Cablegate: Daily Summary of Japanese Press 02/05/08

DE RUEHKO #0304/01 0360815
P 050815Z FEB 08





E.O. 12958: N/A



(1) LDP gearing up for determining official candidates (Asahi)

(2) Respective interests of ruling, opposition parties
criss-crossing over talks to revise special-purpose road
construction revenues (Nikkei)

(3) Suprapartisan group, including Kato, Yamasaki, to visit South
Korea - aiming to pave way for political realignment? (Nikkei)

(4) Outcome of Iwakuni mayoralty race and Lower House by-election to
be touchstone for Abe's resurgence (Sentaku)

(5) LDP's Yamasaki expects Prime Minister's assurance of visit to
North Korea (Sentaku)

(6) Kazamidori (Weathercock) column: Japan will be forced to choose
between U.S. and China, if the latter is democratized (Nikkei)

(7) Risks cannot be completely removed through blanket BSE testing

(8) Increasing food self-sufficiency ratio to 45 PERCENT extremely
difficult due to shrinking arable land (Yomiuri)


(1) LDP gearing up for determining official candidates

ASAHI (Page 2) (Abridged slightly)
February 5, 2008

Over two years have passed since the September 2005 "postal
election." The Liberal Democratic Party has begun making serious
efforts to determine its official candidates running in single-seats
in the next House of Representatives election. The LDP is trying to
take the initiative in the political situation by applying pressure
on the major opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ or Minshuto),
although Lower House dissolution is no longer imminent because the
ruling and opposition camps have cut a deal temporarily on the
question of the provisional gasoline tax rate. At the same time,
given the divided Diet in which the House of Councillors is
controlled by the opposition camp, the LDP is highly alarmed that a
failure to amicably coordinate views on endorsing winning candidates
might result in a change in government.

Seiko Noda, 46, chairperson of the LDP research commission on
consumer issues, attended a Setsubun (bean-throwing) ceremony at a
temple in the city go Gifu on Feb. 3 in which she proudly said:
"It's been 15 years since I was first elected to the Diet. All those
years have been filled with ups and downs. Although the scare of
frozen gyoza dumplings laced with pesticide is shaking the country,
I am in charge of the matter (in the LDP)."

Opposing (then Prime Minister Koizumi's) postal privatization plan,
Noda ran in the previous Lower House election as an independent and
won a seat in the Gifu No. 1 constituency. After rejoining the
party, she also engaged in psychological warfare with Yukari Sato,
46, who had won a seat under the proportional representation segment
in the previous election. Noda ultimately won informal endorsement

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in January for the next race. Evidenced by her report on her efforts
for consumer issues to Prime Minister Fukuda, who has a deep
interest in consumer administration, there is a growing presence of
Noda in the Diet at Nagatacho.

Meanwhile, Sato's support association on Jan. 30 presented LDP
headquarters with signatures of 22,000 voters opposing the
lawmaker's move from the Gifu No. 1 constituency. Her support group
executive said: "(Official endorsement of) Ms. Noda by the party
would throw LDP supporters in the city of Gifu into turmoil. Some
might even throw their support behind the DPJ." Sato, too, said: "I
will conduct activities in Gifu until a formal decision is made."

Party endorsement coordination work gained momentum in mid-January
when LDP Election Strategy Council Chairman Makoto Koga commented:
"Ms. Noda is closer to victory (than Ms. Sato). I'm hoping to find a
new electoral district for her in February." The party leadership
eyes announcing Sato's new electoral district at her fundraising
party on Feb. 11.

In the country, there are six constituencies, including Gifu No. 1
district, where former "postal rebels" are vying for party
endorsement with postal supporters salvaged under the proportional
representation system. Former "postal rebel" Shunichi Yamaguchi, 57,
indicated at his fundraising party that he had learned from a party
executive of the party's likelihood to endorse him for the Tokushima
No. 2 district, instead of Akira Shichijo, 56, who represents the
proportional representation bloc.

The battle between the ruling and opposition camps over
road-construction revenues ended without plunging into "Diet
dissolution in January," and the DPJ has shifted its focus to the
fall or beyond. Why is the LDP still stepping up efforts to
determine candidates centering on shoo-ins?

It is obviously because the LDP is trying to apply pressure on the
DPJ, which is ill-prepared for the next election. At the same time,
if coordination work drags on, LDP candidates might get in each
other's way and end up paving the way for a DPJ administration.

LDP headquarters envisages the Tokyo No. 5 district for Sato. The
local chapter pins high hopes on Sato, who has high name recognition
and is a native of Setagaya Ward. The chapter decided at its meeting
yesterday to make arrangements for accepting Sato.

Sato's entry into the Tokyo No. 5 race has come as a surprise to the
DPJ. Yoshio Tezuka, 41, who lost his seat in the previous election,
noted: "I'm sure I will feel a lot of stress when vying with Ms.

Coordination efforts have bogged down in the Yamanashi No. 2 and No.
3 districts.

At a meeting with the municipal assembly late last year, former
General Council Chairman Mitsuo Horiuchi, 78, a former postal rebel
who was reputed to retire from politics, declared that he would run
in the Yamanashi second district. Kotaro Nagasaki, 39, who holds a
proportional representation seat, is also determined to devote
himself to the same district.

The LDP Election Strategy Council thinks Nagasaki has momentum,
although he was defeated by Horiuchi by a mere 900 votes in the

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previous race but later won over 1,000 party members. The party's
independent election surveys reportedly also showed Nagasaki's
dominance. But the election council cannot ignore the wish of
Horiuchi, a former party executive.

A battle is also underway in the Yamanashi No. 3 constituency
between Takeshi Hosaka, 63, a former postal rebel, and Jiro Ono, 54,
a former secretary to former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Ono has recently increased the membership of his support
organization 1.5 fold to 4,500. In the previous race, however, DPJ
lawmaker Hitoshi Goto, 50, came in second by collecting about 2,000
votes more than Hosaka. Ono came in third. If Hosaka and Ono again
run in the next race, they might go down together.

In the Fukuoka No. 11 district, Ryota Takeda, 39, and Kozo Yamamoto,
59, are likely to vie for party endorsement for the fourth time.

In the Shizuoka No. 7 constituency, Minoru Kiuchi, 42, who lost his
seat in the previous race, is expected to run as an independent
against Satsuki Katayama, 48, who won party endorsement in the
precious race. Party headquarters plans to endorse incumbents but it
has not jettisoned the option of additionally endorsing postal
rebels if they won.

Party headquarters is also having a hard time in determining the
treatment of the incumbents who won proportional representation
seats without running in single-seat constituencies.

Former Minister of State for Declining Birthrate Kuniko Inoguchi,
55, who was placed at the top of the LDP proportional representation
list for the Tokyo bloc, has played up her presence, holding a party
to celebrate the publication of her recent book. However, it has not
been decided whether she will run in the race from a single-seat
constituency. There is a talk that Taku Otsuka, 34, who won a seat
despite his being tanked the 29th on the party's proportional list
for the Tokyo bloc, will run in the Tokyo No. 5 district. Yukari
Sato is likely to move there, however.

Taizo Sugimura, 28, of the southern Kanto bloc, a graduate of a
Sapporo high school, aims to move to the Hokkaido No. 1 district
with no LDP candidate. But unhappy with his comment to run in the
No. 1 district even as an independent, the local chapter is backing
Gaku Hasegawa, 36, a founder of the Soran Festival.

Sugimura, along with Sato, is a symbol of "Koizumi's children." An
LDP executive indicated that fielding Sugimura against the DPJ's
possible candidate, Takahiro Yokomichi, a former Lower House
Vice-Speaker, would help bring about a favorable wind for the
party's overall election campaign.

Meanwhile, the Hokkaido chapter is alarmed at New Party Daichi
Representative Muneo Suzuki's contact with Sugimura. If Sugimura
runs in the constituency backed by Daichi, Hasegawa would have to
compete with him. "Mr. Sugimura's determination is firm to run in
the race, but we cannot overturn the local decision at this point."
Unable to file a request with party headquarters for endorsing
Hasegawa, the Hokkaido chapter is troubled.

(2) Respective interests of ruling, opposition parties
criss-crossing over talks to revise special-purpose road
construction revenues

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NIKKEI (Page 2) (Almost full)
February 5, 2008

The ruling and opposition parties have yet to decide what approach
to take to Diet deliberations on special-purpose road construction
revenues, which are expected to move into full gear shortly. The
Democratic Party of Japan's (DPJ or Minshuto) strategy is to focus
on the abolition of the provisional gasoline tax rate and
reallocation of road funds. However, DPJ members remain cautious
about the proposed talks to revise the ruling parties' bill amending
the Special Tax Measures Law due in part to their alarm about their
agreement leading to a "grand coalition." Many Liberal Democratic
Party (LDP) members of the road policy clique in the Diet are
strongly resisting holding revision talks with the opposition
parties. The cautious argument is slightly outdoing the positive

DPJ to submit bill to reallocate road funds for other uses: Still
alert to grand coalition initiative

Calling for reallocations of road funds for other uses, the DPJ is
determined to thoroughly pursue the appropriateness of the
government's mid-term plan to inject approximately 59 trillion yen
in the construction of roads over the next 10 years. It intends to
submit to the Diet a bill scrapping the road construction revenues
special exemption law and a bill abolishing the system of local
governments sharing the burden of government-controlled road
construction or river works for the purpose of making up for
approximately 900 billion yen in a tax revenue shortfall that local
governments are expected to suffer as a result of its proposal for
abolishing the provisional tax rate.

The Lower House speaker and the Upper House president recently
brokered a deal between the ruling and opposition camp. The
agreement reached between the two camps, which noted that a certain
degree of conclusion be reached on the bill amending the Special Tax
Measures Law before the end of this fiscal year, included the
consensus that the legislature is to make changes to matters on
which each party agreed.

Because the government proposal is now likely to be adopted by the
end of Marc, some senior DPJ members are calling for searching for a
way to revise the amendment bill in order to achieve as much as
possible, when the provisional gas tax rate expires. Tadayoshi
Ichita, head of the Japanese Communist Party Secretariat told a news
conference on Jan. 4, "I do not think revising the bill is a mistake
if it is done in a manner that would benefit the public."

However, one senior Upper House member underscored, "We should not
settle for a cross between our bill and the ruling party-sponsored
bill." DPJ members are caught on the horns of dilemma with many of
them still alert to the possibility of the proposed revision talks
leading to a reemergence of the old "grand coalition" initiative.

Ruling parties

LDP Secretary General Bunmei Ibuki during a press conference on Jan.
4 made an ironical remark on the DPJ's stance toward special-purpose
road construction revenues, saying, "The DPJ is projecting an image
of its being a party with a foggy policy. Regarding a revision of
the ruling parties' bill amending the Special Tax Measures Law, he

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stressed, "We have no intention whatsoever of calling on the DPJ to
come to the negotiating table." Hidehisa Otsuji, chairman of the LDP
Caucus in the Upper House during a press conference categorically
said, "It is illogical for the ruling party to propose revision
talks right now."

An argument approving revisions to the bill has surfaced in the
ruling camp, reflecting a cooperative mood generated after the
ruling and opposition parties reached an agreement on the
provisional gas tax rate. However, if talks with the opposition camp
get to specific arguments, such as shortening the period to maintain
the provisional tax rate from 10 years or expanding road funds
subject to reallocations for other uses, ruling party members,
mainly those involved in the road policy, are bound to put up
resistance. The argument positive about holding revision talks is
swiftly losing steam among leadership members with one noting, "It
would be wiser for the DPJ to determine what approach it will

Members of the road policy clique in the Diet are stepping up their
offensive. General Council Chairman Toshihiro Nikai on Jan. 4 met
with Ibuki and Diet Policy Committee Chairman Tadamori Oshima and
pressed them not to revise the bill. Highways Research Commission
Chairman Yuji Yamamoto the same day opposed a plan to shorten the
period to retain the provisional tax rate, noting, "The issue should
not be decided in a matter of one or two months."

Deputy DPJ Chairman Naoto Kan criticized Nikai, saying, "It is
visible from his face that he is determined not to give up on his
vested interests." The ruling camp also intends to pursue Kan on
this issue. The LDP on Jan. 4 submitted to Kan a paper seeking a
correction of his remark and an apology and asked him to reply by
the evening of the 5th.

(3) Suprapartisan group, including Kato, Yamasaki, to visit South
Korea - aiming to pave way for political realignment?

NIKKEI (Page 2) (Full)
February 2, 2008

A suprapartisan group, including Liberal Democratic Party members
Koichi Kato and Taku Yamasaki, will visit South Korea on Feb. 10-11.
The lawmakers are scheduled to meet president-elect Lee Myung Bak in
Seoul on the 11th. The group will be formed by more than 10
lawmakers from the LDP, the New Komeito, the Democratic Party of
Japan, the Social Democratic Party, and other political parties.
Seeing this, some observers speculate that the visit might be
intended to pave the way for rallying together liberal forces, with
an eye on a fluid political situation after a next House of
Representatives election.

Kato and Yamasaki met Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda at the Prime
Minister's Office yesterday and explained the purpose of their
planned visit to South Korea. Fukuda said: "I think the visit by a
suprapartisan group is good. I expect some positive results will be
produced in the visit." DPJ members Yoshito Sengoku and Yukio Edano,
and SDP member Kiyomi Tsujimoto are also members of the delegation.

Kato said: "A suprapartisan group should discuss sensitive
diplomatic issues with the other side," emphasizing the significance
of the delegation. The participation of the DPJ members, who have
distanced themselves from President Ichiro Ozawa, has touched off

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speculation. One delegate commented: "This is a group of those
keeping their distance from Mr. Ozawa."

(4) Outcome of Iwakuni mayoralty race and Lower House by-election to
be touchstone for Abe's resurgence

SENTAKU (Page 45) (Full)
February 2008

In February, a mayoralty election will be held in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi
Prefecture, to fill the post that fell vacant due to the resignation
of former Mayor Katsusuke Ihara, who opposes the U.S. plan to
relocate carrier-based fighter jets to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station
Iwakuni. There will also be held a House of Representatives
by-election in April for the Yamaguchi No.2 electoral district. The
outcome of these two races may provide a clue as to whether former
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who hails from Yamaguchi Prefecture, will
be able to return to the center stage of politics.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has fielded former Lower
House member Yoshihiko Fukuda, an Iwakuni native, as the rival
candidate against Ihara, who will run again in the mayoralty race.
Incumbent Lower House member Hideo Hiraoka of the Democratic Party
of Japan, who was elected in the proportional representation Chugoku
bloc of the 2005 Lower House election after being defeated by Fukuda
in the Yamaguchi No. 2 single-seat constituency, will run in the
upcoming by-election for the Diet seat vacated by Fukuda. Although
the LDP has not picked any candidate for the Lower House
by-election, the names of two House of Councillors members -- Nobuo
Kishi, Abe's younger brother, and Yoshimasa Hayashi -- have been
already floated as possible candidates.

Ihara, who overwhelmingly won the previous mayoral race, is a strong
candidate. Since the DPJ's Hiraoka, now a candidate for the Lower
House by-election, was defeated by a narrow margin by Fukuda, the
LDP cannot take the race lightly. For Abe, who has resumed his
official duties, the LDP's victory in both elections would become a
touchstone for his resurgence. Former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori
has reportedly fired Abe up by saying: "We have to win both
elections under your initiative."

(5) LDP's Yamasaki expects Prime Minister's assurance of visit to
North Korea

SENTAKU (Page 45) (Full)
February 2008

Taku Yamasaki, former vice president of the ruling Liberal
Democratic Party (LDP), has been feeling out the right timing for
him to make a visit to North Korea. He set up a sub-commission in
the party's Foreign Affairs Research Commission, which he chairs,
and picked former defense chief Seijuro Eto, who has close ties with
Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, to chair the sub-committee. He is full
of bluster, saying: "I want to get the Prime Minister's assurance so
that I will be able to do something to resolve the abduction

It was Yamasaki who engineered the second visit to Pyongyang by then
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2004. Reportedly, Yamasaki's
cold shoulder to Fukuda at that time led to the resignation of
Fukuda as chief cabinet secretary. However, Yamasaki and Fukuda, who
are both 72, were classmates at Waseda University. When they were

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college students, they met at Fukuda's home since their fathers,
graduates of the University of Tokyo, were friends.

Fukuda heaped accolades on Yamasaki in a meeting he attended at the
beginning of this year, saying: "I have been associated with Mr.
Yamasaki for a half century. He has given me guidance regarding
North Korean issues." Yamasaki is likely making approaches to
Fukuda's aides, saying: "It is time for the Prime Minister to put me
to good use."

(6) Kazamidori (Weathercock) column: Japan will be forced to choose
between U.S. and China, if the latter is democratized

NIKKEI (Page 2) (Full)
February 3, 2008

Katsuji Nakazawa

Peking University is a major player in China's modern history. Late
last year, when Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda was visiting China, he
addressed students at this university. In the speech, the prime
minister expounded on Japanese politics in a way that was easy for
the students to understand by citing the so-called "political war"
between Kakuei Tanaka and Fukuda's father Takeo Fukuda (who both
served as prime ministers in the 1970s). Fukuda then expressed words
of regret about past events (between Japan and China) and received a
good response. The hidden focus of his speech was how to refer to
human rights and other aspects of democracy at a bastion for China's
pro-democracy movement. Whether rising China becomes a democratic
nation has a new meaning for Japan.

"It is important to pursue together such universal values as human
rights, rule of law, and democracy. On the other hand, I think it is
likewise important to pay attention to the common foundation and
values embedded deeply in Japan and China."

These remarks were modest compared with those previously uttered by
American presidents, but Fukuda was the first Japanese prime
minister to speak to Chinese students about democracy. By referring
to Confucianism, a set of values both Japan and China hold in
common, Fukuda drew a clear distinction from the former Abe
administration's "value-oriented diplomacy," which emphasized shared
values with the United States like democracy.

With its economy growing, China has already become Japan's largest
trading partner. The recent frenzy over tainted frozen "gyoza"
dumplings that had come from China in this sense symbolizes the
economic interdependence between the two countries. According to a
private-sector forecast, China's gross domestic product (GDP) will
outpace Japan's in five years, even though what will China's
economic prospects once the 2008 Beijing Olympics are over are
unknown. The existence of China as a major military power that is
likely to become the world's second largest economic power in the
2020s could change the security dynamics in the region. However,
even in such a case, Japan's conclusion would be that the Japan-U.S.
alliance will remain the axis of its bilateral relations. In other
words, Japan remains crucial to security in Asia since its sits
between the U.S. and China. Japan will defend the alliance with the
U.S., with which Japan shares values, and in so doing, forestall

But what should Japan do if its neighboring big power is

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democratized? Such a China would force Japan to choose between the
U.S. and it, given the similar traditional culture and political
systems both countries inherit. Should China (become a democratic
nation), the U.S., too, would revise its previous views of China.
Calls for a review of Japan's continuing dependence on the U.S.
since the end of World War II would gain momentum in Japan, even
though it is not that Japan would be simply forced to choose between
the U.S. and China.

Two years ago, an exchange meeting was held in Beijing between the
ruling parties of the two countries. Hidenao Nakagawa, then chair of
the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) Policy Research Council,
suggested gently to Li Zhanghun, a member of the Politburo Standing
Committee for Propaganda of the Communist Party of China: "I hope
China will follow a democratic process in a moderate manner." But
the Chinese side made no response to this proposal.

The question of when elections will be held is talked about in
China, but China is highly cautious about political reform. The day
after Fukuda's speech, China approved Hong Kong having a direct
election of its administrator in 2017. This move would inevitably
spill over into the Chinese continent.

One young Chinese researcher was filled with expectation: "The road
for China to reach the top in the economic area in 2017 is now
visible. I think there will be a kind of experiment in Hong Kong,
with China itself gradually shifting to a democratic country in
years after 2020, when it would achieve the goal of turning a
society where the public realizes affluence." A Japanese official
concerned with Japan-China diplomatic relations predicts that a
significant change will emerge around 2020. This official continued:
"Those who spent their days freely as college students and who
experienced the pro-democracy movement after the Great Cultural
Revolution will become senior members of the Communist Party of
China its Conventions in 2017 and in 2022. Political reform without
fail would then begin."

The government's foreign policy has been affected by the Japanese
public's views of other countries. Regarding the Japanese public's
sense of identity, Tatsuru Uchida, professor at Kobe College, noted:
"(The Japanese public) shifted the 'national object of desire' from
China to the U.S. in the 1850s" (in his book Gaijo no America Ron
(Views of America on Japanese streets). Japan since the dawn of
history until the recent modern times was aware of the existence of
a strong power on the Asian Continent, but with Commodore Perry's
arrival in Japan, Japan abandoned the declining Qing state. Japan
since the Meiji Era (1868-1912) has flattered itself that it has
risen to the top in Asia. All the more for that reason, Japan is
somewhat embarrassed at the thought that somewhere down the road its
status in the international community will be slip back.

Fukuda is viewed as a pro-Chinese politician, but according to an
aide, "Even he realized through his recent overseas trip the rise in
China's influence and the decline in Japan's status." He therefore
set up a panel of experts to discuss how the Prime Minister's
Official Residence (Kantei) should take the diplomatic lead. One
subject for discussion there will be China.

An important question for Japan will be what to do if China
outstrips Japan on the economic front. The current mutually
beneficial strategic partnership would then reach the end of its
shelf life. For Japan, then, it is indispensable to envision the

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long-term case of China becoming a democratic country. Who could
predict 19 years ago, when the Tiananmen Square Incident occurred,
that China would became an economic power today? The same holds true
of the possible emergence of a pro-democratic China.

(7) Risks cannot be completely removed through blanket BSE testing

ASAHI (Page 4) (Slightly abridged)
February 4, 2008

A number of Japanese people believe that Japanese beef is safer than
U.S. beef, because Japan requires all cattle to be tested to prevent
BSE before they are slaughtered. Many people believe that Japan has
introduced the most rigorous inspection system in the world.

Hideaki Karaki, an honorary professor at the University of Tokyo,
pointed out in an article carried in a magazine issued by the Japan
Veterinary Medical Association last June: "It is not well known that
there is a possibility of infected cows being overlooked even with
blanket testing."

The U.S. and Europe subject only cattle 30 months of age or older to
BSE testing. In the U.S., only some of such cattle are tested.

In the case of calves to which BSE-prone meat-and-bone meal was
given, abnormal prions concentrate first in some parts of the small
intestine and then slowly build up in the brain. In six months
before infected cows begin to show symptoms, abnormal prions
increase to a level high enough to be confirmed by BSE testing.

In Britain, more than 170,000 cases of BSE have been reported. The
average age when symptoms began to appear in the cattle was 60
months, with cases of the start of symptoms at less than 30 months
of age only totaling 81 cows. Calculations show that only one out of
every 2,000 infected cows were found infected with the disease at
the age of under 30 months.

Following the first discovery of the first case of BSE in Japan in
September 2001, the government in its draft plan on a new inspection
system set the minimum age of cattle subject to testing at 30
months. But the government decided to introduce a blanket testing
system, reflecting growing calls from some lawmakers, although few
countries have adopted the system. It was a political judgment for
the sake of putting people "at ease." The Ministry of Health, Labor
and Welfare has decided to finally review the blanket testing system
this summer, but an increasing number of local governments have
decided to independently continue blanket testing.

Of the abnormal prions, 99 PERCENT are accumulated in the brain or
vertebral columns. In Western countries, removal of all specified
risk materials (SRM) is mandatory.

Japanese meat-processing plants also remove SRMs, but this
requirement is regarded as no more than "support for BSE testing."
That was why Japan and the U.S. long remained far apart in
negotiations on Japan's resumption of U.S. beef imports.

A set of international standards for BSE measures determined by the
World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) includes: (1) removal of
SRMs; and (2) prohibiting the practice of pithing. No provisions for
testing are included in the criteria. Pithing is a slaughtering
technique in which the brain of the animal is scrambled with a rod

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stuck into the stun hole to reduce or eliminate reflex kicking as
the animal dies. But Western countries ban pithing on animals
intended for human consumption because it may lead to the spread of
fragments of neural matter throughout the carcass.

In Japan, however, slaughterhouses still carry out the practice of
pithing. Yoshihiro Ozawa, honorary advisor to the OIE, commented:
"The government has conducted no satisfactory testing to check if
all SRMs were removed. The practice of pithing continues even now."

Based on the international standards, OIE classifies countries' BSE
countermeasures into three ranks. The U.S. is included in the 2nd
rank - countries having controlled BSE risk - but Japan and Britain
are in the third category - countries with undetermined risk of BSE.
Only the Japanese people are unwitting of this fact.

(8) Increasing food self-sufficiency ratio to 45 PERCENT extremely
difficult due to shrinking arable land

YOMIURI (Page 9) (Full)
February 5, 2008

Japan's food self-sufficiency ratio has dropped to the lowest level
among the industrialized countries. A primary reason for this is
that consumption of rice, a commodity that Japan can supply its own
needs, is on the decrease, while consumption of Western foods, most
of which such as meat are imported from abroad, is on the increase.
A second factor is the government's inability to respond well to the
declining agriculture sector and the changing needs of consumers.
The government aims to increase the food self-sufficiency ratio on a
calorie supply basis to 45 PERCENT by 2015, but reaching this goal
will be extremely difficult indeed.

Japan's food self-sufficiency ratio is remarkably low, compared to
other major industrialized countries. For instance, the comparative
figures in 2003 (fiscal 2003 for Japan) show that the food
self-sufficiency ratios of the United States and Australia, both of
which are food-exporters, exceed 100 PERCENT as one can expect, but
even in Europe, countries other than Switzerland supply 50 PERCENT
or more of their own needs. As an agricultural power, France's food
self-sufficiency ratio comes to 122 PERCENT .

In the case of Japan, however, per capita consumption of its staple
food, rice, has halved to an annual 61.0 kg as of fiscal 2006,
compared to peak consumption of 118.3 kg in fiscal 1962. As for
other grains, Japan depends highly on imports, with its
self-sufficiency ratios for wheat and soybean being 13 PERCENT and
25 PERCENT , respectively. The tendency for consumers to move away
from rice as a staple has had a significant impact on Japan's food

A rise in the consumption of beef, pork, and chicken also has
affected Japan's food self-sufficiency ratio. With the gradual
import liberalization of livestock products, a large number of
low-priced products have become available in Japan.

Even though livestock are domestically raised, Japan must import 75
PERCENT of their feed, such as corn. Japan's self-sufficiency ratio
for livestock, after taking into account the import ratio of feed,
is a mere 16 PERCENT .

Shortage of farmers

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Accompanying the return of high economic growth after World War II,
the structure of the economy shifted from the primary sector --
agriculture and fisheries -- to mining and manufacturing and the
service industry sectors.

The area of arable land, which is key to a viable food supply,
declined to 4.65 million hectares in 2007 from the peak of 6.086
million hectares in 1961. With a serious shortage of farm hands,
owing to the aging population, farmable acreage that is no longer
cultivated has reached 390,000 hectares, which is equal to the area
of Saitama Prefecture.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
(MAFF), 11 kg of forage crops are needed in order to produce 1 kg of
beef or 7 kg of pork. In order for Japan to raise its food
self-sufficiency ratio to 100 PERCENT , without changing the current
eating habit by the Japanese, MAFF calculates that Japan needs some
17 million hectares of arable land, nearly four times as large as
the current area of arable land, including that used to grow feed.

The government declared in its "Annual Report on Food, Agriculture
and Rural Areas in Japan" (released in March 2005), which sets basic
agriculture policy course for the future, that Japan will aim to
improve its food self-sufficiency ratio to 45 PERCENT . This ratio
will make it possible for Japan to secure per capita consumption of
2,020 kilocalories if potatoes are cultivated in portions of rice
paddies and vegetable fields, even if imports of food were

Improving eating habits is crucial

It is, however, questionable whether Japan can attain the goal of 45

For instance, MAFF has assumed that crop yields of major product
items, such as rice, wheat, and feed per hectare will be improved by
3-20 percent from the previous year in order to make up for a
decrease in the area of arable land to 4.5 million hectares.

MAFF also has assumed that the people will improve their eating
habits by reducing fat intake, which is high in calories, and
instead increasing their consumption of rice. But the reality is
that the amount of fat the people consumed in fiscal 2006 increased
from the previous year.

In addition, there are many other challenges for Japan to address
besides improving the food self-sufficiency ratio.

For instance, the government restricts countries from which Japan
imports wheat to three countries, namely, the United States, Canada,
and Australia. But there are those who point out the need to broaden
the number of countries from which wheat is imported. The government
also stockpiles a 0.2-2.5-month supply of rice, wheat, and soybeans,
but discussion of reviewing such a rainy day reserve has begun.


© Scoop Media

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