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Archive for June, 2008

“Shut Down the G8 Summit” Alternative sound demonstration – Shinjuku

Following Saturday’s meeting and speech by Susan George, the “working groups” from “Shut Down the G8 Summit” met other demonstrators in the heavy rain at Kashigawa Park on Sunday afternoon.

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Here there was a brief rally, with Susan George among others giving short speeches:

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Saturday’s events in Tokyo

On the first full day of anti-G8 action in Tokyo yesterday, there were workshops held throughout the city from 1pm, consisting of various “working groups”. These were then followed by a General Meeting at 6pm, which I attended. The meeting was held in Bunkyo Kumin Center near Kasuga station and the main speaker was Susan George of ATTAC France and Transnational Institute. She is a long-time activist and the author of a number of books on poverty including How the Other Half Dies (1976).

The first hour of the meeting was given to introductions and the reports by the “working groups”. These groups covered issues such as trade, sexual discrimination and American bases on Okinawa and Guam among others.

Shut Down the G8 Summit - Working Groups report

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G8 2008

This year’s annual Group of 8 summit is almost upon us. From 7th-9th July, the leaders of the G8 countries will meet at Lake Toyako, on the northern island of Hokkaido, here in Japan.

Over the next two weeks I am going to be writing about various G8-related events, with special regard to world agriculture, domestic Japanese issues, and the alter-globalization/anti-capitalism movement’s reaction to the current world crises.

For a very detailed summary of issues regarding this summit please read “The 2008 G8 on Hokkaido, a Strategic Assessment”, written by activists, scholars and writers based in the United States and Western Europe.

It is a long piece, but reading it would be time well-spent. It actually preempts a lot of what I wanted to say in this post, (even down to my not-so-original title) and so I will intersperse my writing with some quotes from it.

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Meat market

Things are looking worrying for livestock farmers in Japan. The price of corn on the world market has risen rapidly and the Japanese government has responded by increasing the floor price of domestic, corn-fed pork and beef for a second time this year.

Japan imports almost all of its animal feed and so the price of corn here is being further affected by the rising price of oil, in the form of increased freight fees. It imports 93% of its corn from the United States. The other main ingredient in animal feed is soya, which is also mostly imported. From Bloomberg:

“Without additional support from the government, supply of domestically produced milk and other livestock products will eventually become unavailable to consumers,” Nobuhiro Suzuki, the chairman of the ministry’s livestock panel, told reporters…

This view is supported by groups representing farmers:

“An increasing number of livestock farmers are abandoning their business because feed and other costs have exceeded their incomes,” said Masataka Ishiguro, vice secretary general at National Confederation of Farmers Movements, representing over 40,000 farmers in Japan.

This confederation is NOUMINREN, also sometimes referred to as Japan Family Farmers Movement.

As the cost of feed continues to rise, the family farmers represented by NOUMINREN can either give up on farming altogether or move away from livestock and towards more sustainable produce, such as rice, fruit or vegetables. However, even if they wanted to diversify, there are signs that the Japanese government is not keen on supporting small-scale farmers any longer.

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