lead to more organic options.

The United States and Japan have agreed to make it easier to import each other’s organic products, the latest step in a global effort that could give consumers access to more — and cheaper — organic food.
The Agriculture Department announced an agreement Thursday between the United States and Japan that will allow organic products to be certified in one of the countries and be sold as organic in both. The agreement will allow producers to sell their products in both countries without going through the lengthy process of getting certified twice.
The agreement is similar to a 2009 deal with Canada and a 2012 deal with the European Union. Agriculture officials say they are looking at agreements with other countries — South Korea, and possibly India, Brazil and Mexico down the road — that could also make it easier for U.S. organic farmers to sell abroad.
The result could be a flow of new products to the U.S. market and higher profits for U.S. organic producers. According to USDA, the most popular organic imports from Japan are green tea, organic sakes and organic mushrooms. The department said the Canadian agreement has increased exported organic grains to the United States, and the European pact has increased sales of their organic wines and olive oils in the U.S.
The United States exports many more organics to Japan than it imports from the country, and officials say the agreement will be a boost for the burgeoning U.S. industry, one of the fastest-growing sectors of agriculture. Organics have seen sales rise around 4 percent to 5 percent a year and now account for more than $30 billion in annual sales.
Japan imports a wide variety of organics from the United States, including soybeans, specialty crops like cauliflower and nuts, and processed products like frozen meals. Under the agreement, U.S. organic products sold there will now carry the USDA organic seal.
Annual organic sales to Japan from the United States now total around $80 million, and the USDA estimates the new agreement could more than triple that amount to $250 million a year over the next 10 years.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the agreement will create “good jobs for Americans across the organic supply chain.”
For consumers, the agreement with Japan also should lead to lower prices and more variety, said Laura Batcha of the Organic Trade Association. Companies that have had to pay for certification twice will no longer have to pass those costs on to consumers. Batcha said the industry is hopeful that the United States will work toward other such deals as foreign countries gradually adopt stricter standards for organics.
Steve Crider, international Sales Manager for Amy’s Kitchen, a California-based organic company that sells frozen entrees and canned soups, said his company’s sales have increased “dramatically” since the European Union market was opened up last year.
Crider said his company had not been selling very many products to Japan because it would have had to certify that every single one of the many ingredients in its products are up to Japan’s standards.
“Japan loves American products,” he said. “But it was a backwater for us because of those constraints.”
In agreeing to the deal, Japan dropped its objections to two substances allowed in U.S. organic foods that are not allowed in Japanese organic foods. While most of the two countries’ organic standards are the same, Japan has not allowed its organics to be produced with lignin sulfonate, a substance used in post-harvest fruit production, or alkali-extracted humic acid, a fertilizer used to help grow a variety of organic crops. The United States allows those substances.
Vilsack said agreements like this one are aimed at helping revitalize rural areas in the United States that have seen a decline in young people. While commercial-size farming can be intimidating to young and beginning farmers, Vilsack said, many have shown interest in organics, which require less acreage, less equipment and less capital to get started.

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Follow Mary Clare Jalonick on Twitter: http://twitter.com/mcjalonick

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Author: Daniela

I was born in Croatia, at that time Yugoslavia. My family moved to the US when I was very young, but I still treasure the memories of my grandfather teaching me how to protect myself against the "evil eye," my grandmother shopping early every morning, at the open air market, to buy the freshest vegetables for the day's meals, and the traditions that were the underpinnings of our society. Someone once noted that "For all of us that want to move forward, there are a very few that want to keep the old methods of production, traditions and crafts alive." I am a fellow traveler with those who value the old traditions and folk wisdom. I believe the knowledge they possess can contribute significantly to our efforts to build a more sustainable world; one that values the individual over the corporation, conservation over growth and happiness over wealth.

9 thoughts on “US-Japan agree to make it easier to import each other’s organic products

  1. Hmm … I’m afraid I have reservations.

    One – not specific to Japan but to all international food trade – is that long-distance food hauls are identified as one of the ways we use fossil fuels that we need to be prepared to “lose”. At the present time, as i understand it, we’re already in ‘peak oil’ conditions world wide.

    The frenzy of activity to chase down last and complicated drops is wreaking havoc with environments on every continent. We are destroying habitat and watershed, at a galloping and accelerating pace. We’re depriving animals of anywhere at all to live (moose, bear, multiple others including many migrating birds already suffer with the Keystone – and if it’s approved, a rich forested area the size of Florida will be wiped out and toxified.) Here’s something I put together to try to make our ‘scope and pace’ more ‘real’: http://thoughtsfromthewell.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/earths-dilemma-scope-and-pace-of-human-industrially-based-destruction/. ) (Unfortunately – I had a system to reduce text size on my posts and somehow that has been changed! I’ve not had time to sort out what’s happened! The post looks ‘OK”, but is definitely not as it was for weeks and weeks!)

    Second – possibly unrelated, but who knows – this article reminds me that the “Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement” (TPP) has tremendous support from mega-corps in all commodities. In fact, it’s corporate ‘advisors’ who are shaping and directing the agreements details. Generally, the agreement will give the corporations ‘trump power’ against regional or state or national regulations that might seem “too strict” for the corporate needs. This will include regulations on environment, workplace safety, and so on. It’s described as “NAFTA on steroids”. The corporations will be legally empowerd to sue city, state, and national governments. It’s my understanding that nations can sign with ‘qualifiers’ that would protect specific regulations – but this is not assured. The trade talks have been held for a couple of years in secrecy. A few months ago some information was leaked. The US congress can ‘fast track’ approval of the agreement, which means no public awareness. Even members of congress sitting on international trade committees have been denied full information. (Try http://www.citizen.org/TPP for a summary of TPP. Japan is not mentioned among the many nations listed but the list ends with “and other nations”.)

    Third – and I add this one with regret. The full extent of contamination from Fukushima is unknown, but the site continues a disaster zone, with contaminated water presently flowing into the sea. Radioactivity contaminates are taken up in many crops. The Japanese “governing power establishment” has been desperate to downplay extent of contamination. At this present time, the damaged reactors continue to show increased signs of instability – yet fuel rods are thought still in place. Risks overall to perhaps the northern half of Japan’s soil, waters, etc. (including people, crops and livestock) is very high. I’m not sure either the ‘status quo’ ag. officials in Japan or the US will concern themselves with this – especially if public is unaware! (Try http://enenews.com/ for daily posts on what’s happening in Fukushima.)

    • Maggie,

      Thanks for the link to information about the TPP. I’ll make sure to post it.

      • You’re welcome – the TTP needs a boost in attention. Even in alternative media is is often sidelined by more immediate issues. In the back of my mind nags what I’ve gathered may be a particularly threat re TTP for Americans – and that is the possibility that Congress will run it through on a ‘fast track’ vote. I gather the ‘fast track’ option is a formalized procedure that is ‘skips’ congressional debate, and may be even a voice vote (aye or nay), which gets congress off the hook of having their personal vote recorded. I say this nags at me because I know I should inform myself and contact my members of congress, and have not done so! I have no idea how much time we have to do anything about it – but have a hunch it’s high on Obama’s corporate-guided “to do” list.

        Also – Further info today re bans on food trade with Japan re Fukushima:

        The USDA has announced a ban on ag products from 14 prefectures. I don’t know if commerically prepared food counts but would assume so. From the summary I read, I also think some foods will not be on the banned list. Other Pacific nations mentioned in the summary have also established bans (usually on fewer prefectures). Not mentioned but also with bans in place is Russia. (Some bans established early are on fishery products, it looks like bans are expanding in some cases to include land-based products.)

        http://enenews.com/fda-import-alert-u-s-bans-japans-agricultural-and-fishery-products-from-14-prefectures-due-to-fukushima-radionuclides-concern-over-contamination-is-spreading-to-most-countries-around-pacific

        http://enenews.com/ban-on-japanese-seafood-in-full-effect-says-russia-includes-fukushima-and-7-other-prefectures-decision-is-based-on-monitoring.

        I’m not too concerned personally as I scarcely buy any imported food ever, live east of the Rockies, and raise much of my own. But what’s happening at Fukushima is pretty dramatic compared to what we’re led to believe. (??)

        • Aside from information that’s readily available, I haven’t read too much on the TTP or Fukushima. From what I’ve read, Fukushima is far worse then what we’ve been led to believe. Do they even know what the long term effects are going to be of dumping all that radioactive water into the ocean?

  2. From what I’ve gleaned about radioactivity pouring into the ocean, there are two ‘stands’ among scientists. The dominant and official stand is that dilution will greatly reduce risks to humans. This group says they’ll continue to monitor and will advise public of any danger. The other stand (also of scientists, but fewer) is considered ‘alarmist’ . It emphasizes accumulation in tissues of plants and animals, (in this case ocean animals), and points out food chain outcomes.

    There are many additional concerns beside contaminated water leaking into the ocean. One is centered on spent and still viable fuel rods in damaged reactors (the rods themselves are damaged and even when ‘spent’ continue to be extremely radioactive) Under normal circumstances spent rods are removed and stored ‘safely’ for the hundred or two years needed for them to go through their half-life degradation. But removal is a delicate and dangerous matter even when the reactor is in good shape. If a couple of them should ‘clang together’ there would be an explosion or even ‘criticality’ (I apologize, I’ve not tried to get technical level understanding.).

    Another very serious concern is genetic damage to life that’s exposed to low level chronic contaminated air, land, and foods over an extended time. This has been a huge controversy in Chernobyl outcomes. There’s evidence dating back even to 1940’s US tests on the Marshall Islands that genetic damage can show up in offspring several generations later.

    A third is condition of structures and ground they’re sitting on. There’s been so much water used to keep fuel rods cool, and this must continue indefinitely, that the ground is saturated and considered ideal to ‘liquify’ should a quake of sufficient size or closeness give the location a massive shake.

    In addition to all this – I’ve learned there are several radioactive elements involved, each with different half-lives and each causing different kinds of health issues. (I think it’s cesium that ‘replaces’ potassium in bodies but of course does not function in the way potassium does for strong bones – so it does a lot of damage.) Further – some of these elements change to different elements as they decay, and the ‘second level’ elements are also dangerous. (Probably I should be speaking of ‘isotopes’ but ‘elements’ will have to do!)

    All in all, Fukushima is an unfinished event, and by growing consensus I think potentially extremely dangerous. My summary here is meant only to ‘sketch’. The ENEnews site is in some ways ‘alarmist’ but at the same time does track and present information on a daily basis. There are many at ENE who *do* have technical understanding, and certainly many of the articles they post are from trained scientists and/or people with professional experience in nuclear energy, and often may be legitimate, recognized, news sources (both western and Japanese) – so for me it’s a convenient site to visit to track developments.

    I just learned about another site that claims its mission is to present information regularly with careful scrutiny for sound science. I’ll share the link when I find it again!

    To my observation, there are so many ways humanity has “run into a wall of its own making” that I can’t track them all. So many of our mega-projects wreak havoc, yet are favored by “wealth” creating expand/exploit paradigms which now seem embraced by nearly all governments. You so frequently feature communities of people coming together to create human/life supporting solutions – I’m buoyed, and grateful!

  3. Aside from http://enenews.com/; a second resource for tracking Fukushima is here: http://www.fukuleaks.org/web/.

    It’s a ‘crowd source’ website of excellent information quality. I found it by entering “simplyinfo.org” – which somehow took me to ‘fukuleaks.org’ – don’t know how that works, but either ‘simplyinfo’ or ‘fukuleaks’ should be good I’d think.

    • It looks from some of the articles on the site that their politicians haven’t learned much from the incident. They are talking about further deregulation just like our tea party crazies.

      • Are you referencing the fukuleaks site? I’ve not spent much time there, although it looks very good and when finding it for you I bookmarked it.

        Or – are you referencing the TPP scheme? It seems to me there are two strong aims among policy shapers: one is deregulation, the other is privatization of publicly funded services. One way I look at it is that ‘colonization’ mentality prevails – and I label it ‘corporatism’. It’s actually, to my observation, quite insane. Some of the ‘colonization’ activity is accomplished through global trade agreements, some is accomplished internally. To my mind, the public in the US has long been ‘milked’ for purposes of corporate profit bottom lines (housing bubble, student loans, and now public education, with social security to follow if ‘all goes according to plan’).

        I ‘visualize’ minds so trained in ‘corporate think’ that they constantly seek ‘new frontiers’ that can be exploited. Given the ‘legal instruction’ that modern corporate first priority is to service investment shareholders. Mixed with notions of ‘meritocracy’ and ‘technocracy’, there is no more accurate label for most policy makers but ‘elite’ IMO. Those most vulnerable to being ‘milked’ experience deepening lack of access to resources. Eventually they’re ‘tapped out’.

        It’s a bleak trajectory, IMO. Rising cooperative movements – such as those you routinely feature – seem to me to be the antidote that’s needed. But the anxiety felt tends to support a fair amount of squabbling on some issues. It’s global, but worse, (so far), in the US where ‘rugged individualism’ and a Horatio Alger myth are so thoroughly woven into the culture. (I think of this as one gigantic dysfunctional family – *many* unhappy siblings!)

        As for the nuclear industry, especially Fukushima, it’s a ‘pinnacle’ of insanity in process at this point? Corporate and govt/corporate interests seem determined to protect positions of power first. The actual cost of dealing with such a mess must be beyond anything that can be easily sorted out. But the motivation to ‘get through it’ with minimal loss of face, power, prestige, wealth seems to lead to mistruths, omissions of critical detail, bold reassurances that have little to no grounding!

        I’ve learned a bit about the early European enclosure acts and think humanity needs to come to terms with the paradigms that fed it. We’re still there! “Democracy” (the more real thing) has yet to be explored, and will emerge or re-emerge, IMO, from local and regional cooperative practices.

        A lot of words in reply to your comment! 🙂

        • I was referring to the Fukuleaks site. I think your commentary on corporatism is spot on as well as the Horatio Alger myth woven into American culture. I would like to comment further, but am so tired I can’t think straight. I wish I had more time to devote to reading up on several topics I’d like to explore in more depth for the blog. I have some thoughts on the nature of Buddhism as compared to Christianity and why those two religions can be complimentary to one another. I have so many other ideas about a new economy and on and on. The one thing life is not affording me right now is time or maybe I’ve simply over-committed, once again, and am scrambling to get everything done. Priorities, priorities, priorities.

          Again, thank you for your insightful comments and for reading my posts.

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