Diplomatic Bluebook 2001


F. Other Issues

1. Biotechnology and Other New Issues

a) Biotechnology

Biotechnology has long been used for food (crop) production, but with the rapid scientific advances in recent years, genetic engineering and other sophisticated technologies that have come to be termed "modern biotechnologies" are now being applied in this field. Crops whose characteristics have been improved via recombinant DNA techniques are a typical example.

Such genetically modified crops have certain advantages. For example, some of them can be grown with reduced applications of herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides. On the other hand, consumers and others have expressed concerns based on the belief that the safety of such crops has not sufficiently been verified. Consequently, there are presently differences of opinion between exporting and importing countries concerning food safety regulations, and many have noted the need for uniform international measures.

Amid these developments, at the 1999 Köln Summit the G8 called on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to conduct research and prepare reports concerning the safety of genetically modified foodstuffs. Accordingly, in 2000 the OECD submitted reports on the safety of foods derived from modern biotechnology, including a summary of the present conditions in each OECD member country.

Also to raise awareness concerning genetically modified foods (crops), from February 28 through March 1 the OECD and the government of the United Kingdom jointly sponsored the OECD Edinburgh Conference on the Scientific and Health Aspects of Genetically Modified Foods at which non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academics, experts, and government officials exchanged diverse opinions regarding genetically modified foods.

Furthermore, the Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Foods Derived from Biotechnology of the Codex Alimentarius Commission,*5 which was established under the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) for the purpose of protecting the health of consumers and ensuring fair practices in the food trade, is conducting examinations on labeling standards for genetically modified foods and other related issues. Japan is positively contributing to the drafting of specific international principles and guidelines for the safety of genetically modified foods, for example, by sponsoring a meeting of the Codex Alimentarius Commission's Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Foods Derived from Biotechnology in March in Chiba.

At the G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit, the G8 leaders also discussed biotechnology and food safety. They noted the importance of a scientific and rule-based approach, as well as the need for involvement of all concerned parties and for strengthening the international policy dialogue, including both developed and developing countries. The G8 leaders welcomed the continuation of ongoing work being conducted by the OECD, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, and other concerned organizations.

b) The Human Genome

During the late 1990s rapid advances were also achieved in the life sciences, beginning with research on the human genome,*6 drawing attention to new life science issues that require international coordination. The international Human Genome Project (HGP), which aims at mapping the entire human genome, began in 1988 as an international project among Japan, the United States, and Europe. In June 2000, the HGP announced the completion of a "working draft" DNA base sequence of the human genome. The decoding of the human genome represents an epochal advance in the life sciences, with a massive potential for application to medical and numerous other areas, and has attracted a great deal of interest worldwide. At the G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit in July, the G8 leaders discussed the human genome and engaged in a lively exchange of opinions regarding such issues as promoting the mapping and dissemination of the human genome, giving due consideration to bioethics, promoting international cooperation for post-genome research, and encouraging the international harmonization of genetic patents. Japan's other efforts in the life science field include the provision of research grants under the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) for basic research on the brain functions and other complex mechanisms of living organisms. The HFSP has been jointly implemented by the G7 members ever since 1989, based on a Japanese proposal.

2. Energy and Food Issues

a) Energy Issues

Since Japan is dependent upon foreign sources for approximately 80 percent of its energy, which provides the basis for the nation's economic activities and citizens' daily lives, securing a stable supply of energy is one of the important challenges of Japan's foreign policy. Accordingly, Japan is endeavoring, in coordination with other developed countries, to prepare countermeasures in dealing with oil supply disruptions and other emergencies and to improve the global energy supply-demand structure. The government also places particular emphasis on the stable supply of energy to the Asian region, and pursues dialogue and cooperation with the leading energy producers and consumers toward these ends. In advancing energy policy, it is becoming increasingly important to work toward a proper balance between increasing global energy consumption and environmental conservation measures such as those in response to global warming. Therefore, Japan is strengthening this aspect of its energy policy approach.

Crude oil prices were on an upward trend from March 1999, with the price for all major crude oils peaking at over US$30 per barrel in 2000, which was about three times the March 1999 level and the highest price recorded since the Gulf crisis. In response to this, Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) increased its production four times during 2000. OPEC also agreed to either increase or decrease its production as required, to maintain the price for a basket of representative crude oils at between US$22 and US$28 per barrel. At the OPEC Summit Meeting held in Caracas in September, OPEC announced that it would continue to supply sufficient quantities of crude oil in a timely manner. Nevertheless, the oil prices remained at a high level throughout the year, owing to concerns over gasoline and heating oil supply shortages reflecting the low oil inventory levels in the U.S. and other consumer nations, as well as active futures trading by speculative investors.

The oil price issue was discussed at the G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit and at other international conferences. In October, in response to Japan's request, the Governing Board of the International Energy Agency (IEA) held an ad hoc meeting and agreed upon short-term and long-term energy security measures. In December, when Iraq suspended its crude oil exports, the IEA, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Japan released announcements one after another regarding the possible measures producers aside from Iraq could take to increase production and also the readiness of consumers to release oil reserves and thereafter crude oil prices fell.

Meanwhile, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) reached an agreement on exchanging information and expertise on oil reserves management. Japan's support toward maintaining stable energy supply in Asia has included the Seminar on Energy Security in Asia, which took place in March and was sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At this Seminar, Asian, European, and American experts discussed the conditions required to expand the use of natural gas in Northeast Asia. In November, to further promote dialogue between oil and other energy producers and consumers, Japan, together with the Netherlands, co-hosted the seventh International Energy Forum, which was held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. From Japan, Ryutaro Hashimoto, former Prime Minister and Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister, attended. The Forum released a "Summary" statement, calling for oil price stability and improved energy data and emphasizing the importance of continued dialogue between energy producers and consumers. It was also agreed that Japan would host the eighth International Energy Forum to be held in Japan in 2002.

As for the independent development of oil resources by Japanese private-sector firms, the Arabian Oil Company's rights to extract oil from the Saudi oil fields expired in February. On the other hand, during his visit to Japan in November, Iranian President Mohamed Khatami announced that Japanese firms would be given priority bidding rights to develop an Iranian oil field.

Turning to efforts toward promoting energy use in harmony with the environment, the G8 agreed at the G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit to establish a task force to prepare concrete recommendations regarding sound ways to better encourage the use of renewables in developing countries. This task force is preparing recommendations for consideration at the Genoa Summit.

At the bilateral level, in addition to ongoing consultations with Russia, China, and Australia, Japan initiated a similar dialogue with India and Iran in 2000. The Energy Working Group, a group within the U.S.-Japan Enhanced Initiative on Deregulation and Competition Policy, met to discuss electric power and gas industries in Japan and the U.S., among other issues.

b) Food Issues

According to the FAO, in 2000 global grain production declined by 1.7 percent from the previous year, mostly due to droughts in the main producer countries, and fell below global consumption levels, which will result in substantial reductions in grain inventories. Thus, the global food supply-demand balance is greatly affected by unstable factors such as the weather, and may well become tight over the long term due to global population growth and the increase in food consumption accompanying economic growth in developing countries. Achieving food security is particularly important for Japan, which relies on imports for over half its food supply.

Meanwhile, 32 countries were facing serious food shortages as of November 2000, three fewer countries than the previous year. However, the number of people facing serious food shortages increased year-on-year by 10 million to 62 million. Japan has cooperated and will continue to offer a variety of forms of cooperation, including food aid and aid toward increased food production, directing these efforts both through international organizations and on a bilateral basis.

3. Fisheries Issues

Marine products are traditionally an important food source for Japan, and Japan's per capita marine products consumption volume is conspicuously higher than those in other countries. Thus, marine products play a central role in the Japanese diet. The environment surrounding the fisheries industry has undergone major change in recent years, while the conservation of fishery resources and the preservation of the marine environment have become important international issues. Japan is actively participating in international fisheries management efforts as one of the world's leading fishing countries and marine products importing countries.

International fisheries management is being implemented for varieties of skipjack and tuna, which range over a wide area of ocean habitat, but in recent years these resources have been threatened by disorderly fish catches in managed marine areas by illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing vessels operating under flags of non-parties of regional fisheries management organizations for the purpose of evading regulations. While also working through regional fisheries management organizations to eliminate IUU fishing vessels, Japan deposited its instrument of acceptance of the Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas with the FAO Director-General in June. Japan is also implementing various measures as a marine products importer, including prohibiting the import of marine products caught by IUU fishing vessels.

The conservation and management of southern bluefin tuna resources are being jointly implemented by Japan, Australia, and New Zealand under the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT). Since 1997, however, the CCSBT has been unable to decide upon a total allowable catch due to differences in scientific views concerning the resource conditions. As the three CCSBT parties were unable to reach an agreement on implementing a joint survey to resolve these differences, Japan conducted an experimental fishing program (EFP) in 1998 and 1999. In July 1999, Australia and New Zealand filed a complaint with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) asserting that this EFP was in violation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and calling for the establishment of an arbitral tribunal constituted under Annex VII of UNCLOS. In May 2000, during the course of oral pleadings at the five-member international arbitral tribunal in Washington, D.C., Japan asserted that this EFP was necessary for the conservation and management of southern bluefin tuna resources and could not possibly have any harmful influence on these resources, and argued that the tribunal did not have the jurisdiction to hear the case for arbitration under the UNCLOS and that the dispute should be resolved within the CCSBT. In August, the tribunal issued a ruling upholding Japan's contention that it had no jurisdiction over the case. Then in November at a special meeting of the CCSBT, the three countries agreed to draft, with cooperation from outside scientists, a scientific survey plan, including joint experimental fishing, and made other advances toward reviving the functions of the CCSBT.

Turning to the whaling issue, from July through September, Japan conducted a whale research program in the Northwest Pacific and captured 50 minke whales, 43 Bryde's whales, and five sperm whales. This research was conducted for the purpose of collecting data concerning whales' food sources in Japanese coastal waters and was implemented in accordance with Article 8 of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. Nevertheless, anti-whaling nations opposed this research, asserting that it violated such measures as the International Whaling Commission's moratorium on commercial whaling. In particular, the United States suggested the possible imposition of import embargoes on Japanese products, and decided in protest not to attend the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Ministerial Conference on Environment held in Kitakyushu, Japan from the end of August to the beginning of September. Although concerns are sometimes expressed at meetings of top leaders and foreign ministers, Japan believes that the whaling issue should be discussed in a non-emotional and scientific manner, based on the principle of the sustainable use of all biological resources, including whales.


  1. The Codex Alimentarius Commission is responsible for setting de-facto international food safety standards.
  2. The term "genome" was coined by combining the words "gene" and "chromosome," and refers to all the inherent genetic information (DNA) in any given organism, including its genes. The "human genome" refers to all the genetic information carried by human beings.

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