Diet Members' Delegation Hokuryu Town (Hokkaido) Field Conference on Revision of the Seeds and Seed Act [No.1] Kuro Sengoku Business Cooperative Association

Friday, September 25, 2020

On September 10 (Thu), a field meeting was held in Hokuryu Town with members of the Japanese Communist Party's Diet regarding issues surrounding the Seeds and Seed Act, introduced by the Hokkaido Seed Association (Chairman: Tokuji Hisada).

Table of Contents

Congressional Delegation Overview

Members of the National Diet

Members of the Diet delegation are: Ms. Tomoko Kami, a member of the House of Councilors (Communist Party); Mr. Takaaki Tamura, a member of the House of Representatives (Communist Party); Ms. Kyosei Tai (secretary to Mr. Kami); Mr. Takashi Kawabe (secretary to Mr. Tamura); Mr. Kaori Yamaguchi (secretary to Mr. Tamura); Mr. Kazuya Hatayama, a former member of the House of Representatives (Communist Party); Mr. Ichiro Oda, Executive Director of Hokkaido Office, JCP Diet Members, Hokkaido Tane no Kai Chairman Tokuji Hisada (visiting professor at Hokkaido University), and Teppei Ohkusu (director of NHK Sapporo base broadcasting station).



In Hokuryu Town, the participants had a discussion with the Kuro Sengoku Business Cooperative Association (Yukio Takada, President) and toured its fields, met with members of the Honoka Agricultural Cooperative (Shigeki Mizutani, President), and had a discussion with Tatsuya Uei, who practices self-lumbering forestry in the town of Hokuryu Town.

09:00-12:00 Discussion on the Seed Law & Inspection of Kuro Sengoku soybean fields at JA Kitasorachi Hokuryu Branch Office meeting room
13:30-15:20 Meet with members at the office of Agricultural Cooperative Honoka
15:30-17:00 Discussion with Mr. Tatsuya Uei about self-supporting forestry at Restaurant Windmill in Sunflower Park Hokuryu Onsen

Discussion with Yukio Takada, President of Kuro Sengoku Business Cooperative Association (at JA Kitasorachi Hokuryu Branch Office)

JA Kitasorachi Hokuryu Branch Office (Hokuryu Town, Hokkaido)

From left to right in the "Heaven, Earth, and Water" photo: busts of Mitsuo Goto (5th head of the association), Masakiyo Kita (first head of the association), and Hikotaro Kaji.

Ryoji Kikura, former JA Kitasorachi Representative Director and Union President, speaks

Based on the materials distributed, he explained the agricultural efforts of the town of Hokuryu.

Mr. Ryoji Kikura explains the work of Hokuryu Town.
The soul of "Food is Life

Under the general chairmanship of Mr. Kikura, participants spoke.

House of Councillors, Tomoko Kami, Member of the House of Councillors

Tomoko Kami

Connection with Hokuryu Town

My relationship with the town of Hokuryu began in 1991. At that time, as a candidate for proportional representation in the House of Councillors, I visited Hokuryu-cho during my visits to various places in Hokkaido. Mr. Ryoji Kikura was the president of the Hokuryu Agricultural Cooperative Association.

At that time, atopic dermatitis among children was on the increase. From the viewpoint that "what children eat must be safe," we visited Hokuryu Town, which is working on "Yukihikari" rice, which is said to be effective in improving atopic dermatitis, for an inspection tour.

One of the words that left a strong impression on me during my visit was Mr. Kikura's comment, "Please clarify whether Japan needs agriculture or not. In other words, he was questioning the reality of Japanese agriculture, which at that time did not seem to need agriculture.

Later in the Diet question, "Is agriculture necessary or not for Japan?" was submitted as it was, as an opinion from a local Hokkaido resident.

I was strongly impressed by the importance of agriculture as "food is life.

political stream

Since 2001 (Heisei 18), I have been a member of the House of Councilors, serving on the Committee on Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. While Japan was on the path of liberalization of agricultural imports, an "aggressive agricultural policy" was being promoted that prioritized efficiency, a trend that seemed to overlook important things.

Currently, a president is being chosen after Prime Minister Abe's announcement of his resignation at the end of August. I feel that this is a manifestation of a deadlock in domestic and foreign policy. I believe that we are entering an important period in which we must make a drastic, major change in our political direction.

Mr. Paper speaking about the purpose of his visit to Hokuryu Town.

Purpose of this visit to Hokuryu Town

Currently in the Diet, the Diet has decided to continue deliberations on the amendment of the Seeds and Seedlings Law, as petition signatures were collected from all over the country and many debates flared up on the Internet in response to the proposed amendment of the Seeds and Seedlings Law that was approved by the Cabinet.

The purpose of this visit is to conduct a thorough investigation at this stage of the process in preparation for the next session of the National Assembly.

I would like to go to the Diet to hear in detail about the efforts and hardships of farmers in the field of "homegrowing" and the impact and problems that would arise if the law were to be enacted.

Furthermore, it is also important for farmers to be well informed about the actual situation and problems regarding the "Seeds and Seedlings Law," and we would like to convey this information correctly.

Representative Takaaki Tamura, House of Representatives

Takaaki Tamura

I am a member of the House of Representatives, a member of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Committee, a proportional representative of Kyushu-Okinawa, a native of Kitakyushu, Japan, and was born in 1961.

With the proposed revival of the Seed Law being discussed and ordinances being enacted by local governments, there is a trend toward the importance of seeds.

The proposed amendment to the Seeds and Seedlings Law is a rare case to date where an important bill to protect the best breeding knowledge in Japan has been abandoned and postponed for discussion in the ordinary Diet session.

In the midst of the Corona disaster, the rate of agricultural self-sufficiency is decreasing, and public opinion is growing as to whether Japan's agriculture can continue as it is. Against this backdrop, I would like to express my sincere appreciation for this very valuable and timely opportunity to hear and discuss opinions from the frontlines of agriculture. Thank you very much.

Kuro Sengoku Business Cooperative, Yukio Takada, President

Yukio Takada talks about Kuro Sengoku soybeans

History of Kuro Sengoku Business Cooperative

I was a farmer until I was 60 years old, and in 2004, I revived the Kuro-Sengoku soybean, a native species of Hokkaido. I established the corporation in 2007 with the sole intention of reviving the robust life of the Kuro-Sengoku soybean.

After 15 years of twists and turns, the company is now in stable production and sales.

Two years ago, in 2018 (Heisei 30), the Association was recognized as the 5th Discover Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Mura) Treasure by the Cabinet Secretariat and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Thirty-two excellent examples were selected from 1,015 organizations that applied from all over Japan. In the Hokkaido block, three organizations including the Kurozuishi Business Cooperative were selected from 98 organizations that applied for the award. A ceremony to award the certificates and a reception were held at the Prime Minister's official residence.

Kuro Sengoku Soybeans

Kuro Sengoku Soybeans is committed to "safe, secure, natural, and healthy Kuro Sengoku Soybeans," telling everyone that these soybeans are connected to health through the power of the sun and the soil of Hokkaido.

Regarding species, there are two types of Kuro Sengoku: the "native" variety and the new "Ryukei 3" variety, which is an improved version of the native variety.

The native variety was named "Early Kuro-Sengoku," a superior field crop variety, in 1942 at the Central Agricultural Experiment Station of the Hokkaido General Research Organization for use as fodder, feed for farm animals, and green manure in the Tokachi area. However, with the development of various green manures and chemical fertilizers, the Kuro Sengoku soybean was no longer used, and in 1959, its registration was discontinued and the variety was temporarily dropped.

In 2001, Mr. Jun Tanaka, an agricultural researcher from Mori-machi, Hokkaido, discovered a native variety of Kuro Sengoku soybeans and succeeded in germinating 28 out of 50 soybeans. This is the reason why they are called "Kuro Sengoku Soybeans".

In 2005, the cultivation of Kuro Sengoku soybeans started in Hokuryu Town, Takikawa City, and Otobe Town. In 2007, the Kuro Sengoku Business Cooperative was established in Hokuryu Town.

New improved breed "Ryukei No. 3".

In 2009, the economy took a turn for the worse, and the intermediary company to whom the company sold its products went bankrupt. With the stockpile and no prospect of receiving payment, it became impossible to pay the growers.

To make matters worse, a late fall snowfall caused the Kuro Sengoku fields to be buried under snow just before harvest.

Kuro Sengoku soybeans are one of the soybeans with the highest integrated temperature (the sum of daily temperatures), with sowing starting early and harvesting in late fall before snowfall.

Everyone listening attentively

Therefore, we decided to work on variety improvement aiming for "early maturity, strong resistance to downfall, and stable, high yield".

In 2009, we asked Dr. Takashi Sanbuichi, professor emeritus at Takushoku University Hokkaido Junior College and advisor to the Hokuminokai Foundation (former chairman of the board), to help us improve the Kuro-Sengoku variety. The research of artificial crossbreeding started.

In 2014 (2014), using a three-year grant from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), we organized the "Hokuryu Town Consortium" to push forward with breeding.

After much research and breeding, the Kuro Sengoku soybean was improved as a superior soybean that could be harvested about a week earlier, was more resistant to downfall, and could be expected to increase yields substantially.

In 2016 (Heisei 28), a variety application was filed with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries with the breeding line number "Ryukei No. 3" and was accepted, and general cultivation began.

The seed is "the beginning of the peasantry."

Currently, almost 50% each of the production is divided between the native variety "Kuro Sengoku Soybeans" and the new improved variety "Ryusei No. 3", and production and sales are conducted separately.

For "Ryu-kei 3", we have a license agreement with Dr. Kei Sanbunichi, the developer of the variety. The license fee is paid to Dr. Kei Sanbunichi under the agreement.

I believe that seeds are the "beginning of a farmer's life" and the most important part. I feel that it is our mission as members of the cooperative to carefully and lovingly nurture the native variety of Kuro Sengoku soybeans and the "Ryusei No. 3" Kuro Sengoku soybeans that Dr.

exchange of opinions

Question:The registered variety is the improved "Ryukei 3", but what about the "native variety, Kuro Sengoku"?

Answer (President Takata):Kuro Sengoku" soybeans, a native variety, are grown in many parts of Hokkaido.

Question:Is the registered variety "Ryukei No. 3" home-grown?

Answer (President Takata):That's right. Kuro Sengoku soybeans for "Ryukei 3" seeds are being grown in Hideki Okayama's field near Iwamizawa.

Mr. Hisada:

The problem will not arise unless the registrar of the variety change raises the price of the seed or refuses to sell it.

Now, however, it will be possible for foreign and large domestic companies with genome editing technology to create new varieties that are as close to native species as possible. In such cases, there is a fear that the companies may plunder the rights to the species, and we must keep a close watch on this point in the future.

About the improved variety "Ryukei 3

President Takata:

Currently, one of the problems in Kuro-Sengoku soybeans is weak resistance to pests and soybean cysticercus. Therefore, we are working on breeding Kuro-Sengoku soybeans with centipede resistance using the white soybean "Suzumaru R".

I have built a relationship with Dr. Takashi Sambuichi, with whom I have a great sense of trust. I am deeply impressed by the fact that he has devoted his life to the development and research of Kuro Sengoku, and I am deeply impressed by the extraordinary efforts he has made.

Paper Rep:

We must proceed with an open mind to the possibility of genomic technology breeding by large corporations in the future.

The Dangers of Large Corporate Technology

Other Comments:

For example, there is a risk that in the future, as a result of genetic analysis, a company that improves the current "weakly resistant Kuro Sengoku soybean" to "resistant Kuro Sengoku soybean" using genome technology can register the variety and introduce it as a new variety to the world.

If a higher yielding, faster growing Kuro Sengoku soybean with the same taste and centipede resistance as the current Kuro Sengoku soybean is researched and developed and marketed in other regions, and if it spreads, the "value" of the Kuro Sengoku soybean will be lost.

President Takata:

Many uncertainties exist that will be difficult in the future, and we intend to deal with them as they arise, consulting with advisors and other experts in the legal part of the process.

However, the immeasurable sense of trust and passion for Kuro Sengoku soybeans that we have with Dr. Takashi Sanbunichi, who has devoted his life to improving the variety, the growers who have overcome hardships to cultivate them, and the consumers who have long supported and cheered us on as fans of Kuro Sengoku soybeans We are grateful for the trust and support of our customers.

As long as we have this desire, we are doing our best, deeply believing that we can jump over any concerns and lead to the existence of safe, secure, and healthy Kuro Sengoku soybeans.

Reliability with producers

Paper Rep:

As Chairman Takata said, the relationship of trust with consumers is very important.

In the Seed Law (Major Agricultural Crops Seed Law), which was previously defined by law, major agricultural crops are "rice, soybeans, and wheat.

The only data submitted to the Council for the Promotion of Regulatory Reform were those related to rice, and no data were submitted for soybeans or wheat. At that point, the government's attention seemed to be focused on rice.

I do not know what the government will recommend in the future, but rice has become a staple food in Japan, and a law was established that the seed part of the rice must be well defined. However, the government has repealed this.

In terms of rice, Mitsuhikari, a hybrid rice variety from Mitsui Chemicals Agro Corporation, is an F1 variety that producers must purchase every year, and seed prices are rising every year, so there is no shortage of concerns for producers.

To the basic question of why the Seed Act is being revised this time, we all agree that the government's objective is to "prevent good breeding knowledge produced in Japan from being leaked overseas and to protect intellectual property rights.

However, the specific legal amendment to implement this change will prohibit homegrowing, which has been freely practiced in the past.

It was believed that there would be little change after the amendment of the law, as no license would be required for native varieties and common varieties that are not registered as varieties. However, when we actually looked into the matter, we were very surprised to find that there are many registered varieties in Hokkaido.

Sometimes farmers use registered varieties, and through home breeding, mutationally superior varieties have been created. Banning what has been passed down through the efforts of farmers could be a deprivation of farmers' rights.

What is the means to protect Japan's best breeds?

President Takata:

We attempted to register Kuro-Sengoku soybeans as a "regional collective trademark," but since Kuro-Sengoku soybeans are grown in various parts of Hokkaido, it was difficult to secure a fixed regional brand, and registration was not possible.

Question:I understand that the seeds of Kuro Sengoku soybeans (Ryusei No. 3) are grown by Mr. Okayama, a grower in Iwamizawa City.

Ichiro Oda, Secretary General of the Hokkaido Diet

Answer (President Takata):

Mr. Okayama's field is located near Dr. Sanbunichi's home, and Dr. Sanbunichi regularly visits the field to inspect and monitor it. All of the "Ryukei No. 3" seeds collected there are collected and stored at the warehouse of the Kuro Sengoku Cooperative Association (Hokuryu Town).

As for native seeds, the best beans among those collected by the Kuro Sengoku Business Cooperative (Hokuryu Town) are selected as seeds for the following year and distributed to growers in each region.

All harvested beans and seeds for sowing are all managed together by the Kuro Sengoku Business Cooperative. In the warehouse, the native variety "Kuro Sengoku Soybeans" and the improved variety "Ryukei No. 3" are completely separated and stored under tight control to prevent mixing.

Question:Is the cultivation method of "Ryu-kei 3" different from that of ordinary soybeans? How do you deal with the use of pesticides and other chemicals?

Answer (President Takata):

Cultivation methods vary from district to district, and are grown according to the guidance of the local agricultural cooperative. The use of herbicides and other chemicals is kept to a minimum.

These Kuro Sengoku soybeans are infested with bean sinkworm (a pest) from the time of flowering until the beans mature. It is a rather troublesome insect that invariably enters the tasty beans and eats them. Once or twice after flowering, an insecticide spray is applied to control this pest.

Furthermore, production information traceability is ensured and thoroughly managed with regard to the cultivation history, including the pesticides used. We are now in the process of introducing highly accurate color sorting machines.

Question:Can Kuro Sengoku soybeans be grown in any region of Hokkaido?

Answer (President Takata):

Areas with large differences in temperature are suitable for cultivation. In Hokkaido, there is a cultivation field in Shibetsu City in the Kamikawa region, which is currently the northern limit of the cultivation area.

Furthermore, Kuro Sengoku soybeans have a higher accumulated temperature than regular soybeans.

The total temperature is the sum of the daily temperatures added up from the time the seed is planted to the time the fruit matures. While regular beans are 2,300 degrees Celsius, Kuro Sengoku is 2,700 degrees Celsius and requires more hours of sunlight.

That is why they are robust beans that are both sweet and tasty because they are grown with more sun (light).

Kuro Sengoku soybeans are also sown earlier and harvested later than other beans.

Sowing is done immediately after the May holidays. Early sowing can cause problems with frost, weeds, and insects. Harvesting is done at the end of October, just before snowfall, making it a very difficult task to determine when to harvest.

In addition, Kuro Sengoku soybeans are very delicate beans and are sensitive to weather conditions, so the harvest of a given year can be highly variable.

We live in a world where the number of health-conscious consumers is increasing every year. We believe that eating food grown by the power of nature, without additives, is the key to good health.

The Existence of Native Kuro Sengoku Soybeans

Mr. Ryoji Kikura:

In recent years, the number of people suffering from atopic diseases has been increasing year by year. Recent studies have confirmed that the rice "Yukihikari" is effective in controlling rice allergies.

Hokuryu Town continues to grow "Yukihikari" rice. The area planted to this rice has been drastically reduced, and Hokuren supplies seed only once every two years. Hokuryu Town does not want to see this variety die out, so they continue to grow their own seed every year. We are concerned that these excellent varieties will decline and their value will be lost.

Paper Rep:

The purpose of the repeal of the Seed Law is said to be to prevent the outflow of "knowledge" to foreign countries. Furthermore, it is said that the government will provide the private sector with seeds, which until now have been managed and researched by the government and farmers, and which are of superior quality and have been produced through long years of hard work by the government and farmers.

It was conducted under legal control, at testing facilities, etc., which required equipment, money, and people. The government has issued a notice that the knowledge it has accumulated up to now should be provided to the private sector. The private sector is said to include overseas companies. This is where the contradiction arises. This could encourage the outflow of superior products to foreign countries.

In the case of the Shinnemuscat and strawberries, for example, the seeds of which have been distributed overseas, could have been prevented if MAFF had registered the seeds overseas as a national government, but it did not do so.

Isn't it strange that the blame for this is being placed on the farmer's own seeds?

Mr. Huangkura:

Farmers are under the illusion that agriculture can be advanced by providing technology to the private sector in a rational and scientific manner on a broad scale. I am surprised at how few opponents there are, because they do not have a firm grasp of the real situation.

Seeds are the source of life. I don't understand why something that has been so important to us should now be revised.

Councilor Tamura:

田村貴昭 議員
Takaaki Tamura, Member of the House of Representatives

I think we have to consider what is the true nature of the administration, the business community, foreign companies, and beyond. 'Buy uniformity for a price. Don't do anything more than that. That is the most stable thing you can do," he seems to be expressing.

You talk about preventing the flow of knowledge overseas, but what about a waterfront strategy? If you put seeds in your pocket, it is easy to take them overseas. If we really want to prevent the flow of knowledge overseas, the best thing to do is for countries to register each other, as the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) is saying.

Blaming this on the farmers, who are the ones on the ground, is in itself a fallacy, and we must look at what is transparent beyond that. As Mr. Kikura has said, I feel that a "sense of crisis" is rapidly growing.

Mr. Huangkura:

With the Corona disaster, it has become clear that some foods cannot continue to depend on foreign countries. We will only grow what is of high value by letting huge capital participate. Moreover, it is regulated to grow it in our own country, and that too by local farmers themselves.

The hardest part is the consumer. Consumers can only get what is regulated and produced. They have to pay a high price.

Food has been a continuous process of preserving life by our ancestors. We have cherished food for life.

Mr. Hisada:

Mr. Tokuji Hisada

Before the war, Japan had always been a country of rice. After the war, the United States brought surplus wheat to Japan and launched a nationwide bread-eating campaign.

One after another, school lunches were switched to bread meals. Bread, spaghetti, how to eat it, how to make it, etc. became popular, and Japan was turned over from rice food to bread food in 30 years.

As you read in this morning's paper, this story started in 1980, and after 40 years, we are still pursuing it. The length of this span is amazing.

Changing eating habits takes a long time. It takes time to change what people choose to eat and what food they choose to eat.

What is now becoming a major foreign product is "rice". Private rice is coming in quite a bit in all prefectures except Hokkaido. The rice "Mitsuhikari" is already being produced in 38 prefectures. Mitsui Chemicals Agro Co., Ltd. plans to increase sales of their rice 100-fold in the next couple of years. The objective of the project is to make the rice.

After the war, we forced the Japanese to give up "rice" and imposed wheat culture on them. They succeeded to some extent, but it still remains, and it is thought that there are great forces at work to snatch it away with their own intellectual property.

In this way, the majors will dye the Japanese farmers in their own ways. Once they gain control over "rice," they will extend their control over beans and vegetables as well. We hope that you will take good care of and protect the crops that you have worked so hard to produce.

久田徳二 氏
Mr. Tokuji Hisada

Thanks to the kindness of Ms. Kyosei Tai (secretary of the paper councilor), Diet member badge candy (apple flavor) and Diet member candy (cider flavor) were handed out to everyone!

Diet candy

Sunflower Park Hokuryu Onsen

At this point, the meeting with the Kuro Sengoku Business Cooperative Association ended, and Chairman Takada led the group on a tour of the Kuro Sengoku soybean fields in front of Sunflower Park Hokuryu Onsen.

While receiving an explanation from Mr. Takada, the director, the participants observed the growth of Kuro Sengoku soybeans. The Kuro Sengoku soybeans were green and in the process of growing, but we tasted them raw.

Chairman Takata said that Kuro Sengoku soybeans are less toxic than regular soybeans (edamame), so they can be eaten raw during the edamame season.

Kuro Sengoku Soybean Field

Kuro Sengoku Soybeans Blue Edamame

Observing the growth of Kuro Sengoku soybeans
Tasting raw Kuro Sengoku soybeans

I see - it tastes like this!
These are raw Kuro Sengoku soybeans!

Everyone heading for Hokuryu Onsen

After the tour, participants had lunch on their own at the "Windmill" restaurant in the Sunflower Park Hokuryu Hot Springs.

The article continues in the afternoon.

More Photos

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◇ Photography and Editing: Noboru Terauchi Reporting and Writing: Ikuko Terauchi