Japan Seed Industry News 2020

This page features a compilation and selection of Japanese seed industry news briefs, summaries and leads, with an emphasis on events that impact or affect provinces, regions, counties, cities and locales in Nippon-koku or Nihon-koku (日本国), Japan. 

The news covers trends and events regarding seed regulation, testing, legislation, phytosanitary issues, intellectual property rights, biotechnology (genomics, gene-editing) plant breeding, agronomy and cropping, with original sources linked.

This page will be updated throughout the year, with most recent briefs listed first.

May 2020

Proposed Seed Bill amendment discussed in Diet but enactment postponed

On 20 May, Japan’s ruling party decided not to put the revised seed bill to a vote — either out of caution, owing to political opposition, or because of requests from civil groups for further deliberation. Seed groups have called for more public discussion before the Diet again considers it. On 19 May, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Taku Eto said of proposed amendment to the Seed and Seedling Law that the issue was “not yet decided,” adding, however: “Even if the Seed and Seedling Law is amended, nothing will change” in domestic markets. He said revision is necessary because “certain export commodities such as strawberries had leaked overseas owing to self-propagation” and that “registration of varieties cannot stop the outflow under the current legal system.”

Watermelon with micro-sized edible seeds

Following 16 years of breeding research and development, a new type of watermelon with a minimal number of micro-sized edible seeds has been launched by a Japanese company. According to publicity material (in Japanese), the watermelon now has been planted across Japan — with resulting national attention.

Sakata Launching New Vegetables and Flowers

Starting in June, Sakata Seeds will launch eight new seed products, including several vegetables and flowers. Vegetables include varieties of stem broccoli and kohlrabi. More details in Japanese here. Sakata is also taking orders for two new “dwarf” button flowers, as announced on its website here.

April 2020

Proposed seed law amendments seek stronger breeder rights protection

A bill to amend Japan’s Seeds and Seedling Law was submitted to the Diet in April. According to an article in Japanese language, the proposed amendments, which had been approved by Cabinet in March, aim to establish measures to curb the outflow of certain varieties from Japan while providing more IP protection for breeders and innovators. Under the current law it is legal to export registered varieties once the PVP protection period has expired. And while it is already illegal to propagate or sell registered varieties without license, it is reportedly difficult for authorities to track or enforce this aspect, the article notes. Proposed amendments stipulate that owners of protected varieties (such as breeders or institutions) would be able to specify conditions such as the target destination country and cultivation area, with strict penalties imposed for violation of said conditions, including up to 10 years imprisonment and up to 10 million yen fine. Japan has two main categories of sowing seed: general varieties and registered varieties, whereas the general varieties include “conventional” varieties, varieties that have not been registered, and/or varieties whose registration validity period has expired. Another article notes a push by a ‘seed protection committee’ on April 9 for deliberation on the amendment to be postponed due to the coronavirus situation.  Another comprehensive report by Yahoo Japan here provides more background on the Seed and Seedling law, and details opposition based on the so called ‘farmers rights’ perspective. 

Nagano prefecture seed security regulation in force

Maninichi Japan news reports that new prefecture-level regulations concerning seeds of main crops and traditional vegetables are now in effect. As reported earlier this year, several prefectures started to draft and implement such regulations to clarify prefecture government roles and obligations in seed supply and thus address seed security concerns raised following the abolition in 2018 of the country’s Main Seed Crops law, which no longer obligated the government to ensure staple crop seed supply, and thus promote participation of the private sector in seed production of these crops. 

Sakata to launch new mizuna, pak choy varieties

Leading Japanese seed company, Sakata, has circulated details in local media about some of its upcoming planned leafy-green vegetable releases. These include a new early-maturing, fusarium-resistant, winter cultivar of mizuna (Brassica rapa var. nipposinica). More details in Japanese here. And a high-yielding, heat-resistant pak-choy cultivar, details here. Both are expected to be launched in Japan this coming June. 

Sakata to expand into lettuce market with acquisition of California company

Sakata Seed America, a subsidiary of Sakata Seeds has acquired “Vanguard Seed”, a lettuce seed company based in Salinas, California. The news, announced in both Japanese and English language media, affirms that Vanguard’s genetic resources and operations and personnel for breeding, seed production, sales and marketing will be integrated under the Sakata brand.

 

DECEMBER 2019 & JANUARY 2020

Rice farmers diversify into other crops in wake of staple seed law abolition 

Miyanichi Press reports on efforts to support rice farmers in the Miyazaki prefecture to diversify cultivation into high-value crops such as vegetables. The news, in Japanese language, cites reports of declining incomes for rice farmers said to linked to the recent abolition of Japan’s Main Crops Seed Law, which effectively ended tax-funded government subsidization for the production and supply of staple crop seeds such as rice, maize and soybean, and thus attempt to attract private-sector investment. 

Prefecture-level seed ordinances trending

Sankei News reports that there is an increasing trend of enacting prefecture-level “seed security” ordinances in response to impacts from the abolition of Japan’s Main Crops Seed Law in 2018. According to the article, in Japanese language, such ordinances, which establish regulations, guidelines and seed production subsidization mechanisms, have been enacted in Saitama, Niigata and Hyogo, while similar acts are soon expected to follow in Nagano (as reported in Asahi), Hokkaido, and in Okinawa according to another report by Ronza Web. It was previously reported that the national law was abolished in order to enable the private sector to have a role in seed production of staple crops. In the absence now of the conventional state-subsidized seed supply system, some farmer groups, however, are reportedly struggling to procure quality seeds at competitive prices, which has been reported in Japanese media as one possible reason for rising crop prices. 

New Japanese Vegetable Varieties publication out

Seibundo Shinkosha Co., Ltd. has released the 20th edition of its “New Vegetable Varieties” publication, which lists 183 newly registered vegetables varieties. The publication comes out approximately every three years since 1959. In addition to listing and detailing the new varieties, the publication also summarizes the changes in Japanese vegetable varieties over the past 60 years for each item. The publication, available in Japanese, can be procured via various online channels. Its ISBN is 978-4-416-61936-0

Native Japanese varieties book

In related news, “Japanese varieties are amazing: The story about delicious plants (Chuko Shinsho) features stories behind 268 varieties of staple Japanese fruits and vegetables: potato, pears, apples, radish, wasabi and soybeans.  

Native Seed Library in Okinawa lends out ‘seed books’

One Okinawan woman has modified her book shop and cafe in Nahu city to feature a “Seed Library”, where she lends out books of seeds of traditional crops, which borrowers can take for free on the condition that they multiply the seeds and return the added seeds to the collection.