An expert panel of the health ministry finalized a report on creating rules for genome-edited agricultural and marine products on Monday, meaning they could be on the market within months.
Genome editing involves engineering mutations in DNA. Scientists are using the technology to develop new varieties of foods, such as more prolific rice species and larger red sea bream.
Under the rules, businesses will be able to sell genome-edited produce after registering with the government. This will not involve safety screenings for toxicity and carcinogenicity.
The Consumer Affairs Agency will study labeling rules.
Hirohito Sone, the panel’s chief and a professor at Niigata University, says genome editing is believed to be as safe as more conventional methods for improving foods.
He says it is natural for consumers to worry, and that the government and scientists need to continue providing careful explanations.
Yuki Urago, who heads a liaison council for Japan’s consumer organizations, expressed concern about the potential for allergies due to the use of the technology.
She said a registration system must be mandatory, to prevent consumers from unknowingly eating the foods.
The US government has no plans to introduce special restrictions on genome-edited foods. The European Union is considering a new system, after the European Court of Justice called for the same restrictions that are applied to gene modification technology.