Tuesday, December 03, 2013

This And That

I was interviewed today about food safety by ABC Radio and it should be broadcast in Australia on Wednesday. If Kurashi has any readers down under perhaps you will be able to catch it and tell me how I did. I like radio, and sometimes quote Ralph Nader from back when he was a consumer advocate who used to say that local radio is the most important channel to reach people. Might have been so before facebook and twitter and mixi and whatnot.

But I still do like radio.

Also, just back from The Philippines and a great meeting with Third World Network in Quezon City, near Manilla. Photo attached shows how seriously in 12 Asian countries we all take the issue of genetic engineering and the onslaught by American (Monsanto) and Swiss (Syngenta) and German (BASF, Bayer) corporations that aim to take over the world's food supply through patents and immoral practices. Be it rice or eggplant, they want to control it. And next is animal genetic resources, as ETC Group pointed out during the meeting.

Japanese farmers have completely rejected GMO crops which is great. Some imports still happen, especially for food oils and animal feed. The contamination from imported canola seeds are an example of how things can go wrong, as activists here keep finding wild-growing GMO canola near harbours and food oil factories in places like Nagoya and Ibaragi. This could potentially contaminate other foods from the same family like broccoli, cabbage and several other indigenous Japanese vegetables in the brassica family, as pointed out by No! GMO Campaign and Consumers Union of Japan, and many others.

Rice in particular needs to be kept safe from the onslaught by corporations that do not care about/are seriously ignoring/don't want you to know about biological diversity, and the importance to over a billion of people in Asia who eat rice everyday. Rice diversity is the key to this.

I don't have the link to this, but Reuters is seriously overstating its case and I wonder when they stopped taking science into account. Is it all fear-mongering these days, even at the major news agencies?

TOKYO/SINGAPORE, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Shoppers browsing in  supermarkets around the world would once have been reassured by  a 'Made in Japan' tag.
 
But a wave of problems such as a recent mislabelling  controversy and festering worries over nuclear contamination  have tainted the nation's reputation as a food safe-haven.
 
The growing list of food scandals could dent Prime Minister  Shinzo Abe's push to boost exports of high-end products such as  Kobe beef, organic sake and even gimmicky square watermelons.  That drive is part of efforts to double agricultural, marine and  forestry shipments by 2020 and shake the economy out of  stagnation.
 
"The government's focus is on promoting industry, improving  trade and helping the economy get better," said Yasuaki Yamaura,  an official at the Consumers Union of Japan. "Keeping food safe  and dealing with the needs of consumers comprises very little of  what they do."


While I agree that Japan may be putting the cart before the horse as it promotes exports without the necessary support for its Food Safety Agency and other inspection services, not just to stop dubious imports but also to avoid exports that may cause concern abroad, I think Reuters is part of the problem, not the solution. The cattle drug (by Merck, a US corporation) mentioned below, for example, is not approved for use in Japan, and I don't understand how the article makes the conjecture that Japan somehow is not aware of its problems. As for GMO wheat, that was a case of contamination at one farm in Oregon. Not such an easy mystery, as NPR put it. Why does media not do science when everyone else has to abide by it? But back to Reuters:

Domestic confidence in food safety has also been hit by  worries over how the world's No.3 importer of agricultural  products tests purchases it makes from the global markets it  relies on for staples such as corn and wheat.
 
Japan, along with other countries, in June banned imports of  the U.S. wheat it uses to make cookies and cakes after unapproved genetically modified grains were found growing in  Oregon. While South Korea quickly developed a test for GMO wheat, Japan lagged in coming up with a kit.
 
And in October, Seoul detected cattle feed additive zilpaterol - banned in many countries - in U.S. beef. Taiwan  made a similar finding while Tokyo officials said they were  still trying to develop tests for the drug.
 
An official at Japan's health ministry said it took a while  to eventually complete a test as it had to be developed from  scratch with a non-diluted sample of the drug not available in  Japan.

Also, do visit The Philippines, they have the best people and such a warm generous hospitality attitude. 97% of the country was not affected by the November typhoon, and they look forward to seeing you. Don't believe all you read/hear/see in main stream media. Oh, except for the occasional radio interview, that is.

Update: Here is the link to the article on ABC Radio: Japan food scandals, poor regulation hurting premium food export push

Good article relevant to this on The Guardian: Fukushima two years on: a dirty job with no end in sight


4 comments:

kenelwood said...

Welcome Home. Wonder if we can't catch your radio interview on the internet?

Cheers,

ken

Martin J Frid said...

Thanks! Not sure if you can listen, but I added a link to the article...

Pandabonium said...

Who's the tall guy in the back row?

Living in Hawaii for 30 years I came to know and love the Filipino people and culture that is very much represented in Hawaii.

We must all join together - individuals, organizations, and countries, to resist the corporatist agenda as represented in the TPP.

Thank you for your tireless work Martin.

Martin J Frid said...

Thank you for reading Kurashi. Do start adding food issues to your concerns, it is getting serious. And we are 7 billion now.