Newsletter: Agriculture, Environment, and Medicine No.24
The Proceedings of The Second Agromedicine Symposium in Kitasato University October 13, 2006
Alternative Medicine and Alternative Agriculture
A Message from the Symposium Organizer Tadayoshi Shiba
President, Kitasato University
President, Kitasato University
I would like to start with some remarks on behalf of the organizer of Kitasato University's Second Agromedicine Symposium.
When people meet for the first time at international conferences and academic conventions, they always ask, "What's your field?" This seems to be the usual greeting for modern intellectuals. Especially in the United States and the countries influenced by its civilization, there are many situations in which people find it hard to become acquainted without this question. So it is that international conferences and other such events are held as an attempt to bring the varied expertise of many specialists to bear on problems.
Naturally, there are limits to each individual's abilities and lifetime. And that is why we focus on a particular subject area, belong to universities and research institutes, hold academic conferences, meetings, and other forums, become specialists, and publish our research and other achievements for posterity. That is also the 20th-century story of agriculture and medicine, which both belong to the life sciences.
For example, I chose biology. My work is analyzing, interpreting, and explaining living organisms. But in biology or any other field of enquiry, what we study does not exist in isolation. Each object of study has many facets and is connected to many other objects of study.
Take global warming for instance. Some of its aspects involve meteorological phenomena in the troposphere and stratosphere; other aspects include the metabolism of organisms using processes such as photosynthesis and also the combustion of biomass. In other words, global warming isn't the result of meteorological factors alone. It was the many environmental problems we experienced in the 20th century that gave many researchers a deep understanding of this.
Meanwhile, these experiences have given us a keen awareness of the need for comprehensive knowledge. Just as the Japanese word for "farmer" literally means "one who has knowledge about everything," farmers need comprehensive knowledge about things including the physiology of crop growth, soil science, meteorology, fertilizers, and topology. Biology originally started as taxonomy and then took in peripheral areas related to organisms overall, such as physiology, ecology, and molecular genetics.
But now such integrated specialists have disappeared, and specialists who might be called analysts continue to emerge in large numbers. Even though they have learned biology, if we take for example young researchers who have learned about biotechnology with a special microbe, usually they cannot fully answer contemporary complex questions about living organisms. But provide answers we must. And for that purpose, in the process of learning the basics as analysts, we must master the insights needed as integrated specialists.
I imagine this is happening also in medicine and agriculture, which both concern themselves with human life. Fortunately, Kitasato University's Second Agromedicine Symposium considers problems which modern medicine and agriculture cannot completely deal with and takes a fresh look at them from the perspectives of traditional medicine and alternative medicine or of alternative agriculture. In this way we are attempting to once again deepen mutual understanding and to find the path to collaboration between medicine and agriculture in our efforts at integrating our work regarding human life.
I hope that this symposium will offer meaningful and practical discussion and generate new thinking and suggestions about health issues through food and the environment. I would like to thank Kanazawa Medical University, the Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for their assistance in holding this symposium, and I express my gratitude to all those who accepted with alacrity my requests to give talks
Partnership between Alternative Medicine and Alternative Agriculture Katsu Minami
Both medicine and agriculture, which concern themselves with life, have their "alternative" versions. Just as people working in healthcare are unfamiliar with the term alternative agriculture, those involved in agriculture find the term alternative medicine to be novel.
Are agriculture and medicine similar because they arose from the same roots, and even now walk similar paths? Looking back on ancient times, we see that in medicine there arose the "concept of sanitation" requiring people's cooperation, while in agriculture there arose "ceremonies" to pray for bountiful harvests and to avoid natural disasters, which made cooperation essential.
From the mid-19th century and into the 20th century, advances were realized in laboratory medicine, and attention was focused on the causes and prevention of epidemics. Biochemistry merged with molecular biology and became a powerful weapon in understanding life processes. In agriculture the manufacture of chemical fertilizers and pesticides began, and agricultural production grew by leaps and bounds. Molecular biology became a major field of endeavor, and genetically modified food plants were created.
In recent years modern medicine, which is based primarily on Western medicine, has seen the emergence of alternative medicine, which substitutes for and complements modern medicine, while intensive agricultural production, which uses mainly chemical fertilizers and pesticides, is similarly substituted for and complemented by alternative agriculture. These alternatives have characteristics of the life sciences. In the early 21st century, medical science has concluded the work of decoding the base sequences of the human genome, while agriculture has done likewise with the rice plant genome.
These days some people say we should consider medicine to be "social capital" that humanity holds in common, like education and the environment. This way of thinking is similar to the "one-third spring water" idea which conceived valuable spring water as common capital for agricultural production, and upon which the water was shared impartially. I would like to add that Hirofumi Uzawa defines "common social capital" in this way: "[Common social capital] means social measures which enable all the people living in a country or in a certain region to lead fulfilling economic lives, to develop superb cultures, and to sustainably and stably maintain a people-friendly society."
1. Is a Partnership between Alternative Medicine and Alternative Agriculture Possible?
Agriculture and medicine, which have a shared historical background as discussed above, face the challenges set forth by 21st century preventive medicine which include the assessment, management, and communication of risk, the prevention of illness, and improved quality of health. How can alternative medicine and alternative agriculture partner in response to these challenges in the field of medicine? Tackling this contemporary problem is of the greatest importance in responding to the needs of society.
A number of the achievements of 20th-century technological knowledge suggest that science and education under an agriculture medicine partnership will be indispensable to our 21st century world. Representative of such areas are prevention of illness, health improvement, food safety, conservation agriculture, and healing agriculture. Despite the saying that medicine and food serve the same purposes, there has not been much emphasis on education and science under an agriculture medicine partnership.
Until now there have been no opportunities to discuss how alternative medicine and alternative agriculture are related to these areas, so I hope we shall be able to do so at this symposium.
2. Recent Trends in Alternative Medicine
To start with alternative medicine in Japan, the Japanese Society for Complementary and Alternative Medicine was established in 1998. Organizations in the United States include The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the Complementary Alternative Medical Association (CAMA). Books on the subject include An Exhortation for Alternative Medicine by Kazuhiko Atsumi and Teruo Hirose, The Alternative Medicine Handbook: The Complete Reference Guide to Alternative and Complementary Therapies,written by Barrie R. Cassileth and translated into Japanese by Kimiko Asada and Atsushi Hasegawa, and Complementary and Alternative Approaches to Biomedicine,edited by Edwin Cooper and Norio Yamaguchi.
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) was originally meant to complement modern medicine, which is mainly Western medicine. And in some countries CAM is used in the same meaning as traditional medicine. However, Chinese herbal medicine, Japanese/Chinese medicine, acupuncture, moxibustion, and the like, which in the West are classified as CAM, have long existed in Japan, China, and Korea, so in Japan they are not "alternative," but rather traditional medicine that is officially part of modern medicine. In response to the increase in chronic afflictions and lifestyle-related diseases in the developed countries, there is an awareness of the importance of not only cures, but also preventive measures, and there is increased demand for CAM. As a concrete way of answering this demand, the US enacted the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in 1994, which opened the way for actively exploiting the effectiveness of herbs.
But compared with modern Western medicine, the CAM field is still in a chaotic state lacking sufficient scientific verification. For that reason, a recent appearance is the concept of eCAM, or evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine, which aims to bring evidence-based order into this chaotic field.
There is an international journal on this field published by Oxford Journals. It has a note which reads: "Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (eCAM) is an international, peer-reviewed journal that seeks to understand the sources and to encourage rigorous research in this new, yet ancient world of complementary and alternative medicine."
One of the authors of An Exhortation for Alternative Medicine, Teruo Hirose, translates "alternative medicine" into Japanese as daitai iryou in his papers.
3. Recent Trends in Alternative Agriculture
Japan has a variety of agricultural methods that can be called alternative. One book that explicitly uses alternative agriculture in its title is the US National Research Council report Alternative Agriculturewritten by the Committee on the Role of Alternative Farming Methods in Modern Production Agriculture and translated into Japanese as Alternative Agriculture: In Search of Permanently Sustainable Agriculture (translation supervised by Kazutake Kyuma, Ryohei Yoshida, and Kazuo Nishimura). In the United States there are the American Society of Alternative Agriculture and the American Journal of Alternative Agriculture.
Throughout the world, individuals and organizations are researching, and endeavoring to develop and deploy, a system that will arrive at a single type of agriculture that will increase soil productivity, conserve the natural environment, efficiently use land and resources, and lower production costs.
Behind this aim is the stern reality that agriculture has a negative impact on the environment and that that impact is of vital importance to policymakers, farmers, and consumers. Problems are pollution of the soil, groundwater, and air by pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and livestock waste. There is also the matter of safety with respect to pesticide residue and buildup in crops and food. Other problems actually occurring include soil erosion, soil salinization, and the depletion of ground water sources used for irrigation.
In 1989, the US National Research Council report Alternative Agriculturewas published in response to these problems.
Alternative agriculture does not signify one certain way of farming, but rather includes a variety of systems ranging from organic systems which use no synthetic chemicals at all to those which cautiously use pesticides and antibiotics to control certain diseases and insects. As such, alternative agriculture is agriculture preceded by a modifier such as biological, low-input, organic, regenerative, or sustainable.
Some examples are integrated pest management, low-intensity livestock production, crop rotation systems, and tillage methods that decrease soil erosion. Therefore, alternative agriculture is that which seeks to incorporate these technologies into the way agriculture is performed.
One kind of alternative agriculture is conservation agriculture. The Sustainable Agriculture Office of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries defines it as "sustainable agriculture which gives consideration to mitigating environmental burdens, such as the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, while taking advantage of agriculture's material cycle function and paying attention to matters including harmonization with productivity." Generally, this means agriculture and agricultural methods which burden the environment as little as possible.
The Japanese word for alternative agriculture (daitai nogyo)was first used by Kazutake Kyuma and the other translators of the National Research Council report Alternative Agriculture.
The purpose of this symposium is to consider problems which modern medicine and agriculture cannot completely deal with and to take a fresh look at them from the perspectives of traditional and alternative medicine and of alternative agriculture. In this way we attempt to once again deepen mutual understanding between medicine and agriculture and examine the specific challenges of each, and then by this means find the path to collaboration. As one example of the agriculture medicine partnership, we will describe the flow of conservation livestock products from production to hospital ward, which we are already doing at Kitasato University, and use this as one reference point for considering how alternative agriculture can respond to medicine.
Alternative Medicine: The Gap between Goal and Cause Norio Yamaguchi
Professor of Alternative Basic Medicine Course
Kanazawa Medical University Graduate School
Professor of Alternative Basic Medicine Course
Kanazawa Medical University Graduate School
Many of the incurable diseases left to the 21st century, such as cancer, AIDS, allergies, and autoimmune diseases, are not completely curable with the one-dimensional approach of Western medicine, and that is why people are looking outside of Western medicine for medical care to alleviate symptoms and ways to mitigate subjective symptoms. As a whole these initiatives are called alternative medicine. Definitions in the West and Japan refer to healthcare outside of the medical science and medical treatment that is taught in medical educational institutions. Into this category go all types of regional medicine, of which Eastern medicine tops the list. Except for health supplements, bathing in hot springs, aroma therapy, and other cryptic and scientifically unverified treatments, there are 43 categories listed in the Burton Goldberg Group's Bible of Alternative Medicine.
The expressions "alternative medicine" and "complementary medicine" are terms that evaluate "Eastern medicine" and the like in the West. Here too one can discern a stance which puts Anglo-Saxon thinking first, where modern medicine that started in the West is primary, and everything else is secondary. Alternative medicine is getting another look especially in the United States because of factors which might be characterized as second thoughts engendered by the dead end in modern medicine, the reality of treatment limitations, and doubts about the structuring of Western medicine, which is based on modern Western science to date. I think another underlying reason is the accelerating return-to-nature trend as a reaction to the overdevelopment of modern civilization. American alternative medicine is a mixture of wheat and chaff. It includes some incomprehensible elements and should not be uncritically accepted. It seems there is also resistance to putting these on the same level with Sino-Japanese medicinal science, which is Japan's medical tradition.
Further, traditional medicine does not merely offer treatment modalities that complement modern medicine, because the approach of traditional medicine is based on substance and ideas that will reform the approach of modern medicine. In other words, there are independent medical care systems that exist in the lands of various cultures, and the supplementing of each by the others is what makes global medical theory and practice possible.
Complementary and alternative medicine will henceforth have a broad scope and include not only traditional medicine and folk remedies from around the world, but also new treatment methods not covered by health insurance. Specifically these are Chinese medicine (Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, moxibustion, shiatsu, qigong), Indian medicine, Middle Eastern medicine, immune therapy, medicinal foods and health supplements (anti-allergy foods, immune-stimulating foods, preventive and supplementary foods, etc.), herbal treatment, aroma therapy, vitamin treatment, trace elements, dietary therapy, psychiatric and psychological therapy, hot spring therapy, oxygen therapy, and others. Certainly, these include treatments that are unscientific and are hard to accept by physicians who practice Western medicine, but it is also a fact that the number of treatments whose action mechanisms and effectiveness have been scientifically demonstrated is rapidly increasing.
At this time, Western countries are taking the lead in activities to properly evaluate alternative medicine. Western countries give Eastern medicine as their number one option for alternative medicine. It was against this backdrop that the Asian-led international medical magazine eCAMwas launched primarily by Japanese researchers. The purpose of eCAMis to look widely for treatments, medicines, and traditional food medicine preparations, and use the same judgment criteria as in Western medicine to assess, select, and inform the public about them.
The practitioners of Eastern medicine, Indian medicine, Middle Eastern medicine, and other traditions around the world advocate the advantages and legitimacy of their own countries' medical traditions from their own stances. If these could all be compared with a common yardstick, it would be possible to develop a hybrid medical science in which each takes advantage of the others' characteristics.
When the new international journal eCAMwas launched, it proposed immunological elements as a common yardstick by which to evaluate alternative medicine, and worldwide agreement was obtained. Specifically, the evaluation criteria are peripheral leukocyte, granulocyte subgroups, and the quantitative and qualitative attributes of lymphocytes. In our laboratory we have used immunological elements to prove the efficacy of hot spring bathing, acupuncture and moxibustion treatment, music therapy, exercise therapy, and aroma therapy. About one of these, hot spring bathing, we have released results showing that while long-term bathing is of course good, even two-day short-term use is quite effective.
If we look for the origins of Eastern medicine, we find that Japan, China, Korea, and Taiwan all qualify, but none serves as a temporally uninterrupted source because of gaps in the presence of each in the Eastern medicine timeline. In response to the rising worldwide interest in alternative medicine, the World Health Organization wants to choose a country to administer the formulation of a model method for the technical level of Eastern medicine, especially acupuncture and moxibustion. East Asian countries to which this is applicable have reacted to this with sensitivity, and each is making claims for its own legitimacy and advanced status.
Japanese medicine, which quickly incorporated Western medicine in the Meiji period (1867 1912), understands its advantages and shortcomings and is the most advanced in East Asia. For that reason it makes sense for Japan to propose itself as the country to administer Eastern medicine.
There was a time when Eastern medicine, especially Chinese herbal medicine, was the mainstream of medical science in Japan. Because the Meiji government totally converted the medical care system to Western medicine as a matter of national policy, Eastern medicine barely remained in existence until the end of World War II. On the other hand, starting in Japan's Edo period (1600 1868), Western medicine was gradually introduced into Japan while undergoing a transition from Dutch to German medicine. Now, after the passage of about a century, North American medicine has become the mainstream in Japan. Thanks to this history, medical care in Japan has been able to benefit from Western medical science, and over the last 100 years our average life span has lengthened considerably. We find that Japan's basic medical science has many fields that are on the cutting edge of progress.
Japanese medicine, which quickly incorporated Western medicine in the Meiji period (1867 1912), understands its advantages and shortcomings and is the most advanced in East Asia. Take acupuncture, for instance. In East Asia this is the least invasive, and also uses needles only once. Therefore it has the least danger of invasive infection. The acupuncture and moxibustion in Western countries was taken there from various countries by individuals. In consideration of that situation, it makes sense that Japan, a candidate for the Asian administering country, should take the lead.
However, if you search Medline for the number of articles about clinical research on acupuncture and moxibustion, those from Western countries account for the overwhelming majority, while the number from potential Asian administering countries is incomparably small. This is not because of a lack of effort to publish articles, but because articles are not in a format for publication in international journals. If this state of affairs remains unchanged, Asian countries will be heavily influenced by the treatment policies set forth in Western journals, even though they are technically crude. If this becomes the trend, it is only a matter of time until the same thing starts happening to diagnosis, treatment, and research in Japanese and Chinese herbal medicine.
This does not mean that Western countries are deliberately trying to be in the driver's seat with respect to Eastern medicine. Sometimes they recognize Japan's qualification to take the lead. Publication of the international journal eCAMhas come about precisely because academics from around the world have approved of Japanese leadership in the CAM field. People are hoping that the world standard will be alternative medicine that was founded in the East and refined there by the sensibility gained from Western medicine, not the Eastern medicine of short experience that has taken root in the West. It is necessary that through seminars such as this one we make a strong appeal to nearby countries and the rest of the world for Japan to establish itself as the administering country of Eastern medical science.
Alternative Agriculture: Origin and Aims Kazutake Kyuma
Professor Emeritus, Kyoto University
Professor Emeritus, The University of Shiga Prefecture
Professor Emeritus, Kyoto University
Professor Emeritus, The University of Shiga Prefecture
1. Development of Agriculture prior to the Origin of Alternative Agriculture
In the age when humans obtained their food by hunting and gathering, their environmental impact was negligible. Beginning roughly 10,000 years ago when agriculture arose in various places around the world, humans have seriously disrupted ecosystems, opened forests and grasslands for farmland, and cultivated grains and many other crops. Further, not only have they grazed livestock on natural grasslands, they converted large tracts of land into pasture and raised large numbers of livestock. Irrigated agriculture, which draws water into arid lands, is almost as old as agriculture itself and supported the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley.
Without a doubt, agriculture began as a destroyer and modifier of nature, and throughout its history has scarred the earth around the world. It is known that since ancient times, many civilizations have declined owing to the collapse of the food production bases that supported them. Nevertheless, it is also a fact that since the beginning of agriculture people have learned from many experiences such as this and have created highly sustainable agricultural ecosystems that could be called an alternate nature. European mixed farming, which combines crops and livestock, came to have a high degree of sustainability on a foundation of crop rotation based on the characteristics of each locale, while the monsoon Asia agricultural system based on wet rice agriculture made it possible to support a high population density because of its high productivity and stability.
Against the backdrop of mining and manufacturing development brought about by the industrial revolution and advances in science and technology with the coming of the 19th century, many new off-farm materials were introduced into agriculture. Starting with the Chile saltpeter and guano brought from South America, next came mined potash ore and phosphate rock, which were later to be chemically processed into superphosphate of lime and other products used in agriculture, thereby helping to greatly raise the productivity of agricultural soil. Steam-powered farm machinery appeared at about the end of the 19th century, and by mechanizing agricultural tasks that until then had been performed exclusively by draft animals, they promised a quantum leap in labor productivity. As European and American agriculture thus entered the 20th century, they were growing out of pastoral, self-sufficient agriculture and preparing for the transition to modern intensive agriculture
2. Origins of Alternative Agriculture
The success of industrial nitrogen fixing in the early 20th century led the subsequent conversion to chemical agriculture in the developed countries. Fixing atmospheric nitrogen and making it into chemical fertilizer released agriculture from dependence on livestock manure and compost. This combined with advances in mechanization to increase the productive capacity of farmland, and through changes such as lightening the labor burden on farming families, became the first step toward big changes in the state of agriculture. DDT, BHC, and other chemically synthesized insecticides started in the 1930s, and proved themselves very useful in preventing insect damage to crops which until then had depended on natural insecticides such as Dalmatian chrysanthemums. In time many kinds of synthesized pesticides were developed to deal with diseases and weeds, and these came to be widely used.
The mechanization and use of chemical inputs in agriculture promoted the enlargement of scale and increased efficiency of agriculture in Western industrialized countries in the second half of the 20th century, which in turn led to monocultures and successive cropping of commodity crops, ultimately achieving unprecedentedly high yields such as 10 t/ha of corn and 8 t/ha of wheat. These monocultured grains came to be overproduced, and during the Cold War years were very influential as strategic goods in international politics and diplomacy.
The trend toward ultra-intensive agriculture, which is characterized by the mechanization, use of chemical inputs, monocultures, and successive cropping in Western countries, started in the 19th century and became pronounced in the second half of the 20th century, but came to a dead end in the 1980s when overproduction engendered a market slump in agriculture. At the same time, a number of internal problems that had built up in agriculture became apparent. In particular, environmental pollution, such as pollution of groundwater, by chemical inputs, and also doubts about the safety of food because of those same inputs, generated public distrust and anxiety toward agriculture. The 1985 Food Security Act (Farm Bill) of the United States contained provisions for research on agricultural productivity and advocated raising environmental awareness among farmers. Agricultural reforms in the EC (now the EU) that same year introduced measures including those which encourage deliberately extensive farming and letting land lie fallow.
Although alternative agriculture arose as a response to these social and policy trends in the developed countries, especially the United States, the seeds of alternative agriculture were sown in the first half of the 20th century by the practitioners of organic agriculture who did not feel right with, for example, the "modernization" of agriculture, so such practices are not necessarily new.
However, because the term alternative agriculture was used in counterposition to the conventional agriculture of the day, there is no doubt that the reference standard used was the agriculture generally practiced in Western countries in the 1980s. Thus alternative agriculture can be seen as embracing a broad range of agricultural methods, from orthodox organic agriculture to deliberately limiting the use of chemical fertilizer and synthesized pesticides in consideration of the environment or with the aim of reducing costs through low inputs. But considering the fact that alternative agriculture is often used in the same sense as sustainable agriculture, it is perhaps all right to limit the term alternative agriculture to something with a strong awareness of agricultural and social sustainability through consideration for the environment.
The term alternative agriculture itself started with the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture, which was founded in 1983. In 1986, the institute started publishing the American Journal of Alternative Agriculture.About the same time, the National Research Council launched a special committee that carried out a broad study on the state of alternative agricultural methods and on the policy, business management, and technical factors related to their dissemination. The results were reported in a 1989 report entitled Alternative Agriculture (National Academic Press). Its Japanese translation was published in 1992 as Alternative Agriculture: In Search of Permanently Sustainable Agriculture(translation supervised by Kyuma, Kada, and Nishimura; published by the International Nature Farming Research Center). This is likely the first time the term alternative agriculture was used in Japan.
3. Aims of Alternative Agriculture
According to the report of the National Research Council, alternative agriculture refers to any agricultural production system that systematically pursues the following goals:
More thorough incorporation of natural processes such as nutrient cycles, nitrogen fixation, and pest-predator relationships into the agricultural production process;
Recduction in the use of off-farm inputs with the greatest potential to harm the environment or the health of farmers and consumers;
Greater productive use of the biological and genetic potential of plant and animal species;
Improvement of the match between cropping patterns and the productive potential and physical limitations of agricultural lands to ensure long-term sustainability of current production levels; and
Profitable and efficient production with emphasis on improved farm management and conservation of soil, water, energy, and biological resources.
It is safe to say that advocating practices such as taking into account the potential productive capacity and natural characteristics of farmland, diminishing to the maximum extent the use of off-farm inputs, and making the maximum use of natural processes such as nitrogen fixing and natural enemies is in the starkest contrast with the ultra-intensive farmland management methods used in conventional agriculture. By these means, the ultimate aim of alternative agriculture is to benefit farmers economically and to benefit the nation with qualitative improvement to the environment.
Below are some of the specific techniques and methods used in low-input alternative agriculture:
Crop rotation that mitigate weed, disease, insect, and other pest problems; increase available soil nitrogen and reduce the need for purchased fertilizers; and, in conjunction with conservation tillage practices, reduce soil erosion.
Integrated pest management (IPM), which reduces the need for pesticides by crop rotations, scouting, weather monitoring, use of resistant cultivars, timing of planting, and biological pest controls.
Management systems to control weeds and improve plant health and the abilities of crops to resist insect pests and diseases.
Soil- and water-conserving tillage.
Animal production systems that emphasize disease prevention through health maintenance, thereby reducing the need for antibiotics.
Genetic improvement of crops to resist insect pests and diseases and to use nutrients more effectively.
As one can see from these examples, alternative agriculture uses no techniques or methods which could in particular be called new. In fact, as shown by crop rotation, one salient aspect of alternative agriculture is the return to basic approaches and techniques which were originally part of traditional cropping and animal husbandry practices.
4. Evaluating Alternative Agriculture
The National Research Council sums up the results of its broad study and investigation of alternative agriculture methods as follows. When management is done well technically, the income and profitability of farmers practicing alternative agriculture are not inferior to those of farmers practicing conventional agriculture, although the report says that more information, labor, time, and management expertise are required. The report is critical of government policy, saying that often subsidization policies are an impediment to the adoption of alternative agriculture. Concerning research and education, the report provides a dose of bitter medicine by saying that the interdisciplinary nature and effectiveness of research and education has been lost due to specialization of agricultural research, and that the environmental and social costs of agriculture cannot be accurately assessed.
The Potash and Phosphate Institute, which manufactures and sells fertilizer, is of course critical of alternative agriculture. It expresses doubts about its sustainability by claiming for example that increasing the frequency of tillage to reduce herbicide use could increase topsoil loss due to erosion and worsen the pollution by surface runoff, and that reducing phosphate and potash application will lower the nitrogen-fixing ability of pulses used between crop rotations, thereby leading to reduced yields.
Some researchers are likewise critical of alternative agriculture. Loomis and Connor (Crop Ecology: Productivity and Management in Agricultural Systems,Cambridge University Press, 1992), for example, say that low-input agriculture has low solar energy conversion efficiency, making it impossible to efficiently use scarce nutrient and water resources; alternative agriculture ignores the fact that intensive agriculture has lower energy consumption per unit production than does extensive agriculture; and that crops produced with low-input agricultural methods are sold to consumers at a premium, but that the higher price is like a subsidy paid to low-input farmers by society at large as farmland management fees. They claim that to ensure that agriculture will produce enough food for humanity, it is essential to have off-farm inputs such as fertilizer and pesticides, as well as intensive modern agriculture that makes use of advanced technologies. These advanced technologies include, according to the authors, quantitatively and qualitatively enhancing agricultural information, bettering the understanding of energy, soil resources, genetic resources, weeds, diseases, and insects, and improving management. Regarding soil management, for instance, their view is that accurately determining where and when to apply fertilizer makes precise fertility management possible through the use of chemical fertilizers, which leads to modern precision agriculture.
The result of a study performed in the first half of the 1990s in Iowa showed the reactions of farmers in general to alternative agriculture. While their reasons for not adopting alternative agriculture included the conflict with government subsidy policy, they were predictably concerned about "declining yields," "worsening weed damage," "lower profitability," and other problems, and often cited "the need for more knowledge, information, technology, and the like for management." This is none other than the antithesis of how conventional large-scale monocropping agriculture became widely adopted: farmers would be guaranteed high yields and high profits as long as they just planted a single crop, used machinery specialized for that crop, used manufactured fertilizers, and followed a specified pest management regime. This concern about alternative agriculture shows that, to practitioners of conventional farming, the need to acquire a large amount of knowledge, information, and technology is a high barrier to the adoption of alternative agricultural methods.
5. The Potential of Alternative Agriculture
As there are various ways to be heedful of the environment, it is hard to assess exactly the extent to which alternative agriculture has been adopted. However, in the United States the low-input sustainable agriculture program (LISA) launched by the US Department of Agriculture in 1988 was later changed to the sustainable agriculture research and education (SARE) program and continued to be heavily promoted. Not only that, the government intensively backs alternative agriculture, such as by eliminating policy barriers that were criticized for hampering the adoption of alternative farming methods. Additionally, there are many spontaneous movements such as for organic agriculture in the private sector, and it seems that the base for alternative agriculture is definitely expanding. There are also movements which involve not only producers but also consumers: Produce subscriptions between small family farms and consumer groups, which are said to have started with Japan's producer consumer partnering movement, are expanding as community-supported agriculture (CSA), and consumers are showing a preference for locally grown produce in accordance with the idea of local production and local consumption. These developments show that social conditions surrounding alternative agriculture are clearly different from those in the 1980s when the movement started.
In the EU, the 1985 farming reforms never went beyond dealing with the superabundance of agricultural produce, but the 1992 Common Agricultural Policy slashed production subsidies for certain crops, introduced direct income guarantee (decoupling), and worked out environmental conservation measures for rural communities in especially disadvantageous geographical areas. In 2003, the EU went further in this direction and developed policy which increases direct payments that contribute to areas such as emphasizing environmental conservation, food safety, and livestock welfare. Because Europe traditionally has a strong predilection for organic agriculture known variously as "ecological agriculture" or "biological agriculture," it seems that the private sector too is practicing a variety of alternative farming methods under the policy inducements described above.
Twenty years since its inception, alternative agriculture is making steady progress.
Alternative Medicine and Oriental Medicine: In Search of Evidence by Scientific Elucidation Haruki Yamada
Director & Professor,
Kitasato University, Kitasato Institute for Life Sciences
Director & Professor,
Kitasato University, Kitasato Institute for Life Sciences
Complementary and alternative medicine is a term which arose from the Western perspective to signify medical treatment which contrasts with treatment based on Western medicine, which is now the world mainstream, and which complements this mainstream medicine or takes a different approach. Alternative medicine as defined in the West includes various treatments such as traditional medical treatments, chiropractic treatment, psychotherapy, herb therapy such as aroma therapy, and treatment with health foods. Also included are the traditional herbal treatments, acupuncture and moxibustion, and other treatments in Oriental medicine, which have been used since ancient times as traditional medicine in Japan, China, Korea, India, and other Asian countries.
Japanese traditional medicine includes Kampo medicine, acupuncture, and moxibustion. Especially different from China, Korea, and other countries is that these treatments are integrated with Western medicine, and physicians use them under legal protection, as with Western medicine. Thus, in Japanese medical treatment it is permissible for a physician to practice both Oriental and Western medicines. In that sense, Kampo medicine, acupuncture, moxibustion as the traditional medicines are not termed alternative medicine from the Japanese point of view, but in the Western point of view these are seen as approaches to treatment found in alternative medicine. But in the final analysis Western countries are arguably moving in the direction of the integrated medical treatment already used in Japan.
Alternative medicine gives people more choices for treatments. Japan, which has been using traditional medicine since ancient times, must play an international leading role in which it can constantly provide information on alternative medicine. Just as with alternative medicine in the West, globalization makes it necessary to proceed further with scientifically demonstrating the clinical efficacy of Kampo medicine, acupuncture, and moxibustion, and build a body of evidence. At the same time, scientific demonstration research for building evidence of Kampo medicine's effectiveness can also be used as the methodology of research for building evidence of the other herbal treatments and treatments in alternative medicine. Kampo medicine is a multi-component system in which multiple herbs are prescribed, and the interactions of the herbs yield diverse pharmacological effects differing from those of new drugs. These complex-system drugs regulate the complex biological systems which involve the immune system, nervous system, endocrine system, and others, making it necessary to elucidate the mechanism of action on the body's complex systems.
Research on Kampo medicine includes research on Kampo medical science and Kampo pharmaceutical science. As part of the progress in science and technology, the total human genome has been decoded, leading us into the post-genome era, and cutting-edge medicine is advancing to medical care that is tailored to each individual patient. Kampo medicine has always emphasized treatment for the individual, and the Kampo medicines used for treatment are chosen after determining the patient's physical constitution and total physical state. In that sense as well, advanced medical care is on the way to becoming like Kampo medicine.
We need clinical research to translate into the language of modern medicine from the unique Oriental medicine methods used in Kampo medicine to determine a patient's condition. Research on Kampo pharmaceutical science needs to scientifically shed light on the mechanism behind Kampo medicine's clinical efficacy and its active ingredients. Research methods must also be developed. Feedback of basic research results to clinical practice holds forth promise of use in new clinical applications. Such an example is the discovery of Kampo medicines which improve brain function in the case of Alzheimer-type cognitive impairment. Also discovered is Kampo medicine that is effective against influenza virus infection by virtue of regulating the immune system. It is crucial for reproducible medical treatment that the crude drugs derived from the plants and other materials used in Kampo medicine are of high quality, and that is impossible without partnership between those involved in the fields of agriculture and medicine.
Attention is focused on the expansion of the health food market as an area of interest for alternative medicine, but the body of evidence for the effects of health foods varies in quality. Many products feature exaggerated advertising. We must gather better evidence and provide consumers with correct information.
It is said that humans selected as medicines those food items which are effective against illness. The Tang Dynasty medical book Qianjinfangsays, "The basis of health maintenance and illness prevention is food, while that which quickly treats illness is medicine." And the Zhouli, which is said to record the institutions of the Zhou Dynasty (11th through 8th centuries BC), divides physicians into four areas of specialty. Among them, the "food physician" provides dietary treatment and is ranked higher than actual physicians. This is the basis of the concept that food and medical treatment are the same, which emphasizes preventive medicine.
Kampo medicine has the idea of "curing before illness," and now with the greying of society, there are high hopes that alternative medicine, which includes Oriental medicine and functional foods, will be deployed in preventive medicine. In the field of veterinary medicine, livestock, pets, and other animals are already being administered Kampo medicine, acupuncture, and moxibustion treatments as Oriental veterinary medicine. The partnership between agriculture and medicine has already begun in connection with food, animals, plant materials, and other areas.
Environmental Conservation Agriculture Kikuo Kumazawa
Professor Emeritus, The University of Tokyo
Professor Emeritus, The University of Tokyo
1. Environmental Conservation Agriculture and Sustainable Agriculture
Environmental Conservation agriculture in Japan is defined as "sustainable agriculture which, through soil improvement and other means, takes care to mitigate environmental impacts including those caused by the use of chemical fertilizers and synthetic pesticides, while maintaining and promoting the natural cyclical function of agriculture and being mindful of balance with productivity and other considerations"（MAFF, GOJ, 1992）. Arguably, this specifies a kind of sustainable agriculture which can be practiced at a very low level of food self-sufficiency (40% on a calorie basis in 2006) even while being an industrialized country.
Sustainable agriculture will play a part in the sustainable development of human society.
"Sustainable development" is defined as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (UN World Commission on Environment and Development, 1978). Sustainable agriculture has three requirements: (1) it must be economically viable, (2) it must conserve the environment, and (3) it must be socially acceptable.
2. Conservation Agriculture and the "Environment"
The "environment" in Environmental Conservation Agriculture does not mean just the agricultural environment, but also includes the human and natural environments. Accordingly, Environmental Conservation Agriculture must at the same time conserve such things as soil, water, biological resources, people's living environments and food environments, and biodiversity.
Conservation of soil, water, and biological resources is linked to not only conserving the basic conditions for agricultural production, but also to the maintenance and upgrading of the multifunctional roles of agriculture. These include maintenance of soil fertility (that is, the productivity of the soil) by returning agricultural and livestock waste to the soil; maintaining irrigation and drainage systems; maintaining groundwater quality; preventing eutrophication of rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water; conserving biodiversity; and preserving village woodlands.
Conserving people's living environments and food environments includes the cyclical use of solid wastes, and supplying safe, worry-free agricultural produce.
3. Environmental Impacts of Agriculture
Agriculture arose in the Neolithic age about 10,000 years ago. It created a gradually increasing burden on the environment, such as the release of soil carbon into the atmosphere and the growing loss of topsoil due to the opening of forests and other primal lands. In time, farmers encountered a crisis in the decline of soil productivity, but the development of intensive agriculture thanks to the invention of chemical fertilizers and the use of pesticides in the early 20th century enabled farmers to maintain food production to match population growth, and the invention of synthetic pesticides in the second half of the 20th century has made a large contribution to stabilizing agricultural production.
On the other hand, the enlargement in scale, mechanization, and monocropping that was meant to raise economic efficiency brought additional problems. It built a divide between crop farming and livestock, which lessened the application of compost and manure to cropland, and increased dependence on chemical fertilizers to compensate. Damage from successive cropping, disease, and insects also increased, and dependence on chemically synthesized pesticides increased to deal with it.
The Fertilizer Control Law and the Pesticide Control Law take into account the direct and indirect impacts that fertilizers and pesticides have on people and other living things and legally control their effectiveness for agricultural production and regulate their production and use. Nevertheless, it is now observed that the overuse of chemical fertilizers and chemical pesticides is having various environmental impacts.
1) Environmental Burden due to Fertilizer
The components of fertilizer that are problematic with respect to burdening the environment are mainly nitrogen and phosphorus, especially nitrogen. The nitrogen in organic and inorganic nitrogen compounds applied as fertilizer to farmland is absorbed and used by crops, but nitrogen supplied in excess of what crops absorb stays in the soil, and some of it runs off and outside the system as nitrate nitrogen. It first enters shallow or deep groundwater, then spring water, rivers, and lakes.
Water is essential to humans for drinking and other domestic uses in everyday life. Especially for drinking water, there are standards which take impacts on human health into consideration. The standard for nitrogen is "10 mg/L of nitrate and nitrite nitrogen." The main basis for this standard is the appearance of methemoglobinemia, or blue baby syndrome in infants and small children, but for adults it is not clear what disorder nitrate or nitrite nitrogen (below, nitrate nitrogen) induces, and one must take note that no standards have been established for the content of nitric acid in vegetables or other foods.
In Japan the environmental quality standard for nitrate nitrogen in groundwater is the same as that for drinking water.
In Japan nitrate nitrogen in groundwater exceeds the standard in around 5% to 6% of the total wells tested during 1995-2004. One of the wells with nitrate nitrogen concentration exceeding the standard had a high value of 77 mg/L.
In Japan too, it was reported in 1996 that an infants who drank well water with high nitrate nitrogen concentration of 32.2 mg/L developed methemoglobinemia.
Although nitrate nitrogen contamination of groundwater is seen all over Japan, most of it is seen in places with dry fields and orchards, and in farming villages. It is comparatively less in areas with rice paddies, but it is heavy in places with much livestock. Nitrate nitrogen in groundwater presumably comes from heavy fertilizer application on vegetables, tea, and orchards, and from livestock wastes.
2) Environmental Burden due to Pesticides
Concern about the environmental burden due to pesticides has been high since Rachel Carson's 1962 book Silent Spring, and in Japan it is well known that events such as the publication of Sawako Ariyoshi's book Fukugou Osen ("Compound Pollution") triggered the groundswell in the organic agriculture movement and other changes. The 1996 book Our Stolen Future by Theo Colborn and others informed the public about the broad impacts of pesticides on humans and wild animals. There is also a great deal of concern about the use and control of pesticides because of new-found knowledge such as the existence of pesticides contaminated with dioxins, which are powerful toxins.
Pesticide impacts include 1) direct effects on pesticide users, 2) effects on the health of people who eat agricultural produce with residues of pesticides used on them, 3) direct impacts on microorganisms and plants and animals in general from pesticides released into the environment, and 4) long-term biological effects from biomagnification and the food chain, or impacts on biodiversity.
There are supposedly no problems with food safety or effects on human health as long as pesticides registered and permitted under the Pesticide Control Law are used in compliance with safe usage standards, but because there are still problems with the overall environmental burden, including the impacts on biodiversity, it is necessary to limit the use of pesticides as much as possible.
4. Environmental Conservation Agriculture and Building a Cyclical Society
1) Effect of Soil Improvement
Considered especially important in Environmental Conservation Agriculture is soil improvement; that is, measures to maintain soil productivity. While both organic and inorganic materials are used in soil improvement, considered important here is "agriculture's material cycle function" or the "natural cyclical function." As such, one thinks first of using organic materials such as compost and manure, and organic fertilizers.
Organic substances applied to the soil evince their effectiveness in terms of the soil's physical, chemical, and biological properties. Humic acid, a stable compound which decomposes with difficulty, is useful for many reasons including maintaining the formation of the soil's aggregated structure, magnifying soil cation exchange capacity through formation of clay humus complexes, and maintaining buffer action. Soil is home to many microorganisms and animals of all sizes. Their actions and interactions decompose and use organic substances, while intermediate products and microorganism secretions have a variety of functions such as plant growth promotion and mutual inhibition of microorganisms. Especially complex microbial compositions make for healthy soil and have actions such as suppressing the proliferation of disease-causing bacteria. Further, they manifest the strengths of many beneficial bacteria such as those which fix nitrogen.
Crops which grow in soil like this have excellent root growth and activity, as well as good above-ground growth and fruit maintenance, and are healthy crops with resistance to disease and insects.
In comparison with crops using chemical fertilizers, crops grown in soil improved with organic materials and using organic fertilizers are generally better in quality.
Therefore the basis of Environmental Conservation Agriculture is soil improvement with organic materials, and healthy soil thus made is the foundation of healthy, good-quality crops.
2) The Biomass Nippon Strategy and Environmental Conservation Agriculture
The mass-production, mass-consumption, mass-disposal system which is the concomitant of human society's development invites the exhaustion of petroleum and other fossil resources, as well as mineral resources. At the same time huge volumes of organic and inorganic wastes have caused a variety of environmental problems, including a shortage of final disposal sites, and have hampered the development of a sustainable society.
These huge volumes of organic wastes were originally released into the environment after the organic materials formed by plant photosynthesis using atmospheric carbon dioxide and inorganic nutrients in the soil had been used in the so-called food chain process that nourishes animals, microorganisms, and humans. By returning these organic wastes to the soil, they are restored to their original carbon dioxide and inorganic materials through final decomposition, thereby completing the natural cycle. This is, in other words, nature's environmental cleanup action.
In 2000, the Basic Law for Establishing a Recycling-based Society was enacted in Japan, under which efforts are made to promote reduction, reuse, and recycling of wastes.
Organic wastes account for a high percentage of total wastes. Most can be processed using nature's cycle or "agriculture's material cycle function," but the core of that effort is Environmental Conservation Agriculture, which improves soil by actively promoting the composting of organic wastes.
The "Biomass Nippon Strategy" created in 2002 considers all organic materials that are not petroleum or other fossil resources to be biomass. The Strategy provides for the use of biomass as an effective resource for processing within the natural cycle, including its use for energy. Local Environmental Conservation Agriculture is seen as the core of local resource cycling.
5. Advancement of Environmental Conservation Agriculture
1) Environmental Conservation Agriculture Initiatives
A gradually increasing number of farmers are tackling Environmental Conservation Agriculture. A 2002 survey found that they accounted for 16.8% of commercial farmers, but only 69.8% of those farmers were using compost for soil improvement.
At that point in time, farmers growing organic produce had a strong desire to expand production, but among other farmers practicing Environmental Conservation Agriculture, those who wanted to maintain their present level outnumbered those who wanted to expand their efforts. These results suggest that a number of barriers, especially the small economic advantage, still stand in the way of undertaking Environmental Conservation Agriculture.
On the matter of soil improvement, gathering rice straw and using it for animal feed, spreading manure on farmland, and other practices encouraged through the stronger coupling between crop and livestock farming are commendable as one component in expanding Environmental Conservation Agriculture.
2) Sustainable Farming Law and Eco-Farmers
The "Law for Promoting the Introduction of Sustainable Agricultural Practices" (Sustainable Farming Law), enacted in 1999, is meant to promote conservation agriculture, and it sets forth the following technical particulars for Environmental Conservation Agriculture:
- Soil improvement techniques: Application of compost and other organic materials, use of green manure crops.
- Techniques to reduce chemical fertilizer use: Localized application, fertilizer application that regulates efficiency, organic fertilizer application.
- Techniques to reduce use of chemically synthesized pesticides: Hot-water seed disinfection, mechanical weeding, using animals for weeding, using biological pesticides, using antagonistic plants, cultivating resistant cultivars and rootstock, thermal soil disinfection, use of light, cover crops, use of pheromones, and mulching.
For each of Japan's prefectures, the law sets forth specific technical guidelines for each crop. These guidelines are tailored to the conditions of each geographical growing area and include the techniques listed above. Farmers who purposely adopt such agricultural technologies are called "Eco-farmers." As of March 31, 2006 there were 98,875 Eco-farmers.
6. Support for Environmental Conservation Agriculture
Generally, Environmental Conservation Agriculture is not what is called value-added agriculture, so producers are saddled with labor, costs, and other burdens more than in conventional agriculture. As such, getting more farmers into Environmental Conservation Agriculture requires concrete help with management, not just mere moral support. Various ingenious measures for support are already being implemented at the prefectural and municipal levels.
As a component of its agricultural policy which emphasizes environmental conservation, the Japanese government has established "agricultural and environmental norms" as something that must be observed by farmers covered by policy measures. On top of that, the government is pushing "measures to improve the conservation of farmland, water, and the environment." As part of that effort, the government pays farmers a certain amount in direct assistance under certain conditions that include, as a rule, a minimum 50% reduction from the usual amounts of chemical fertilizers and chemical pesticides used, a consolidated effort within a certain geographical area, and that the assistance recipient be an Eco-farmer as defined under the Sustainable Farming Law. This represents a measure of progress in agricultural policy that considers environmental conservation important.
From the Production of Conservation Livestock Products to the Hospital Ward Tomiharu Manda
Professor, Kitasato University School of Veterinary Medicine and
Professor, Kitasato University School of Veterinary Medicine and
1. Eating Too Much Grain Kills Herbivores
In the days when cattle were not closely watched, there were often accidents in which cattle that had strayed from fenced areas gorged themselves on grain and suddenly died. Dairy farmers therefore all know that you must not give cows too much grain. However, imported grain feed is cheap. If you give grain feed to cattle, milk cows will yield more milk, and fattening cattle will yield marbled meat, increasing one's income. Thanks to the large amount of knowledge gained from research on the first stomach (rumen) of cattle, techniques to feed cattle large quantities of grain have been developed.
From 1984 to 1988, the author worked at a government experiment station in Tokachi, Hokkaido, Japan's foremost dairy farming region. Formerly dairy farmers were encouraged to enlarge their operations, so they increased their herds and endeavored to raise per-head milk yield. But partly because feed provision techniques were underdeveloped many cattle died or became unusable due to diets high in grain feed, and mutual aid association veterinarians were kept very busy treating sick cattle. In light of this experience, veterinarians noticed the importance of maintaining constant rumen fermentation and told farmers about feeding techniques based on the control of normal rumen fermentation. Producers adopted these techniques and, thanks to these efforts, Japan's dairy farming has attained the world's top level for milk yield per head.
Regarding beef cattle as well, the domestically produced Japanese black wagyu are heavily grain-fed, and recently a feeding technique has been developed for controlling vitamin A, thereby producing marbled beef that is said to be the most delicious in the world. As this shows, sophisticated production techniques for milk and beef have come about through new knowledge about cattle nutritional science and rumen science. Additionally, progress in livestock improvement technologies based on genetics and breeding theory has realized a quantum leap in the genetic capacity of livestock. Supported by facility automation to save labor and by technological innovation in livestock management using IT, megafarms have appeared throughout Japan, and farms that are run as businesses have eclipsed family farms.
It is well known that the Achilles heel of Japan's livestock industry is the rate of feed self-sufficiency, which is far lower than the rates of other industrialized countries, but whether cattle are given imported grain, roughage, or another kind of feed, rumen science is the basis of livestock nutritional science. Having a good understanding of this principle and applying it in everyday feeding and management makes it possible to raise healthy cattle, and therefore to supply consumers with safe and worry-free products. But if we return to the basics regarding herbivores, there is real meaning in feeding cattle on high-fiber plants instead of grains. From the standpoint of the ruminology of cattle and other ruminants, it is meaningless to raise ruminants as livestock unless this point is exploited. It is now absolutely essential that the Japanese livestock industry raise its rate of feed self-sufficiency. We must "ruminate" on the idea of feeding cattle on high-fiber plants, which only stands to reason.
2. Without Livestock There Is No Agriculture: Herbivores Will Save the Earth
Increasing the number of cattle and raising their individual capacity inevitably leads to greater demand for grain feed, which has high energy density. For this reason farmers in grain-exporting countries are encouraged to intensify crop farming by the heavy use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and to convert forest and other land to cropland, which has heavy impacts such as on the environment and biodiversity. Consumers and citizens have few opportunities to perceive this as a problem affecting themselves because agricultural products are traded widely in international markets. Further, the methane and nitrous oxide generated in the digestive tracts of herbivorous livestock and from their waste is an issue as a cause of global warming. But while the methane generated by herbivorous livestock has a deleterious effect on the environment, it is also known that raising such livestock in numbers commensurate with land area has a harmonizing effect on the environment. For example, it is also recognized that grazing on short semi-natural grassland increases biodiversity, and that such grasslands function as an important sink for methane, a global warming gas.
Further, it has long been known that the combination of crop and livestock farming is effective in improving the soil's physical and fertility properties through the provision of compost and other organic fertilizer. Thus, the biggest contribution of livestock in this combined system is the improvement of sustained production and land productivity. Although people have tended to overlook this positive assessment of resource use and resource economy by livestock, it is now an important challenge to see how Japanese farmers can build and develop an herbivorous livestock production system, which is effective in conserving the natural environment, around Japan's climate and land features.
Especially in Hokkaido, which has the greater portion of Japan's grassland, grazing offers great promise as a means of saving labor and costs. By switching from lot feeding and large herds to intensive grazing techniques, some dairy farmers have managed to raise their income ratios, considerably shrink their huge debts, and save labor. Meanwhile in southwestern Japan, with a climate of high temperatures, high rainfall, and high humidity from the rainy season and into the summer, farmers are working on new farming methods such as a year-round grazing system which takes advantage of flourishing wild grass resources and short grasslands, and systems which combine livestock, rice farming, and forestry. Such initiatives are also important in terms of land conservation, water resource conservation, and conserving the natural resource base including biodiversity. One hope is that in the future even people in small-scale farming and family mixed agriculture will make efforts to further improve the flows of nutrients and energy within their operations and their local areas and achieve sustainable production. Especially in mountainous regions where the topology is complex and populations are aging, building systems that combine livestock, crop farming, and forestry is important not only for conservation of the land and the continuance of communities, but also for supplying the citizens with safe and worry-free food.
3. Raising the Rate of Livestock Feed Self-Sufficiency and Improving the Quality of Livestock Products
The "Basic Plan for Food, Agriculture and Rural Areas" (below, "Basic Plan") formulated in March 2005 sets a numerical target for raising Japan's overall rate of food self-sufficiency on a calorie basis from 40% in 2003 to 45% in 2015. Raising the rate of livestock feed self-sufficiency is considered crucial to meeting this target, and Japan's livestock industry definitely needs to solve this problem. Among the tasks set forth by the Basic Plan are securing food safety and consumer trust, emphasizing environmental conservation, and facilitating the training of farmers and amassing farmland for their use. Policy measures are being implemented to achieve these goals.
Meanwhile, against the backdrop of this age of gluttony, livestock products are in a transition from emphasis on quantity to emphasis on quality, such as in quality improvement and differentiation. Additionally, the encouragement of localized production and consumption, the rise of the slow food movement, and other such trends seem to feed into the advancing diversification of sales, distribution, and consumption channels for both domestic and imported livestock products.
Recently the public is showing greater interest in the relationship between food and health. In tandem with the advances in food chemistry and analytical chemistry, many new functional components are being discovered in livestock products, for which reason specified health foods and other products are being commercialized in expectation of their beneficial effects. There is no doubt that practical research in this field will realize great advances through closer partnering with the healthcare field.
In June 2005 the Basic Law on Nutritional Education was enacted to promote food education so that people have proper diets. In addition to nutritional education, the Basic Plan includes provisions for encouraging localized production and consumption to link local farmers and consumers. The government also instituted a positive list program relating to standards on the residual pesticides and other substances in foods. In view of these facts, the development of new marketing methods and the like which use labeling to show what functional components were detected in livestock products produced with livestock farming using nature's cycle not only responds to the public's demands regarding food, but is also important to the financial stability of livestock farming operations.
4. Accommodating the Demand for a Higher Rate of Food Self-Sufficiency
When you say "self-sufficiency," the first thing that pops into the heads of livestock industry people is livestock feed self-sufficiency. But the lack of attention to this matter even among livestock industry people is a sign of our times, in which economic efficiency is regarded as all-important. Generally, "self-sufficiency" reminds older people of the austerities forced upon them during and after World War II. Businessmen on the front lines of international competition and young people who bask in an affluent material culture associate "self-sufficiency" with being anachronistic, closed, feudal, perverse, and other such qualities, so it does not necessarily create a good impression. But recently this term has become a topic of discussion among the public. Lifestyle reassessment is one way this topic has arisen. TV and magazines tell about the agricultural lifestyles in which celebrities and other well-known people move to the country and enjoy nature, and many people now show an interest in homemade and natural food ingredients, and other aspects of agricultural-style self-sufficient living.
Another reason is the emergence of national challenges that are directly connected to the government's policy on food self-sufficiency. An underlying factor is that Japan's self-sufficiency rate is declining year by year, and many people have begun to feel anxious over the heavy dependence of Japan's food supply on other countries. As this shows, although people thought little of self-sufficiency during the years of rapid economic growth, now that many members of the baby boom generation are at retirement age, the importance of self-sufficiency is starting to be understood. Meanwhile, agriculture technology researchers have been handed the very difficult job of raising the self-sufficiency rate. So, to consider what the livestock sector should do to raise the food self-sufficiency rate, let's approach this from the relationship between the food consumption structure and farmland use. In recent years, livestock products have accounted for a larger portion of family food expenditures, but because domestic food production and farmland use are slanted toward rice production, Japan imports a large amount of livestock feed produced on about 4.5 million ha of farmland in other countries. This disharmony between food consumption and farmland use causes problems including the plunder of foreign farmland, domestic livestock environmental problems, excess rice production, and the declining use and dilapidated condition of farmland. In other words, the kinds of food on Japanese dinner tables do not correspond to land use.
To correct this disharmony and form a new cyclical agriculture, it is important that livestock farming be the core of agricultural land-use. Specifically, the challenge is to build a compound agricultural production system that is harmonized through the organic bonding of forested land, cropland (rice paddies), and livestock farming, and whose horizon includes the ocean and rivers.
5. Marbled Beef on Festive Days
In Japan every year, gala TV programs broadcast on and around New Year's Day feature celebrities smacking their lips over deluxe Japanese beef at well-known hot spring inns and high-class restaurants. Inexpensive imported beef has never appeared on such programs. The fare at low-priced ordinary restaurants uses imported beef, while people eat deluxe Japanese beef on special occasions. This distinction is entrenched in Japanese society. Imported beef is for fast food, which is simple and attractive for its low price, while deluxe Japanese beef is slow food for the rich, and representative of special beef brands, and in particular of localized production and consumption. Since the deregulation of beef imports, domestically produced wagyu has tried to survive by differentiating itself through high-quality beef production, and has managed to produce the finest marbled beef in the world. For the time being, imported beef will not replace marbled beef.
Although the market price of wagyu veal and the price of beef slumped for a while from the influence of BSE, wagyu is now so high-priced that people are calling it a wagyu bubble. Despite the resumption of beef imports, it appears this momentum will continue for a time. However, some people sense danger in the simplification of "marbled beef" (single-item production) everywhere in Japan.
6. From the Environment-Friendly Production of Livestock Products to the Hospital Ward
The public has a very great interest in safe and worry-free food, and the recent orientation toward health is spurring that interest. Owing to the situation described above, the Kitasato University Field Science Center Yakumo Experimental Farm, located in southern Hokkaido, stopped using imported feed in 1994, and is producing beef using feed supplied entirely from the farm (grazing in summer, stored feed in winter). The idea behind this goal is "building a cyclical community that conserves nature and food, and maintains human health." Here we are not bent on pure wagyu breeds. We have created cross-bred cattle that are healthy even in the severe natural conditions of our cold mountainous and hilly region, and endeavoring to produce safe, worry-free beef. Of course the beef is not marbled, but is red meat with little marbling that can be purchased at low prices. This would certainly not be economically sustainable through the usual distribution channels. Fortunately the Greater Tokyo Area Consumer Cooperative took the leap and decided to purchase our beef. Understanding of our efforts has gradually increased, and now our beef is being used in many places including school lunches, the meals at local well-known hot spring inns, and restaurants.
The director of the Nutrition Department at the Kitasato University Hospital visited the farm himself. Healthy grass grows from pasture soil on which we apply organic fertilizer but no pesticides. When the cattle eat this grass, they change it into safe, delicious red meat through the action of microorganisms in the first stomach, an important digestive organ in herbivores. The hospital saw our unforced production system, which uses local resources such as water, soil, grass, and air, and noted the safety and soundness of our beef, and started using it in patient meals last autumn. The patients say it is delicious.
In other words, here we can see the partnering between "agriculture and the environment and medicine." Additionally, we host the students of Kitasato University extension lectures and give an understanding of our system to citizens as university customers. Although there are still few instances of practice like this, we believe that our efforts to fully manifest the physiological characteristics of herbivorous livestock and the ability to sustainably use natural resources to produce livestock products based on the original thinking behind livestock farming reflects consumers' expectations.
Our production system at Yakumo Experimental Farm has been chosen as a topic of research commissioned by the government starting in FY2006, which means that testing will be conducted throughout our local area, Yakumo Town. Our production-to-dinner table endeavor for Kitasato Yakumo cattle developed in this northern clime is about to expand from the university farm to the region as a practical version of "agriculture, environment, and medicine."