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LDP lawmaker suggests divisive bill to revise Japan plant protection law will be deferred

In this May 16, 2019 file photo, the Liberal Democratic Party headquarters is seen in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi/Kazuhisa Soneda)

TOKYO -- A controversial bill to revise plant laws by altering their rules on exports of material for reproduction may be shelved from the current Diet session, according to hints from a senior member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on May 20.

The bill to revise the Plant Variety Protection and Seed Act is designed to regulate the exportation of saplings and other units of reproduction of Japanese agriculture brands. Opposition parties and others have indicated their concerns over the bill that it constitutes a deprivation of the freedom to cultivate crops.

But in an indication that it may not be going ahead as planned, Liberal Democratic Party Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Hiroshi Moriyama told the press, "The bill is intended to properly protect Japanese farmers, but it has been received to the contrary," and acknowledged that more time is needed before the bill is passed. He also said, "The Diet sessions have terms, and we first need to proceed with deliberations on the bill to revise the Forestry Cooperative Act."

The revision bill was proposed by the government in response to copyright issues including the increasing damage sustained by Japan strawberry brand Tochiotome, which was crossbred without permission in South Korea and circulated as a new brand.

But a cautious view of the bill became widespread online and elsewhere after actress Ko Shibasaki tweeted about the revision bill in April, saying, "At this rate, farmers in Japan will be forced into a difficult position."

Opposition parties have also grown increasingly opposed to the bill, with Keiji Kokuta, Diet affairs chief of the Japanese Communist Party, commenting in a May 20 press conference that the bill "will lead to a monopoly" by seed developers. He added, "It will jeopardize the roots of farming."

(Japanese original by Kenta Miyahara and Itsuo Tokubo, Political News Department)

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