7.18.2011

In response to a recent optimistic article in Nature

I was asked by one of my friends what I would think of this recent article in Nature, stating that farming in Fukushima would not be affected too much. Here is my response.


Dear friend,

I think that when we are given analyses by nuclear "experts", we have to be at least cautious about who they are and what position they take regarding nuclear energy. This is just FYI, the scholar who presents this optimistic analysis, Tomoko Nakanishi, is an official nuclear promoter. As this youtube clip shows, she was a member of Nuclear Renaissance Council, the nuclear promoting group consisting of electric companies, trading companies, mass media, ex-ministers of national government, and scholars. This clip was taken on February 17th in which Ms. Nakanishi explicitly stated that nuclear energy is "useful". (She actually talked about the possibility to take out "useful" materials like Ruthenium from nuclear wastes, instead of just burying them).

This is what I have learned with such a disappointment, but when it comes to nuclear energy, most of experts, especially those affiliated with University of Tokyo are indeed nuclear promoters. If you take a quick look at which scholars hold positions in organizations funded by the gov and energy companies, it is too obvious. (On the other hand, there is a group of nuclear scholars in University of Kyoto, who have been against nuclear energy with their expertise. And despite their decades of career, all of them remain "assistant professors".) Therefore we have to be aware of possible biases in what experts say: if they tend to underestimate the risk, under/overvalue the data? etc. 

Given that...
I think this article presents irresponsibly inadequate analysis on the risk of radioactive contamination.
What I found problematic in the article are regarding:
1. whether the governmental standards of food and soil contamination is trustworthy
2. confusion and misunderstanding (intentionally or unintentionally) over difference between external and internal exposure, and their respective risks
3. lack of argument regarding health risk of farmers
Let me clarify these points.

1. Yes, the gov set the radioactive "Caesium" standards for food consumption on 500bq/kg on March 17th, a week after the 3/11. Now one thing we have to note first is that this is talking about Caesium only, not about other radioactive substances. A research team of Kanazawa University found Plutonium in soil OUTSIDE of Fukushima Nuclear plant on June 5th. Even if it was a very small amount (0.078bq/kg), this means that Plutonium did leak from the plant to the environment (it can be still leaking to the environment most possibly to the ocean via drainage, but also to the air given that the ceilings of plants were brown out and remain still.) So did Strontium, Uranium, Curium and Americium. These are highly toxic radioactive substances, and Plutonium, Curium, and Americium do not exist in natural environment. Articles like this one often take only one or two radioactive substances out of many, which I personally feel as attempts to minimize risk evaluation.

Secondly, even if we talk about only Caesium, whether or not 500bq/kg is an appropriate standard is another issue. For example, based on Chernobyl experience German Society for Radiation Protection issued a recommendation to lower the numbers for infants to 4bq and for adults to 8bq. If not that strict, just take the pre-Fukushima standards in Japan itself, which banned the imports of food whose level exceeded 370bq. Another example is the standard for drinking water. Until the current standards (btw, because Japan did not have a law to specify radiation standards in food, current standards is actually a "tentative guideline", not a law) by which the Iodine level and Caesium level are not to exceed respectively 300bq and 200bq, Japan had employed WHO standards in which both Iodine and Caesium level was limited to 10bq. These show how arbitrary the current standards were set. Moreover, I would like to emphasize how secretively the current standards were set. I omit the details but this major change of radiation contamination standards was issued by Ministry of Health and Welfare as a notice, not as a law, and it was not covered in any major media at all.

2. It is the most annoying, and I personally think guilty, tendency that the most of mass media intentionally mix up external and internal exposure and their respective risks. What you can measure by Geiger counter is the amount of radiation by which you can talk only about the risk of external exposure. For example mass media still compares the monitoring data of radiation with X-ray or cosmic radiation during flights and concludes it is not harmful for human health. Well, if we think about the risk from external exposure only, that may be a case sometime. But what is completely missing from these kinds of arguments is the risk from internal exposure which is more serious and
present danger for those who live in the place where nuclear plants were exploded and still could not be stopped its radioactive emission.

Thing is that there are radioactive PARTICLES in the environment, air, soil, and water, and however small amount if those particles got into one's body, its effect on human health is incomparable with external exposure, for a)it means that one gets exposed to radiation from highly close distance (it's almost zero distance!), b)it takes time for those particles to be eliminated from the body, meaning for months, or even years depends on what kind of substance, one will keep getting exposed continuously, c)one gets exposed to all alpha, beta, and gamma rays, comparing to case of external exposure which is caused almost only by gamma ray, d)it is very hard to measure how much one gets internally exposed. To measure you will need a Whole body counter, which exist only about 10 units in whole Fukushima prefecture.

This is why food contamination matters the most. This article obviously neglects the danger of internal exposure DESPITE its talking about the amount of existing radioactive substance (bq/kg), not the strength of radiation effect on human body (sv/hr or sv/yr). To note, in case of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, people who were in 3.5 km from ground zero are qualified as radiation victim and can receive official compensation. Radiation level of 3.5km radius was equivalent to 1msv/yr, although this number again can only talk about external exposure. But compare this number to the level to limit Fukushima schools to open, 20msv, issued on April 19th. Namely, Fukushima kids are said to be OK (thus will not be compensated) to be exposed to 20 times as much radiation as Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims.

BTW, ICRP (International Commission on Radiological Protection) recommends Linea No Threshold Model which is employed internationally, that concludes that the risk of exposure is proportional to the amount of radiation at all level. Namely, there is no threshold level of exposure under which radiation has no effect on human body.

3. So, I think now it is clear from point 1 and 2, what I think is the most problematic in this type of article. It does not consider the risk of internal exposure for farmers AT ALL. "Under the standard" means very little, given that there exist radioactive particles in the soil, and that farmers are indeed a high risk group for their daily continuous contact with contaminated soil. By inhaling the dust, from wounds on hands, from the gap between fingers and nails, particles can possibly enter into farmer's body. And as I said in 2, while the effect of internal exposure is incomparably serious, how much one gets internally exposed is very hard to be measured.

You can say to farmers that you may keep working on that soil for its radiation level is below the standards, and maybe farmers would take it as a good news. But I feel it is almost deceiving, at least to me unethical, to give them a "fake" good news without telling them all information and risks regarding internal exposure. That is why I support to migrate young farmers to Western Japan, instead of buying produces from Fukushima and surrounding area. Because buying those produces indirectly leads to have farmers stay and work on high-risk soil. But, as I said, this should be applied to young farmers, not all farmers, for the risk of radiation depends on age group. (Look at this chart retrieved from here) In principle, the older, the lower the risk will be. I think it will be many cases for old farmers that they don't want to move out from familiar lands and to start from scratch in new place. But even if young farmers do miss their own lands, too, they should know, or more correctly, have rights to know, how high risk they are going to take by remaining there.

The latter part of this article appears more reasonable to me. Phyto­remediation would absorb only Caesium-137 and Strontium. Not other substances. And we still have to deal with radioactive sunflowers and canolas afterwards. Indeed, as this picture shows, even if we could scope out surface soil, we do not know where those scraped soil should go. There is no definite way to safely dispose radioactive materials.

Just yesterday, Ministry of Environment started to considering to raise the limit of radiation level for burying radioactive wastes from 8,000bq to 100,000bq. Because now radioactive wastes whose level exceed 8000 are all over in Japan, under the current regulation they cannot do anything with them. At the same time, City of Fukushima is planning to scrub every building and road, which will take 20 years to get done. Of course they have to take care of tons of debris and contaminated water that will come off during this mission.

That's how desperate the situation is. And again, the radioactive emission is still ongoing.

I want to be optimistic. How badly I want to be optimistic! But, the more I learn, the more I regretfully
realize that optimism cannot solve anything in this situation. It does not mean I am panicking or giving
up on everything in Japan. What I believe is that we have to evaluate the risk cautiously and to take
responsible and practical measures for that. When they talk about food and soil contamination, they
often talk only about its risk for consumption, but what we really have to think about is health risk of
farmers, who are the most neglected high risk group.


best,
-aiko

7.08.2011

「真に日本の農業を守る」ということ。

先日山形の農家さんたちと話し合った「真に日本の農業を守る」と​いうこと。放射能は食品汚染=消費者保護の問題ばかり取り上げら​れるが、土壌汚染=生産者の健康被害の問題について絶対に考えな​ければいけない。汚染された土地で毎日埃を吸い込み、直に土に触​れ作業することがどれほど農家にとって危険であるか。“風評被害​を吹き飛ばせ!”的な、リスクの高い農産物を買って農家を支援す​るという選択は、間接的には農家にリスクの高い土地に留まらせ危​険な作業に従事させ続けることを支持してしまうことになると思う​と、私にはそれが倫理的に正しいこととはどうしても思えない。特​にただでさえ貴重な、“希望”の存在である若い世代の農家が一番​そのリスクに曝されてしまうとすると、彼らの健康と安全を守るた​めに「移住支援」は最も実質的な選択肢ではないかと思う。熊本県​、関西連合、各地での個々の農家やネットワークなどの取り組みに​続き、大手企業がこの動きに乗り出したことの意義は大きい。
もう一点被災農家の移住支援の意義としてあげたいのは、たとえばこの記事にみられるような、この震災と福島事故を自由貿易推進の口実にしようとするネオリベラリストへの対抗政策として有効だという点である。最大の食糧生産地が打撃を受けた→復興したとしても放射能の危険性は残る→もう日本での食糧生産はできない→だから食糧輸入を推進しなくてはいけない、という議論は一見正論のように見える。しかし、これまでの農業政策の厳然たる失敗の表れとして日本各地には休耕田、耕作放棄地、つまり税金をかけて遊ばせている土地が多数存在している。ポテンシャルがあるにも関わらず日本での食糧生産が不可能と結論づけようとするのは非常にご都合主義的な解釈だ。幸い今回の事態による影響が少ない西日本地域におけるこれらの休耕田、耕作放棄地を復帰させることによって、日本の食糧・農業政策を根本から見直し、立て直すことができるはずだ。食糧をなるべく近くから供給するということは、フードマイレージという言葉も示しているように、地球環境、温暖化対策、そして現在世界で最も食糧を輸入しながら世界で最も廃棄率が高い日本という社会にとっての倫理問題にもつながる。ある所から買えばいいということではないのだ。TPP加盟についての議論も紛糾する中、若い、新しい土地でやってみようという気持ちのある農家を支援することは、戦後日本が抱え続けて来た食糧生産、供給体制をめぐる大きな問題の解決にもつながる。

ところで今「若い」農家と言ったが、このことについて少し触れておきたい。私は純粋に経済的な視点からすれば、できるかぎり被災農家を移住させることがこの問題への一番の解決策だと思っている。しかしこれが実際にその土地において何年も、あるいは何代にもわたって農業を続けてきた人たちに対して非常な苦痛と犠牲を強いる、暴力的な面を持つことも決して忘れてはいけない。山形の農家さんたちとも話し合ったことだが、特に高齢の農業者がもう今更新しいところで一から始めるのは大変だと思われるのは当然のことだと思う。放射能については年齢によってそのリスクに差がある(rf. Based on data in J. W. Gofman, Radiation and Human Health. Retrieved from http://japanfocus.org/-Say_Peace-Project/3549)ことを考えれば、低リスクグループである高齢の方達が今の土地に残るという選択をすることもありえるだろう。そして同じように低リスクグループである高齢の消費者が、土地に残った農家の農産物を買うということも、東電からの早急な賠償が滞るなかでの実際的な支援になる。ただし、現実には多くの農家は数世代同居の大家族が多く、また農村内での人間関係の問題もあり、若い人だけが「自主的に」簡単に移住できるわけではない。それは当然のことである。それが社会であり、人間の生活なのだから。だからこそ、もう一度強調しておきたいが、この方針が政策としてすすめられることが重要なのだ。
 

4.30.2011

風評被害について

(4月18日付ポスト On "Fuhyo Higai" (Harmful Rumor) の日本語訳)

日本の食の運動における消費主義とナショナリズムを研究している学生として、食に対する今回の震災、とくに放射能汚染の影響が非常に気になっている。とりわけ被災地の農家や漁業者への同情を表すために「風評被害」という言葉が頻繁に使われていることには不安を感じる。私は農家や漁業者の方に心から同情し、同情のあまり怒りまで感じているのだけれども、それでもこの「風評被害」という言葉で私の真摯な気持ちを代弁されることには抵抗がある。


福島原発周辺産のほうれん草と生乳から暫定基準値を超える放射性物質が発見されたことを受けて、3月21日、政府は福島、茨城、栃木、群馬県からのほうれん草とカキナ、福島県からの生乳の出荷停止を指示した。出荷制限されたのはこの3品目であったが、制限外の他の野菜についても市場は敬遠し返品などが相次い だ。その後出荷制限は品目が追加されたり、また一部解除されたりしているが(2011年4月18日付の出荷制限、制限解除品目一覧)、出荷制限のあるなしに関わらず、上記4県からの生産物に対する消費者の敬遠は広がっている。地震と津波によりすでに大きな被害を被っている農家はさらに困難な状況に追い込まれている。

3月28日、上記4県に加え、埼玉、千葉、東京、神奈川の計8都県の知事は合同で政府に対し、基準値緩和と県単位での出荷制限の見直しを要請した。実際に放射性物質の拡散は風向きによって左右され、同県内であっても放射能汚染レベルに違いが見られていた。このため4月4日、政府は、市町村ごとのモニタリングが可能である場合には以後出荷制限を市町村単位で行うことを通達した。この新しい方針により、4県のうちの一部が出荷制限を解除され、かわって千葉県の一 部が新たに制限リストに加えられた。しかしながら、28日の知事による「国際的にみても厳しすぎる」という主張にも関わらず、基準値の緩和は見送られた。

消費者によるこれらの県の生産物への敬遠は今も続いている。

これは4月12日に横浜市で私の友人が撮影した写真である。値札には「広告の品、12・13日限り、安心・安全の野菜、ほのかな苦みがお鍋におすすめ、茨城 産、水菜、69円」とある。友人はなぜこれがセールであったのかについての断定はさけつつ(単に仕入れ時の好条件のせいかもしれないし、あるいは鮮度に問 題があるのかもしれない)、しかしやはり、水菜は通常140円前後であることから、この価格は「あり得ない」と言っている。


彼女はもう一枚、「安心・安全」攻撃の写真も送ってくれた。あまりにヒステリックすぎて、彼女にはほとんど冗談のように感じられたそうだ。

「安心・安全」がなぜここまで徹底的に、馬鹿げているくらいにまで、宣伝されなければならないかを問うべきであろう。私には答えは単純であるように思える。つまり消費者は、「安全」とされている食品の安全性について懐疑的、少なくとも不確かに思っているのだ。人々は公式に定められた安全基準を信頼していない。

この文脈において、風評被害という言葉が示唆するのは消費者の過剰反応である。放射能レベルは「基準値以下」であり、よって「安全」であるのだから、消費者 は不合理にそれらの食品を買い控えるべきでない。「風評被害」という言葉が使われる文脈では、さらに消費者に対し、困難に直面している農家を支えるために 被災地域の野菜を積極的に買うように呼びかけられる。この記事の一番上に載せた写真は3月27日に撮影された。写真の中のポスターには「茨城を応援しま す。茨城県八千代地区産、丸城出荷組合のレタス、検査・測定を行い、安心・安全に提供できるものを販売しております。どうぞご安心してお買い求めください。」とあるのが見える。

ここで政府がそれによって食品の安全か否かを決める「基準」に関する問題点を指摘しておきたい。本来日本には食品に含まれる放射性物質の基準はなかった。3月17日厚生省の通達により、それ以降、 2010に原子力安全委員会によって示された飲食物摂取制限に関する指標を暫定基準値とし、食品の放射能汚染の検査、また出荷、摂取規制を行うこととなった。この指標値は現在も暫定基準値として使われている。8都県の知事はこの値を厳しすぎると主張したが、ほんの少し数字を比較してみると、この主張が非常に疑わしいものであることがわかる。たとえば、チェルノブイリ原発事故以 降、日本は放射性セシウム濃度(セシウム134とセシウム137を加えた値)が370bq/kgを超える食品輸入を禁止している。一 方現在の暫定値では放射性セシウム基準は500bq/kgに設定されている。また飲用水について見ると、日本はこれまでWHO基準に従い、ヨウ素131、 セシウム137ともに10bq/lという基準を採用していた。しかし3月17日の厚生省通達以降、ヨウ素131、セシウム137の基準は、それぞれ 300bq/l、200bq/lにまで引き上げられている。これらの事実は基準というものが、それに従って定められる安全性というものが、いかに恣意的で あるかを示している。しかし、枝野官房長官は、基準値はもしその食品を一生にわたって食べ続けた場合に健康に影響がでる場合があるという前提のもとに定められているのであって、たまたま そういう食品、基準値を超えてしまった食品でも、数回食べたからといって ただちに影響があるわけではない、という旨の発言を繰り返している。一部の専門家はこの公式見解に従い、人々をパニックにならないようになだめ、さらにはもしものときのためのお役立ち知識として、食品についた放射性物質を「よく洗う」ことで落とせると教えてまでくれる。

分かりにくい、むしろ欺瞞的な情報に翻弄されて、もし現在妊娠している私の友人や、授乳しているもう一人の友人を含めた消費者が、100%確信できないものに「あえて手を出せない」のだとしたら、わたしはそれを不合理な過剰反応だとは決して思わない。

生産者は本当に大変な困難に直面している。そして多くの人々は心から同情している。しかし、生産者を支えなくてはならないのは消費者ではなく、東京電力であるということを強調したい。これは根本的に賠償問題である。自身でコストとリスクを負う人々の良心、あるいは勇気、によって解決されるべき問題ではない。 風評被害という考え方は生産者救済の責任を良心的な消費者にこっそりと転嫁しようとする。これはいわゆる「倫理的消費」の根底にあるのとまったく同じ論理 である。

倫理的消費とは、個人の利己主義的な興味によってではなく、その消費行動が広く外部の社会的・政治的問題に 及ぼす影響を意識することによって促されるタイプの消費である。社会的・政治的問題には、例えば環境破壊、労働者搾取、経済のクローバル化に伴う問題、動物の権利、などがあげられる。非倫理的であると思われる商品のボイコットから、倫理的であると思われる商品の積極的な購入まで、倫理的商品は様々な形態を とる。ホール・フーズ・マーケット(北米を中心に展開するオーガニック食品を中心に扱うスーパーマーケット)での買い物客の調査を通じて、ジョゼ・ジョンストンは、倫理的消費の最も新しい形である「市民ー消費者ハイブリッド」の出現を、ネオリベラル資本主義の社会不平等と環境悪化、それに付随する市場による解決方法の崇拝、に対する反応/反発として理解できると指摘している。倫理的消費の機会の増大、つまり、個人が消費の瞬間において環境と倫理に気を配る責任があると感じる風潮、は「ネオ・リベラル国家が持続可能な方法による社会的再生産を確保する責任から距離をとることに伴う、社会的・環境的懸念の私的領域化」が起きていることをを示してい る。 (Johnston 2008 "The citizen-consumer hybrid: Ideological tensions and the case of Whole Foods Market" in Theory and Society 37: 262).

ジョンストンの指摘は日本の現状にもあてはまる。生産者を支援するために、安全ということになっている食品を買うよう消費者に奨励するのは、社会的懸念の私的領域化のまさに一例である。

ここで同時に、恣意的な基準を用いて被災地の生産者に生産を続けさせるということの不正義についても強調しておきたい。4月8日、 原子力災害対策本部は稲の作付け制限について、土壌の放射能汚染基準値を5000bq/kgとした。 汚染レベルが5000bq/kgを超える水田については稲の作付けは禁止されるが、それを下回る水田では生産者はコメを作り続けることができる。 (参照: 4月12日付、福島県内各市町村の農用地土壌における放射性物質の測定結果) 原子力災害対策本部によれば、この数字は土壌中の放射性セシウムの10%が玄米に移行するという想定のもとに試算されている。したがって厚生省の食品摂取基準である500bq/kgから逆算し、土壌汚染の最大基準値が5000bq/kgに設定された。つまり、この基準は消費者側の利益(それがたとえ不満足 なものであっても)のみを参照して定められており、生産者側の利益は全く考慮されていないのである。想像してみてほしい。5000bq/kgの放射性物質 を含む土地の上で、作付けから収穫までほぼ毎日、約160日間作業し続けるということを。これは汚染土壌への絶え間ない直接接触のみならず、汚染物質を含 む埃を吸い続けるということを意味し、内部被曝による深刻な健康被害の恐れが生じるということである。

町中の猫がおかしくなったのを見て、水俣の人々は魚が変だということに気付いていたにも関わらず、魚を食べるのをやめなかったという。それが彼らの生活だったからだ。 チェルノブイリの立ち入り禁止区域にある家に戻り、今もそこに住み続けている人々もいる。それが彼らの家だからだ。危険を知りながら、それでも汚染された土地を耕し続けようとする農家もいるだろう。それは生活であり、歴史であり、文化であり、愛着であり、そしてつまるところ、それが人間というものなのかもしれない。しかしそのことは決して、政府の、農家に対して考えられえる危険性に関するきちんとした情報を提供し、危険な作業に従事することをやめさせるようにする責任を、また東京電力の彼らに賠償する責任を、免れさせることはない。決してである。

風評被害の喧伝の下で、消費者に農家を支援するようにすすめ、農家に頑張るように励ますということは、本来責任を負わなければならない者によって対処されるべきことをあいまいにしてしまうごまかしでしかない。

本来の意味での風評被害を防ぐ唯一の方法は、私は食品と土壌の放射性物質基準を真に厳しく、少なくとも国際的基準と日本国内の過去の基準に照らして矛盾のな いレベルに設定し、そしてそれに基づいた検査を徹底させ、市場に流通している食品に対する消費者の信頼を回復させることしかないと思う。そして、このことは厳しい基準により、土地を耕し、農産物を売ることを断念せざるをえなくなる農家に対する誠実で実質的な賠償とセットでなければならない。誠実で実質的、ということで私が意味するのは、被害を受けた農家は、期待される今期の収益分のみならず、放射性物質のとてつもない半減期を考えれば、今後全ての年 数分の収益についても支払われるべきだということである。それでも、私たちは、土地と生活をあきらめなければならなくなった農家の尊厳を賠償できる方法は どこにもないのだということを、決して忘れてはならない。

4.18.2011

On "Fuhyo Higai" (Harmful Rumor)


As a student who is researching on consumerism and nationalism in Japanese food movements, I am very concerned about the impact of this tragedy, especially that of radiation contamination on foodscapes in Japan. I am alarmed in particular by the intensive use of the word "Harmful Rumor" (Fuhyo Higai, 風評被害) to address the sympathy for farmers and fishermen in affected area. Although I do sympathize for them, even grow angry out of the sympathy for them, I am apprehended to have this word "Fuhyo Higai" represent my sincere concerns.


Upon the discovery of radioactive substances contained in spinach and raw milk produced in the surrounding area of Fukushima nuclear plants exceeding the tentative standards, on March 21st, the government ordered to suspend the shipping of spinach and kakina (a kind of leaf vegetables) from Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, and Gunma prefectures, and raw milk from Fukushima prefecture. Although this suspension was limited to those three items, the market did not accept other items from 4 prefectures. Since then additional items got suspended and also a part of suspensions were lifted (the list of items whose shipments was ordered to be suspended as of April 18th, 2011), yet consumers' avoidance of any produce from those prefectures spreads regardless of the absence of official suspension orders. Farmers already suffering from the ravage caused by earthquakes and tsunami are put in even tougher situation.

On March 28th, governors of 8 prefectures, those 4 plus Saitama, Chiba, Tokyo, and Kanagawa, made an official request to the government to ease the standards and to change the scope of suspensions from prefecture level to town level. Indeed diffusion of radioactive substances was affected by wind blows, thus within the same prefecture the difference in radiation contamination level had been observed. Thus, on April 4th, the government announced that regarding the area where town basis monitoring would be available, the suspensions of shipment would be ordered on town basis. Under this new rule, the suspension order was lifted in some parts of 4 prefectures, instead, some towns in Chiba prefecture was added to the list. However, the government did not ease the standards despite the claim from 8 prefecture governors on 28th that "it is too strict comparing to international standards."

Still, produces from affected area are in deep disfavor with consumers.

This is a picture shot by my friend in Yokohama, Kanagawa on April 12th. The sign reads "As advertised, only on 12th and 13th: Secure and Safe Vegetables, A delicate bitterness is perfect for hot pot!, Grown in Ibaraki, Mizuna (a kind of leaf vegetables), 69 yen". My friend holds her judgment on why it was on sale (could be simply due to a wholesale deal, or any problem in its freshness), but still says the price was "impossible", given that Mizuna is usually sold for about 140 yen.

She took another picture of "Secure and Safe" (安心・安全) sign onslaught. It was almost too hysterical for her to appear as a joke.

We have to ask why "Secure and Safe" needs to be publicized for consumers that insistently, almost absurdly. The answer seems pretty much simple to me: consumers are skeptical, or at least uncertain about the safety of allegedly "safe" foods. People do not trust the official safety standards.

In this context, Fuhyo Higai suggests that it is a consumers' overreaction. Consumers should not be unreasonable to avoid purchasing those foods, given that their radioation level is "below the standard", thus "safe". The context in which the word "Fuhyo Higai" is used also encourages consumers to willingly purchase foods from affected area in order to support producers in difficulties. The photo on the top of this entry was shot on March 27th. The sign reads "We support Ibaraki. Lettuce from Marujo shipping coop, Grown in Yachiyo, Ibaraki. We are selling foods that we confirmed secure and safe by checking and measuring (their radiation level). Please purchase them free from anxiety."

Here I would like to point out some problems of "the standards" by which the government determine whether given food is safe or not. Originally, in Japan, there did not exist the legal standards regarding radioactive substance contained in foods. On March 17th, the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (MHLW) announced that thereafter, by referring to the Guideline on Restriction of Food Intake issued by Nuclear Safety Commission in 2010, they would monitor the radiation level and set restrictions on shipment and on intake. This guideline is still active as the tentative standards until today. Although the governors claimed that the standards was too strict, just simple comparisons of numbers reveal this claim highly doubtful. For example, since the Chernobyl accident, Japan has been banning the import of foods whose radioactive Caesium (Caesium-134 + Caesium-137) level exceed 370bq/kg, while in the current tentative standards in Japan Caesium level is set on 500bq/kg. When it comes to the standards of drinking water, Japan had been following the WHO standards in which the level of Iodine-131, and Caesium-137 was both set on 10bq/l. However, after the MHLW notification on March 17th, the level of Iodine-131, and Caesium was raised to, respectively, 300bq/l, and 200bq/l. These facts illustrate how the standards, and the alleged safety based on the standards, are indeed arbitrary. Yet, Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano has been repeating that the standards is set under the assumption that if one keeps consuming that item throughout life, it is possible that one's health may be affected, and that therefore occasional consumption of even those items whose radiation level exceed the standards should not cause any immediate problem. Some experts follow the official statements, mollify people not to panic, and even give useful just-in-case tricks to reduce radioactive substances on foods by "washing them thoroughly".

Tossed by confusing, rather deceptive information, if consumers including my friend who is currently pregnant, and my another friend who is nursing her newborn, "cannot dare to buy" what they are not a hundred percent sure, I do not believe that it is an irrational reaction.

Producers are indeed in extremely difficulties. And many people are sincerely sympathetic for them. However, I maintain that it is not consumers, but is Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) who has to support producers. This is fundamentally a compensation problem. Not a problem that should be solved by conscience, or courage, of people at their own cost and risk. Fuhyo Higai is the idea that sneakingly transfer the responsibility of redressing affected producers to conscientious consumers. This is exactly the same logic underlying so-called "ethical consumption".

Ethical consumption can be understood as a type of consumption which is not made for the sake of individual egoistic interest, instead, is motivated by concerns for and awareness of its effect on wider social and political issues, e.g. environmental damage, labor exploitations, problems associated with globalizing economy, animal rights, etc. From boycott against goods that are regarded unethical to active purchasing of goods that are considered as ethical, it takes various forms. Through the research of Whole Foods Market shoppers, Josée Johnston points out that the emergence of the "citizen-consumer hybrid", the most recent form of ethical consumption, can be understood as a reaction to the social inequality and ecological deterioration of neo-liberal capitalism and its associated veneration of market-based based solutions. The rise of ethical consumption opportunities, namely, the trend in which individuals feel responsible for taking care of the environment and ethics at the moment of consumption, represents "the privatization of social and ecological concerns as the neo-liberal state distances itself from responsibility to ensure sustainable means of social reproduction" (Johnston 2008 "The citizen-consumer hybrid: Ideological tensions and the case of Whole Foods Market" in Theory and Society 37: 262).

Johnston's point can be applied to the current situation in Japan. Encouraging consumers to purchase allegedly safe foods to support producers is nothing but another case of privatization of social concerns.

I also would like to emphasize the injustice of having farmers in affected area keep production based upon arbitrary standards. On April 8th, Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters in Cabinet Office (NERH) set the restriction standards on planting of rice on 5000bq/kg soil. The field whose radiation level exceeds 5000bq/kg will be banned to cultivate rice, but as long as its level is below that, producers can keep producing rice. (rf. the radiation in soil monitored in Fukushima as of April 12th) According to NERH, this number was calculated by assuming that 10% of radioactive Caesium in soil would be transmitted to crops. Thus based upon the MHLW standards on radiation level of food, 500bq/kg, the maximum level of soil radiation was set on 5000bq/kg. Namely, the standards was set by referring to consumers' interest (if not satisfying) only, without considering producers' interest at all. Just imagine, working on soil that is contaminated with 5000bq/kg of radiation, almost everyday for 160 days from planting to cropping. This means not only continuous direct contacts with contaminated soil, but also continuous intakes of contaminated dust, that cause serious health damage by internal exposure to radiation.

It was told that although they realized that something was wrong with fishes by watching cats in town got abnormal, people in Minamata could not stop taking fishes. Because it was their lives. There are people went back to and are still living in their home in restricted area in Chernobyl. Because it was their homes. Knowing the danger, there still may be farmers keep cultivating their contaminated soil. That is life, history, culture, affection and at the end of the day, that may be the humanity. Yet, it does not at all exempt the government from responsibility to provide farmers with substantive information of possible danger and to stop them engaging in dangerous work, and TEPCO from responsibility to compensate them. At all.

Under the Fuhyo Higai hype, encouragement for consumers to support farmers and encouragement for farmers to be tough are nothing more or less than the trick to obscure what should be taken care of by those who are really responsible.

The only way to prevent Fuhyo Higai in its original sense, I believe, is to make the standards on food radiation as well as that on soil radiation genuinely strict, at least consistent with international standards and Japanese past standards, and to conduct thorough monitoring of radiation level in order to retrieve consumers' trust on foods on the market. AND this must be paired with the sincere and substantial compensations to producers who have to give up cultivating on their land and selling their products under the strict standards. By sincere and substantial, I mean that the affected farmers should get compensated for their loss of expected profit, not only for this year, but for all coming years of crops, given the considerably long half-life of radioactive substances. Still, we should never forget that there is no way to compensate the dignity of farmers who have to give up their lands and lives.