A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

Is Rice a Drug?

An institute in Tsukuba is trying to develop a kind of genetically modified rice that will alleviate the symptoms of hay fever. However, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has categorized the rice as a “drug” rather than a “food”, and since the process for getting new drugs into the market is much slower than for getting new foods into the market, the rice will not be made available to consumers anytime soon.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry has decided to develop a genetically modified rice aimed at alleviating symptoms of hay fever as a drug because the health ministry has determined that the rice falls into the category of a medical product.


The National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, a research institute in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, affiliated with the agriculture ministry, has been developing the rice, aiming to release it for practical use from 2010. It has already finished animal experiments on the efficacy and safety of the product, and its in-house ethics committee in November approved a pilot project to examine whether it was safe for human consumption to develop the rice as a food product within fiscal 2006.

Read the full article: Anti-hay fever rice treated as a drug

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