Monday, March 14, 2011

News From Japan - Kurashi - The "Eco-Blog" - by Martin J Frid

Liked this cover of a book on Japanese food... sorry... not posting n this book as such! 

Natto that is tradition food of Japan
Natto - an ancient and traditional Japanese fermented food made from soybeans -
nutritious and low in calories. Click here

Trawling the internet tonight I came across a blog by Martin J Frid that of course contained posts about the tragic events of the past 4 days in Japan... but also contained quite fascinating earlier posts on all things eco-related.

This one on Soybeans  I thought very suitable to post on here at Homage to the Seed. And following that one on Seed-saving - in Japan.!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Soybean Field Trust Movement (Daizu Trust) And Efforts To Make Rural Japan Cool Again - click here.

I went to a fun meeting today with the Soybean Field Trust Movement people, including farmers and consumers, who are trying to encourage interest in locally grown soy. One speaker noted that in Ibaraki Prefecture (considered No. 2 after Hokkaido for soy production) a recent inventory revealed over 100 different varieties. Much soy in Japan is used for tofu, miso and soy sauce. Did you know that soy is used as edamame, often as a snack?

The Soybean Field Trust Movement started some 13 years ago, when it became clear that imported soy from the US was increasingly genetically modified, and controlled by large multinational corporations like Monsanto. On top of that, the soy that Japan imported from Latin America was found to lead to the destruction of the Amazon forests.

Japan still imports a lot of soy, but companies like Honda Motor Co. (!) have set up special silos in North America that only accepts non-GMO soy:

In Ohio, non-GMO soybean acreage increased 6%, the largest increase in any state. "We saw more growers switching to non-GMO production for 2009 planting,” says Joe Hanusik, manager at Harmony Agricultural Products In Ohio (HAPI Ohio), which produces non-GMO soybeans for food use. HAPI Ohio is owned by the Honda Motor Company, based in Japan. Honda ships containers to the US filled with automobile parts, and HAPI Ohio ships them back to Japan filled with non-GMO soybeans. The infield of a Honda test track in Marysville, Ohio, is even planted with non-GMO soybeans. Hanusik said he contracted with a record number of farmers to plant non-GMO soybeans. "This year we are producing roughly 45,000 acres of non GMO soybeans. Last year we were right around 25,000.” Steve Waddell, a farmer near Columbus, Ohio, switched to non-GMO production because of the higher premiums. Waddell says he will earn a $2.00 premium for non-GMO soybeans this year.

Be that as it may, soy bean farmers around Japan feel a keen sense of responsibility to carry on traditional farming methods and food culture.

Soybean Field Trust Movement is active around Japan, and do try to find them, and join their activities. If their blogs are anything to go by, they are truly doing their very best to make the rural Japan experience something worth writing home about:

Gifu Prefecture
Yamagata Prefecture
Ibaraki Prefecture (one of several)
Saitama Prefecture (Supported by local politician)
Hokkaido (NPO, one of many)

You can order Soybean Field Trust products via the PAL Network (Ibaraki). I also recommend soybeans and other products from Warabemura (English).

Mamejin has a pretty complete list of everyone who is part of this amazing movement.

Marukawa Miso was at the meeting today, they are a riot. Hey: "Money is more important than life itself!" 

Thursday, December 02, 2010

A Farmer's Tale: From Nagasaki With Love -click here.

I just loved this essay on, a website I like: Seed saving is an integral part of farming, yet these days, almost noone seems to know how to do it. As much as I like organic food, most of the organic farmers depend on conventionally produced seed for their vegetables and produce. Yes, the organic standards want farmers to avoid pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and no genetically modified organisms (GMO) are permitted.

That is all good, as far as I am concerned. But what we really need is organic farmers like Masatoshi Iwazaki, who has practiced organic agriculture and own seed banks in Azuma, Unzen City, Nagasaki for over 30 years. He is also the head of Slow Food Nagasaki.

Why is saving your own seeds so important?

In 1982, he started planting kuroda-gosun carrots, a variety native to Nagasaki, from his own seed selections. After a few years, he expanded to other varieties of vegetables and soon became hooked on the fascinating process. “True farming involves the maintenance and care of your crops over the entire lifecycle, from seed to flower to harvest and back to seeding again,” Iwasaki explained with passion.

The process of selecting your own seeds and strains is not easy and Iwasaki has encountered many issues over the years. For example, carrots selected for aesthetic appeal did not produce lots of seeds. Iwasaki says that plants are just like people. Just as there are many types of body shapes and sizes, healthy vegetable crops need to have a variety of properties.

Iwasaki believes that in this modern day and age, as seed producers focus less on variety and more on standardization, diversity on the farm takes on two increasingly important aspects. One of these is breeding variety. For example, while we may think a turnip is just a turnip, there are in fact many types of turnip from all over Japan and this variety should be preserved and treasured.

The second is variety within each crop. Kuroda-gosun carrots may come in many shapes and sizes but all of these are important and useful. However, preserving both kinds of diversity is not the exclusive domain of the farmer, responsibility also lies with the consumer. If people take time out to purchase local varieties of vegetables and are tolerant of variety in shape and appearance then it will be easier for farmers to produce a variety of crops, including locally native plants.

I like this approach to organic farming, and I understand how important it is to save seeds. Yet, isn't it strange that so few farmers share the views of Iwasaki? In fact, faced with huge pressure to change Japan's trade rules, and even totally abandon local farmers with agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to allow unlimited food imports, it would make a lot of sense to at least start to support organic farmers who know what they are doing.

This could then lead to export opportunities like what Iwasaki has found:

While local plant varieties have been decimated as farmers avoided crops that did not appeal to consumers, recently there has been a revival in popularity of traditional vegetables. Take, for example, Unzen kobu takana (mustard greens). This local variety of leafy greens was the focus of an editorial published by the Radish Boya vegetable delivery service. As it turned out, Iwasaki found a local strain and revived it. Iwasaki’s Unzen-kobu takana has now been certified by Presidio, one of Italy’s most prestigious slow food organizations.


Frankly, that is not the only good reason to support organic farming in Japan. You don't just want to do this to "create more farm export" but first of all, food security and self-sufficiency should be considered. Worst case scenario: Oil imports get too expensive, and difficulties in importing/producing chemical fertilizers and pesticides? Do we really have to wait until that point to start asking organic farmers how they think Japan should feed itself?

Each of us as consumers has the responsibility to think about where the foods we are eating come from and how they are grown. And the true value of food comes from knowing the story of our food and the people who produce it. More to follow!

Need green inspiration? Head over to Eco to Waza - not to be confused with (both good).

Piero Sardo, President of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, has just visited Nagasaki and had this to say:

Visiting the Unzen Takana Vegetable Presidium in the prefecture of Nagasaki, followed by a meeting of the local Slow Food convivium, was extremely encouraging and showed us just how aware people here are of the issue of food biodiversity. Thanks to the area’s unique geography, with a series of deep and twisting peninsulas, it has preserved a strong cultural specificity, protected from hybrids and contamination. The recently formed Slow Food Nagasaki Convivium has already firmly oriented itself towards promoting this specificity. It is not by chance that the first and only Japanese Presidium, for the Unzen Takana Vegetable, was established here. The group of women (the consortium of Moriyama processors) who process the vegetable using traditional drying and salt fermenting methods now find it easy to sell their product, which has found space on the shelves of Tokyo’s shops and airport boutiques. The Takana growers are equally satisfied, and they participated enthusiastically in the convivium meeting.

From Resistance in Japan: Food for Thought

Iwasaki Masatoshi, another Unzen farmer, has written a great book about Slow Food farming and the delishious, organic vegetables they make by saving and farming heirloom seeds for a number of different crops.

The book, published by Shinchosha, is called Tsukuru, Taberu, Mukashi Yasai(Make, Eat, Traditional Vegetables). Born in Nagasaki in 1950, Iwasaki has almost 30 years of experience as an organic farmer, and is one of the leaders of the movement in Nagasaki prefecture. Highly recommended!
I am adding here a post that was written by our blogger on
Thursday, February 24, 2011 Click here.
Its amazing to read this post in light of the grave concerns at this moment over the nuclear power industry in japan with two reactors unstable following the earthquake ... the fact also that the after-shocks continue and so do further threats to safety!

Kaminoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecure: Controversial New Nuclear Power Plant

Kaminoseki Town comprises a peninsula and several islands. It has a population of 3,600 people. Nuclear power? The proposed construction site is on Nagashima Island which is connected by a bridge to the mainland. Iwaishima Island, which has a population of 500 people "who are almost all opposed to the nuclear power plant," is just 3.5 km across the sea from the construction site.

Pan Orient News: Five Japanese in Hunger Strike Against Kaminoseki Nuclear Power Plant (English)

In Japanese, there are a huge number of blogs, twitter and other new media using Internet to show what is going on.

Chugoku Electric Power Company operates just two nuclear power plants and is currently constructing a third on the Japan Sea coast in Matsue City, the capital of Shimane Prefecture. But, right now, they also are doing everything possible to start building two nuclear power plants on the Seto Inland Sea coast in Kaminoseki Town, Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Yesterday and today, this is where activists are clashing with construction companies. It is February, you can imagine it is very cold, and both sides are angry. PanOrient News noted that this is a very old and outdated project:

When the plan for a nuclear power plant first emerged in 1982 the overwhelming majority of the island's population were opposed to it and in 1983 the then Iwaishima Fishing Cooperative passed a resolution opposing the plan. To this day, 90% of the island's population opposes the plan, local NGO said. For the last 27 years they have held a demonstration every Monday under the slogan "We will not sell the sea for a nuclear power plant." The demonstration has now been held over 1050 times and has become part of the local culture.

Activists claim that the Japanese government "accepted Chugoku Electric's woefully inadequate environmental assessment." They said The Ecological Society of Japan strongly criticized Chugoku Electric's environmental assessment saying, "The survey and analysis of each species is inadequate." "It fails to grasp the development, breeding environment and food chain for the species." "No assessment deserving the name of an ecosystem assessment has been carried out."


rosaria said...

I've arrived here from Robyn's blog, wanting to congratulate you for your thoughtful comment on her blog. So glad to have found you! I live in the United States, a region called Oregon, one of the few states that are aggressive about ecological issues and sustainable agriculture.

I shall follow and become informed more about your cause. Thank you.

Sophie Munns said...

So lovely to hear from you Rosaria and have you connect at homage!
I certainly appreciate what you write of Oregon... its amazing what can come from concentrated focus like your state has!
As I was saying at Robyns.... the challenge for good information at this time is a big part of the battle... but current events in japan remind what is essential like nothing else does!

Robyn said...

Hi beautiful Sophie...
just having a catch up on all that I have missed in recent weeks.

You are a gem and I thoroughly enjoy everything that you share.

I love it that there are people like you in our world.

Keep up the good work.
I love learing from you.

xx Robyn

Sophie Munns said...

Its so lovely to have you visit here tonight Robyn!
The compliment you pay me is returned...many times over! Ive missed you and send well wishes when I find myself wondering what you are up to.. how things are progressing.

Will hop over to your blog world v soon!
S xx

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