Saturday, August 20, 2011


Politics, Farmers and Change: The End of Rural America

This week President Obama returned to Iowa, where he launched his successful bid to the White House, to speak about "jobs and economic security" in rural America. According to the White House, his bus tour is not a campaign trip, but veteran political observers would disagree. For farmers and rural advocates this tour is really about something much larger than electioneering or a new jobs program, it's about the survival of rural America.
While the plight of urban decay has been widely publicized in the mainstream press, similar issues facing our country cousins (myself included), lack of well paying jobs, rural brain drain, food deserts, poverty and lack of access to quality health care, have either been ignored or largely misunderstood by policy makers and the press. Today, more rural Americans are on food stamps and face bleaker economic prospects than their urban counterparts, despite the romantic image of small town life often portrayed by the media.
For the past 50 years, rural America has seen it's best, brightest and most mobile flee the countryside in search of jobs as federal farm, economic and trade policies have slowly bled family farmers off the land. Since 1960, when John F. Kennedy was elected, America has lost over 1.7 million family farms, the backbone of rural economies, with the number of farmers in the U.S. today being outnumbered by prisoners.
Despite increases in farm productivity and improved planting and harvesting equipment, more insidious economic factors like increased industry consolidation, poorly designed subsidy programs and over specialization in industrial livestock production, with poor contract protections, have hallowed out the countryside. Instead of prosperity, industrial agriculture has created vast profits for corporations at the top of the food chain, but left a growing number of rural America's Main Streets to resemble ghost towns and its residents poorly prepared or able to meet the nation's important challenges for the 21st century.
While many people in urban areas have never met a farmer or someone who produced the food that appears on their plate each day, despite a growing national awareness of food and agriculture issues, most Main Street businesses in rural America realize that their livelihood and very survival are tied to the economic wellbeing of the local farm economy. And if you want to save rural America, you have to save the family farmer.

Obama's Rural Agenda, circa 2007

Since the president's Rural Tour is about creating jobs and economic opportunity for rural America, it might help to start out with a refresher of what President Obama promised the first time he toured the state, which helped him on his road to unexpected victory during the Iowa caucus.
When Obama first ran for president in Iowa, he cultivated a serious grassroots reform platform in agriculture that included:
  • Caps on subsidy payments
  • Regulating CAFOs (factory farms)
  • Encouraging local and organic agriculture and
  • "Preventing anticompetitive behavior against family farms".
That last one was important. I remember receiving an advanced copy of Obama's Rural Agenda before it was released in October 2007 and reading those words and thinking we finally have a candidate who understands rural issues and is willing to do something about it.
In the past 30 years, since Ronald Reagan took office, the U.S. government has stopped enforcing antitrust laws, while recklessly encouraging an orgy of corporate mergers. During this time, food and agriculture production has become one of the most concentrated sectors in the U.S. economy. General economic theory states that when 4 or less companies control more than 40% of market share that industry is no longer competitive, competiveness being the lifeblood of capitalism, innovation and democracies.
Today just 4 companies control 84% of the beef packing industry, 66% of the pork packing industry and just one company, Monsanto, controls genetically engineered seeds for corn, cotton, soybeans and canola on more than 90% of the acres that are planted with GMO seeds. Such excessive market concentration has given corporations an increased stranglehold on supply, shrinking both profits and markets for family farmers. Since 1952 farmers have seen their share of the food dollar that they receive shrink from 47¢ on every dollar spent on food to barely 20¢.
Antitrust Investigation to Nowhere?
To his credit, President Obama and his staff listened to the plight of family farmers when he caucused in Iowa. As a result, last year the Obama administration launched a series of workshops to investigate anti-competitive practices in food and agriculture. These workshops were potentially so historic that I felt compelled to travel across the country to all 5 of them in hopes of witnessing the dawn of a new era in agriculture, when our government would finally stand up for family farmers instead of promoting agribusiness profits.
Regretfully, the Department of Justice has so far refused to issue a report or take any meaningful actions against the largest violators.
Even worse for farmers was the news last month that DOJ antitrust chief Christine Varney was leaving the administration without finishing the job to join a white glove law firm in New York. For many farmers, who have endured the corrupt practices of agribusiness for decades, Varney was seen as the last best hope of freeing farmers from an unfair system that has driven hundreds of thousands livestock farmers out of business and shackled them with abusive contracts.
In December of last year I traveled to Washington DC to deliver more than 200,000 comments from farmers, citizens and Food Democracy Now! members in a private meeting with Christine Varney and other DOJ and USDA staff to explain the urgent need for antitrust enforcement. As always, Varney was committed in her personal statements, but did let it slip that others who were part of the investigations were potentially opposition. With Varney leaving, family farmers and rural America may never get the justice they deserve.
Hope for Rural America?
Even now an important decision waits on the president's desk that will have more to do with creating jobs and economic security for rural America than any bus tour or another White House briefing paper on jobs.
During the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress required the USDA to write rules that addressed problems of market manipulation and unfair contracts to protect livestock farmers. Known as GISPA, for the USDA agency that overseas their enforcement, Grain Inspectors, and Packers and Stockyard Administration (GIPSA), the new rules would create a fair marketplace for farmers to sell their livestock without fear of retaliation, require packers to maintain written records over price deviations and prevent undue preferences.
More than anything, the completion of the DOJ/USDA antitrust investigations, with significant enforcement actions, and the finalizing of strong GISPA rules will determine the fate of the family farmer and rural America for the century to come.
If President Obama truly wants to create jobs and economic security for rural economies and see farmers thrive, he'll follow through on the promises he already made to Iowans and make sure that farmers have the access to fair markets that they deserve.
In reality, the best way to create jobs is by saving the ones that you already have. The same is true about keeping farmers on the land. The equation for success in rural America has never changed, make sure farmers receive a fair price in the marketplace and the wealth will spread, our communities will prosper and our nation will flourish. After a century of listening to false promises by DC politicians, rural America is paying closer attention to what these folks do once they're elected, versus what they say on the campaign trail. And it's time that Washington got down to the business of putting farmers first, after all their jobs just might depend on it.
Dave Murphy
Dave Murphy is the founder of Food Democracy Now!, a sixth generation Iowan, and an advocate for sustainable agriculture. Founded after the election of President Obama, Food Democracy Now! is a community of more than 250,000 farmers and citizens that works to create a more sustainable future for family farmers, rural communities and American consumers.


One in Four California Families Can't Afford Food for Their Kids
by Raul Rodriguez
SAN FRANCISCO -- One in four California households with children reported food hardship, according to a new analysis of Gallup data released last Thursday by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).
Children’s healthcare advocates worry about the consequences of a lack of access to nutritious food. “It’s disturbing, but not surprising,” said Kelly Hardy, director of health policy at Children Now.
The report analyzed data gathered as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index project’s responses to the question: “Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?”
“It sends a clear signal of economic distress, particularly for families with children,” noted James Weill, president of FRAC. “The answers to the question reveal there are times that these families are going without eating a meal, or the parents are skipping a meal for their children, or children are skipping meals.”
California had the second highest number of metropolitan areas with rates of food hardship in households with children in 2009-2010, according to the report.
According to, a project of the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, which tracks the health and well being of children in communities across the nation, 68.6 percent of students in schools in Fresno County and 65.6 percent in Los Angeles County were eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals in 2010.
But sadly, “California has one of the worst records of enrolling those eligible in federal food programs,” said Weill – an assertion borne out by a report by the California Food Policy Advocates, which talks about the dismal enrolment in CalFresh, the federal food program in the state. The finger-imaging requirement discourages many from participating in the program, the report says.
According to the FRAC’s findings, California has four of the top 20 metropolitan areas in the nation facing food hardship. Fresno ranked fifth (32.6 percent) nationwide among large metropolitan cities in households with children facing food hardship. The Riverside-San Bernadino-Ontario area ranked eigth (30.4 percent), the Bakersfield area ranked 11th (29.5 percent), and the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana area ranked 18th (28.3 percent).
And, according to, 59 percent and 62.3 percent of children living in the Fresno and Los Angeles County, respectively, are Latino.
Children’s healthcare advocates worry about the consequences of a lack of access to nutritious food.
“It will lead to development and health issues which affect performance in school,” Hardy said. “A lack of nutritious food can also lead to poor oral health, which has been shown to lead to heart disease.”
Kelly noted that there is a connection between food deserts -- areas where there is a lack of easy access to affordable nutritious food – and obesity. These areas are often found in the inner-cities or rural areas such as Fresno and are often the cause for poor nutrition choices, she said.
California Association of Food Banks policy director Eric Manke worries that the newly setup federal Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the “Super Committee,” set up to further reduce federal spending by $1.5 trillion, might target federal food programs.
The Super Committee is set to hold its first meeting when Congress returns to Washington after its August recess. The California Association of Food Banks, along with FRAC and other non-profit food organizations, is urging Congress and the Super Committee to protect food programs for the low-income population.
“Our goal is to make sure they don’t target the federal food programs,” said Manke, noting, “Folks in Congress must understand that there is a great deal of need for these type of programs, and this is the opposite time to think about cutting programs that serve those with the most need.”

Friday, August 19, 2011


New patent granted to Bayer breaks the law

No Patents on Seeds  -  Public hearing and protest against patents on plants

Munich, 18 August 2011. The European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich has recently granted a patent for the German company Bayer for breeding plants with a higher stress tolerance (EP1616013). The comprehensive patent will give Bayer monopoly control over important food crops including both genetic engineering in plants and the process for conventional breeding and plants derived thereof.

Patents on processes for conventional breeding, based on crossing and selection, are in conflict with Article 53b of the European Patent Convention. This was confirmed by the EPO in a precedent decision at the end of 2010. However, in claim 14 of the Bayer patent nothing else is patented than conventional plant breeding based on natural genetic conditions.

“This new patent for Bayer breaks the law. It conflicts in particular with the prohibition of patents on essentially biological‘ processes for breeding. This case shows once more that European Patent Law needs to be revised in order to effectively prohibit patents on the breeding of plants and animals. Further, the EPO must be subjected to independent control. If these kind of patents are not stopped, resources for daily living will be sold out to companies such as Bayer and Monsanto, warns Christoph Then, a representative of the international coalition “no patents on seeds”.

Further, the other patent claims granted to Bayer are in a legal grey area. The European Patent Law excludes patents on “plant varieties” but this patent also covers the marketing of seeds perceived as plant varieties. Furthermore, patents on mutational breeding are used since a long time and lack inventiveness. Granting these kind patents that lack any kind of “invention” have been criticized as inflationary and even as an abuse of patent law by many observers.

This patent is a wake-up call for political decision makers to respond to the protests from farmers, breeders, consumers, environmental and development organizations against patents on plants and animals. The international coalition “no patents on seeds” and many other organizations are now preparing for a day of protest at the European Patent Office in Munich: On 26 October 2011, there will be a final public hearing at the EPO and a decision is due to be taken in a precedent case, a patent on broccoli. The protest is aiming to send out a strong signal to politicians in Europe, to no longer leave decision-making to the European Patent Office, but to implement effective regulations against patents on plants and animals.

Contact: Christoph Then, Tel +4915154638040



Five easy tips for packing a healthy school lunch that your kids will actually eat!

What our kids eat is critically important -- especially in the middle of the school day, when good nourishment is key to learning. But it's a tall order to prepare a meal that's healthy, tastes great hours after you make it, appeals to your children and isn't bad for the environment. Especially for busy parents on a weekday morning!
Try these smart, doable steps to pack eco-healthy school lunches for your kids:
1. Stockpile healthy recipes that work. Before you can think about what to put in the lunchbox, why not consult the experts? Collect a bunch of healthy, kid-popular ideas that you can rely on for those busy weekday mornings. When healthy ideas and ingredients are on hand, they're far more likely to land in the lunchbox! We often turn to these resources:
  • Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children, by Ann Cooper (aka The Renegade Lunch Lady) and Lisa M. Holmes. This gem includes great recipes as well as solid information on kids' nutritional needs and suggestions (from personal experience) for improving school lunch programs. Buy Lunch Lessons on, and a portion of your purchase will be donated to EWG at no extra cost to you.
  • The Earthbound Cook: 250 Recipes for Delicious Food and a Healthy Planet, by Myra Goodman. Though this cookbook is not specifically about school lunch recipes, we love it because the author focuses on food that's good for our health and the environment. Of course, a great school lunch can come from any cookbook on your shelf, and leftovers from a popular dinner can help you reduce food waste and save money and time. Order your copy today.
  • The Unhealthy Truth, by Robyn O'Brien. This book has recipes sprinkled all through it, but its focus is on O'Brien's personal quest to serve her family healthy food -- and the unsavory truths about our food system that she discovered along the way. Find it on Amazon. Rather watch than read? Catch her impressive TEDx talk.
2. Send less and better meat. Not all meat is created equal. Your kids should eat small portions of the healthier, low-impact options. Why small portions? On average, Americans eat far more protein than they need -- kids get a whopping three to four times the recommended amount. Here are a few ways to pack meat-smart lunches:
  • Skip processed meats -- sliced lunch meats, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, sausage and the like -- even though they're easy to stick in a lunchbox.
  • Avoid meats treated with antibiotics or hormones (look for a "no" message on the label or buy organic).
  • Stick with chicken and turkey; they're low-impact and low-fat.
  • Try alternative proteins such as hummus, nuts and whole grains.
  • Learn more in EWG's Meat Eater's Guide -- you'll find a label decoder for meat and dairy products, tips for smarter shopping (get our wallet card!) and helpful resources, including cookbooks and online recipes.
3. Pack more fruits and veggies, with minimal pesticides. The government's new "My Plate" nutrition guidelines recommend that half your plate (or lunchbox, in this case!) consist of fruits and vegetables. Pineapple, mango, cantaloupe, watermelon chunks or kiwi slices are great additions to kid-friendly lunches. Sweet corn and frozen peas make for a great hands-on lunch and have the lowest levels of pesticide residues. Conventional carrots are also lower in pesticides than conventional celery. EWG recommends buying organic whenever possible -- especially for kids. Their neurological systems are still developing, and they eat more fruits and vegetables than adults relative to their body weight. Recent studies of organophosphate pesticides used on some fruits and vegetables have found that children with high exposures are at risk of impaired intelligence and neurological problems. You can find out more about pesticides and children on our Food News site.
However, we know that organic produce isn't accessible or affordable for everyone, so we created our Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce to help people make the healthiest choices given their circumstances. You can substantially lower your pesticide intake by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating produce with the least pesticide residues.
Eating fruits and vegetables, even conventionally grown, is healthier than eating processed foods and other less healthy alternatives.
4. Junk juice. Instead of sugary juice, soda or bottled water, send your child to school with filtered water or organic, low-fat milk in a stainless steel bottle. You'll use less plastic and save money! It's easy to find kid-size reusable water bottles these days - we recommend Klean Kanteen's stainless steel.
For tips on filtering your tap water at home (a good idea in most places, depending on your local water quality), check EWG's Safe Drinking Water Tips pdf. School water is often unfiltered. Getting a filter added is a great green team project.
5. Reduce lunchtime waste. School lunches can generate lots of garbage, like any out-of-the-home meal. Go easier on the local landfill by sending lunch and snacks in reusable packaging and skip single-serve items. Some simple steps to limit your waste:
  • Find non-toxic, reusable containers, like stainless steel lunch boxes. If you choose plastic containers, pick them carefully (plastics marked with a #1, 2, 4 or 5 don't contain BPA and may be better options. Check our plastics tips) and wash them by hand -- the dishwasher's extreme heat can cause chemicals to leach. Try to avoid soft-sided plastic lunchboxes.
  • Send tableware from home.
  • Skip the straws -- or go reusable if you must.
  • Just say no to juice boxes.
  • Get inspired and learn more at Waste Free
Here are some examples of school lunches our staff put together for their own kids:
Almond butter and jam on whole wheat
Organic cherry tomatoes
Organic watermelon wedges and blueberries
Fruit leather -- look for natural brands or make your own
Brown rice and bean chili in a thermos
Organic sliced carrots
Tortilla chips and fresh tomato salsa
Organic Apple slices
Peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat
Handful of cashews
Organic sweet corn
Organic peach
Tomato soup in a thermos
Small chicken or turkey wrap or sliced cooked chicken
Organic cucumber slices with lime and salt
Organic grapes mixed with carrot slices
We chat a lot about food, safe products, and the policies that affect them on EWG's Facebook page. Join us to learn more and share.

Host a NON-GMO Pot Luck on World Food Day! Oct 16, 2011

Millions Against Monsanto Call to Action

This World Food Day, people all around the country are getting out to bring 1,000,000 people into the Millions Against Monsanto campaign for labels on genetically engineered foods.
On October 16, 2011, we'll join together at community gardens, farmers markets, grocery stores, non-GMO potlucks, film screenings and Right2Know rallies to educate our communities about the dangers of Monsanto's seeds and pesticides and to demonstrate how much better organic, GMO-free eating can be.
Contact Millions Against Monsanto campaign staff to get started with a World Food Day event in your community. Make sure to let us know where you'll be on World Food Day.
We need volunteers willing to host organic, non-GMO potlucks to bring activists together to plan for World Food Day. If you have a venue where you can host a public potluck, please let us know, so we can invite Organic Consumers Association activists in your area and get you the resources you need to make your World Food Day planning potluck a success.
More information on World Food Day
RSVP for World Food Day on Facebook


Beyond Frankenfoods and Toxics: OCA's Ten Reasons to Buy Organic

  • By Ronnie Cummins
    Organic Consumers Association, August 17, 2011

(Click here to download a print-ready PDF of this article)

Organic foods and products are the fastest growing items in America's grocery carts. Thirty million households, comprising 75 million people, are now buying organic foods, clothing, body care, supplements, pet food, and other products on a regular basis. Fifty-six percent of U.S. consumers say they prefer organic foods.

Here are 10 reasons why you should buy organic foods and products:

1. Organic foods are produced without the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Consumers worry about untested and unlabeled genetically modified food ingredients in common supermarket items. Genetically engineered ingredients are now found in 75% of all non-organic U.S. processed foods, even in many products labeled or advertised as "natural." In addition, the overwhelming majority of non-organic meat, dairy, and eggs are derived from animals reared on a steady diet of GM animal feed. Although polls indicate that 90% of Americans want labels on gene-altered foods, government and industry adamantly refuse to respect consumers' right to know, understanding quite well that health and environmental-minded shoppers will avoid foods with a GMO label.

2. Organic foods are safe and pure. Organic farming prohibits the use of toxic pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, nano-particles, and climate-destabilizing chemical fertilizers. Consumers worry about pesticide and drug residues routinely found in non-organic produce, processed foods, and animal products. Consumer Reports has found that 77% of non-organic produce items in the average supermarket contain pesticide residues. The beef industry has acknowledged that 94% of all U.S. beef cattle have hormone implants, which are banned in Europe as a cancer hazard. Approximately 10% of all U.S. dairy cows are injected with Monsanto and Elanco's controversial genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone, banned in most industrialized nations. Recent studies indicate that an alarming percentage of non-organic U.S. meat contains dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

3. Organic foods and farming are climate-friendly. Citizens are increasingly concerned about climate-destabilizing greenhouse gas pollution (CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide), 35-50% of which in North America comes from our energy-intensive, chemical-intensive food and farming system. Organic farms and ranches, on the other hand, use far less fossil fuel and can safely sequester large amounts of CO2 in the soil (up to 7,000 pounds of CO2 per acre per year, every year.) Twenty-four billion pounds of chemical fertilizers applied on non-organic farms in the U.S. every year not only pollute our drinking water and create enormous dead zones in the oceans; but also release enormous amounts of nitrous oxide, a super potent, climate-destabilizing greenhouse gas.

4. Organic food certification prohibits nuclear irradiation. Consumers are justifiably alarmed about irradiating food with nuclear waste or electron beams, which destroy vitamins and nutrients and produce cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde. The nuclear industry, large food processors, and slaughterhouses continue to lobby Congress to remove required labels from irradiated foods and replace these with misleading labels that use the term "cold pasteurization." The USDA and large meat companies have promoted the use of irradiated meat in school lunches and senior citizen facilities. Many non-organic spices contain irradiated ingredients.

5. Consumers worry about rampant e-coli, salmonella, campylobacter, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and fecal contamination in animal products coming out of the nation's inhumane and filthy slaughterhouses. The Centers for Disease Control have admitted that up to 76 million Americans suffer from food poisoning every year. Very few cases of food poisoning have ever been linked to organic farms or food processors.

6. Consumers are concerned about billions of pounds of toxic municipal sewage sludge dumped as "fertilizer" on 140,000 of America's chemical farms. Scientific evidence has confirmed that municipal sewage sludge contains hundreds of dangerous pathogens, toxic heavy metals, flame-retardants, endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, pharmaceutical drugs and other hazardous chemicals coming from residential drains, storm water runoff, hospitals, and industrial plants. Organic farming categorically prohibits the use of sewage sludge.

7. Consumers worry about the routine practice of grinding up slaughterhouse waste and feeding this offal and blood back to other animals, a practice that has given rise to a form of human mad-cow disease called CJD, often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's disease. Animals on organic farms cannot be fed slaughterhouse waste, manure, or blood - daily rations on America's factory farms.

8. Consumers care about the humane treatment of animals. Organic farming prohibits intensive confinement and mutilation (debeaking, cutting off tails, etc.) of farm animals. In addition to the cruel and unhealthy confinement of animals on factory farms, scientists warn that these CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) produce enormous volumes of manure and urine, which not only pollute surface and ground water, but also emit large quantities of methane, a powerful climate-destabilizing greenhouse gas.

9. Consumers are concerned about purchasing foods with high nutritional value. Organic foods are nutritionally dense compared to foods produced with toxic chemicals, chemical fertilizers, and GMO seeds. Studies show that organic foods contain more vitamins, cancer-fighting anti-oxidants, and important trace minerals.

10. Consumers care about preserving America's family farms, world hunger, and the plight of the world's two billion small farmers. Just about the only small farmers who stand a chance of making decent living these days are organic farmers, who get a better price for their products. In addition study after study has shown that small organic farms in the developing world produce twice as much food per acre as chemical and GMO farms, while using far less fossil fuel and sequestering large amounts of excess CO2 in the soil. Yields on organic farms in the industrialized world are comparable to the yields on chemical and GMO farms, with the important qualification that organic farms far out-produce chemical farms under extreme weather conditions of drought or torrential rains. Of course, given accelerated climate change, extreme weather is fast becoming the norm.

For all these reasons, millions of American consumers are turning to organic foods and other organic items, including clothing and body care products - part of an overall movement toward healthy living, preserving the environment, and reversing global warming.

(Click here to download a print-ready PDF of this article)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

JAPAN - RADIATION: found in produce, tea, milk, fish, mushrooms, beef and trees as far as 360 kilometers from the nuclear plant.

Issue of Radiation-Tainted Food in Japan Escalates

Mushrooms Join Growing List of Radioactive Threats to Japan’s Food Chain

by Naoko Fujimura and Chris Cooper
Mushrooms joined the threats to Japan’s food chain from radiation spewed by Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, as the country expands efforts to limit the effects of the disaster.
Nameko mushrooms Japan is under pressure to enhance food inspections as it has no centralized system for detecting radiation contamination. About two-thirds of Japan’s prefectures now plan to check rice crops, the Mainichi newspaper said today, citing a survey. Half of Japan’s rice is grown within range of emissions from the crippled nuclear plant, and farmers are awaiting the results of tests before harvesting begins this month.
“By strengthening inspection on rice, we want to make sure only safe produce are in the market,” Agriculture Minister Michihiko Kano said at a press conference on Aug. 12.
Nameko mushrooms grown in the open air in Soma, a city about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the plant damaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, were found to contain nine times the legal limit of cesium, the local government said Aug. 12. Japan’s farm ministry asked growers in Fukushima prefecture to refrain from harvesting mushrooms off raw wood left outside, public broadcaster NHK said yesterday.
Authorities in Fukushima and neighboring prefectures are conducting spot checks on a range of products in cooperation with local farmers. Radiation exceeding safety levels has been found in produce, tea, milk, fish and beef sourced as far as 360 kilometers from the nuclear plant.
Importing Vegetables
Kansai Super Market Ltd. yesterday announced it bought a 30 percent stake in Masami Cattle Ranch Inc. in California, to enable the farm to expand production and supply vegetables to Kansai stores in Japan, according to a statement the Hyogo prefecture-based supermarket chain made to the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
The European Union plans to strengthen radiation inspection on imported seafood, both from waters near Japan and from farther out in the Pacific, NHK reported yesterday.
Levels of cesium-134 in seawater near the Fukushima plant’s No. 3 reactor rose to levels 30 times the allowed safety standards last month, according to tests performed by Tokyo Electric Power Co, NHK reported at the time.
Japan may join a U.S.-led treaty under which governments agree to prevent excessive claims against other members for compensation from nuclear accidents, the Nikkei newspaper reported today, without saying where it got the information.
Contaminated Trees
The nation’s forestry agency urged Fukushima prefecture to prevent shipments of any wood or charcoal that has been stored outdoors since the nuclear crisis, the Yomiuri newspaper said yesterday. Jiji Press reported that the farm ministry ordered the local authorities to conduct tests on trees used for mushroom growing.
Last month, hay contaminated with as much as 690,000 becquerels a kilogram, compared with a government safety standard of 300 becquerels, was found to have been fed to cattle. Beef with unsafe levels of the radioactive element was detected in four prefectures, the health ministry said July 23.
Japan’s wheat crop will have little impact from the nuclear disaster as cesium levels in the roots of the plants are low, and the effect on the wheat spikes for consumption are likely to be small, NHK said today, citing a Tokyo University study.
Radioactive iodine has been detected in the thyroids of half of 1,000 Fukushima children, NHK reported yesterday, citing findings from a group led by Satoshi Tashiro, a professor at Hiroshima University. Tashiro said the children should continue to be monitored though the levels are low and not thought to pose a threat to health, according to the report on the broadcaster’s website.
Prolonged exposure to radiation in the air, ground and food can cause leukemia and other cancers, according to the London- based World Nuclear Association.