"With the new, stricter safety standard, we cannot farm", they say.
A small portion of Japan's consumers would say "YES!!!", while the majority would feel bad that they are not doing enough to support the poor farmers in Fukushima Prefecture. "They are victims of TEPCO and the government!" they say. "It's not their fault that radioactive materials have fallen (and continue to fall) on their farmland."
It's not their fault, but it's their choice to farm on a contaminated land and possibly produce contaminated food, just like last year, and sell it to people outside Fukushima, just like last year while they say they cannot let their small children and grandchildren eat it.
From Fukushima Minpo, not the entire article (1/25/2012):
"If the standard gets stricter, I have no choice but quit farming." There was a meeting in Fukushima City on January 24 where the Ministry of Health and Labor and the Food Safety Commission under the Cabinet Office explained the new safety standard for radioactive cesium in food. The farmers who attended the meeting spoke out angrily. It was the first meting outside Tokyo, but there were more producers who did not agree with the policy of the national government [on food safety]. On the other hand, consumers want even stricter standards while the Fukushima prefectural government is unsure how to establish a system to detect radioactive materials in food.
"Half-dried persimmons and blueberries, people don't eat them everyday. The safety limit for those shouldn't be 100 becquerels/kg." A farmer from Nihonmatsu City angrily demanded the revision of the new safety standard, accusing the national government for having tightened the standard without considering the hardship suffered by the farmers in Fukushima. The farmer said, "By uniform tightening of the standard, farmers cannot grow crops, and local specialties will disappear."
About 160 farmers and government administrators attended the meeting. One JA official, who has been asked about the safety of agricultural products [in Fukushima] from the retailers, demanded that [the national government] issue a declaration of safety and security of the Fukushima produce, and the declaration be accompanied with the stricter standard. But there was no clear answer from the officials from the national government. The JA official angrily continued, "You are not answering my question. Do you think the consumers would eat [our produce] just by tightening the standard?"
The farmers in Fukushima are fearful and disturbed by the introduction of the stricter safety standard. A farmer in Koriyama City said there was no radioactive material detected from the rice he grew last year on his 20 hectares of rice paddies. However, there is no guarantee that this year's crop will fare the same. "It is necessary to tighten the standard so that the consumers feel safe. But I wouldn't be able to grow rice at ease if I were to suffer from "baseless rumors" if a minute amount of radioactive materials was found", he lamented.
There is a wide, wide gap between these farmers and JA officials and the consumers who do care about radioactivity in food. The gap is so wide that I don't think they understand each other any more.
To these farmers, radioactive materials found in their crop are nothing but "baseless rumors". To the JA official, I would ask "Do you think consumers eat your food because the national government made a declaration?"
So, they will continue to farm, looking more like the tense and angry Mr. Sugeno , and not like Mr. Tanno, relaxed and happy growing food he loves after leaving contaminated Fukushima. See my January 7 post about these two farmers.
Consumers still have a choice of not eating blueberries and half-dried persimmons (they were found with rather high levels of radioactive cesium last year) from Fukushima, for now. There are people in Japan who are proposing a system whereby all food items will carry labels like "not fit for consumption for people under 20". They want the older people to eat radioactive food so that the farmers in Fukushima can continue to farm.
Now I think about it, it's not that much different from what the ICRP says. It is grotesque to me nonetheless.