Fukushima farmers to meet int’l experts to discuss seed, soil and food for future

TOKYO —

As the 2nd anniversary of the Fukushima disaster approaches, Dr Vandana Shiva, world-renowned scientist, author, environmentalist and founder of Navdanya, will join Shumei International, a Japanese-based nonprofit organization, to address critical challenges facing Japanese farmers, including concerns about radiation, climate change, environmental degradation and food security.

During a special symposium series, Seed, Soil and Food for the Future, to be held in Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture, on Feb 19, and in Tokyo on Feb 20, Dr Shiva, soil microbiologist Dr Elaine Ingham, Shumei and organic farmers from Fukushima will discuss ways to advance soil rejuvenation, seed preservation, biodiversity and natural agricultural systems. The events in Fukushima and Tokyo will mark the launch of SEED FREEDOM, GARDENS OF HOPE, a new global effort to help communities build resiliency against floods, drought, soil degradation and natural disasters by growing food with natural seeds that have not been genetically manipulated and saving those seeds for the future.

Shiva is a leading figure in the ecology movement and through Navdanya, she advocates for biodiversity conservation and the promotion of organic farming around the world. Shiva’s many honors for her work include the Right Livelihood Award and the Fukuoka Prize. She was recently inducted into the Kyoto Earth Hall of Fame.

Alice Cunningham, Director of International Affairs, Shumei International, oversees Shumei’s work to support environmental sustainability, natural agriculture and international partnerships, including Shumei’s partnership with Navdanya for Seed Freedom. Shumei International is an NGO with special consultative status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Dr Elaine Ingham, Chief Scientist of Rodale Institute, is a renowned soil microbiologist and a pioneer in organic farming research and promotion. Ingham founded Soil Foodweb, Inc in 1996 to help farmers worldwide grow more resilient crops by understanding and improving soil.

Seiji Sugeno, President of the Fukushima Organic Agriculture Network, is an organic farmer from Fukushima, who has been monitoring radiation levels in several farmlands noting the differences between healthier soils and degraded soils. Sugeno speaks on the role of organic farming in sustainable development and resilience building and is committed to land revitalization in Fukushima.

The symposium will be held from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Iwaki Cultural Center in Iwaki City, Fukushima. It will be held from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Feb 20 in Tokyo at U Thant International Conference Hall (United Nations University, 5-53-70 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku).

RSVP: Brianne Chai-Onn, chaionnb@shumei-international.org

  • 0

    wtfjapan

    intl experts to Fukushima farmers, "dont grow anything near the Fukushima reactor for a long time, period" meeting adjourned

  • -1

    basroil

    There's actually a whole bunch of information on farming in Cs rich soils that the media just doesn't want to make known because it would kill their panic campaign (which sells ads).

    For one, increasing the levels of potassium in the soil can reduce caesium uptake in plants by ten fold, as well as increase the nutritional value of rice. The other one is using clean water, where that too can reduce uptake to 1% or less of the soil concentration. You can also pick crops that generally uptake less caesium than normal, rather than ones that uptake more.

    Theoretically, with the right farming methods, you can grow tenth of the legal limit crops in areas where soil is five times more than the legal limit for soil.

  • 0

    Open Minded

    Basroil: your argument about limiting crop contamination with adjusted agricultural practices is absolutely correct (while not acceptable from a moral standpoint to adapt to this man-made disaster).

    But you should consider as well the farmers working on these fields. During soil preparation a lot of dust containing very small particles - including Cs and any other radio-elements from Fukushima - that will go straight into their lungs. I am much more concerned about this aspect of farming than food contamination actually.

  • -1

    Open Minded

    Without knowing the potential different amplitude I would estimate the risk for farmers working in these fields the same as worker exposed to asbestos or poison agrochemicals without adequate protection. But I have trouble to imagine a farmer working on his rice field with a gas mask!

  • 0

    basroil

    Open MindedFeb. 16, 2013 - 02:59PM JST

    But you should consider as well the farmers working on these fields. During soil preparation a lot of dust containing very small particles - including Cs and any other radio-elements from Fukushima - that will go straight into their lungs. I am much more concerned about this aspect of farming than food contamination actually.

    Farmers are not in much danger actually, the Cs (which is 99% of radioactivity at this point) is mostly deeper in the ground, and since it's water soluble, simply moistening the ground is enough to prevent spread (same technique used when cleaning hotspots). For rice, the fields are usually flooded with enough water to not only prevent the inhaling of Cs, but also cuts radiation levels by over a quarter. If they still fear contamination, they can easily wear masks (and in fact every farm worker should be required to due to dangerous chemicals they use). Rubber overalls (like the type used in fishing) can also help if they are in heavily contaminated soils, but the legal limit in Japan is so low you could literally sell it as low radiation food in half of europe.

  • 0

    Open Minded

    Basroil: I am an agronomist, you cannot moisten the ground to work it (you do not work it when flooded). Most of the Japanese rice farming are organic so no need for agrochemicals. Your proposal is just like asking all Tokyo office employees to clean their keyboard and phone every day with disinfectant and to wear a gas mask. Just not acceptable at all because they are "simple farmers".

  • 1

    zichi

    @Open Minded

    Most of the Japanese rice farming are organic so no need for agrochemicals.

    Don't know were you got that idea from but its not correct. We lived in the countryside, in the Japan Alps for nearly 10 years and my art studio was surrounded by rice farms. They use many, too many chemicals in their farming which is one of the reasons for the acid rain which then comes back to destroy the trees. All farmers must follow the instructions issued by the JA, which also sells them all the chemicals. If not, the JA won't buy their produce.

  • 0

    basroil

    Open MindedFeb. 16, 2013 - 03:38PM JST

    Most of the Japanese rice farming are organic so no need for agrochemicals.

    First I've heard of that, it was only 0.1% of rice in 2010 (http://www.jnodai.co.jp/english/Top2-english.htm). Not sure how they went and got a 50000% increase in two years.

    And most fields are low in potassium too, meaning organic is a waste of resources for less healthy food. While people like to keep their old methods, it's simply not the best way around it, especially if they have a choice between not being able to sell or actually selling more than they used to.

    Open MindedFeb. 16, 2013 - 03:38PM JST

    you cannot moisten the ground to work it (you do not work it when flooded).

    Working the ground itself is only a small part of the season, and at most you'll be having nano-grams inhaled during that time period (assuming unprotected, and dust like dirt). That gives you excess radiation on the order of magnitude as your body naturally produces. Unlike tars, dioxins, pesticides, smoke, and simple dirt itself they would normally be exposed to, Cs doesn't accumulate in the lungs since it can easily be spread around the body, lowering the risks.

    It's more like asking Tokyo office employees to use a mask when they are sick, and wash their hands before they eat. Hardly unreasonable.

  • 0

    SushiSake3

    I grew 1,600 tomatoes, 45 lettuces, 50 cucumbers and piles of fresh green veges (radish, komatsuna, mizuna, spinach, baby leaves, shiso, basil and heaps more) in a community garden plot the size of a car park in Tokyo last year. Harvested from last April right through to the end of Jan 2 weeks ago.

    No added chemicals. Tasted fantastic. Piece of cake.

  • 0

    Open Minded

    Zichi: Thanks for correcting me. It is true that Japan uses considerable amount of pesticides. But most of them are herbicides that are much less hazardous than insecticides for instance. The impact of agricultural chemicals on acid rain is not nil, but not significant in a country like Japan (heavy industry, traffic pollution, trash burning, ...).

  • 0

    Open Minded

    Basroil: frankly speaking I do not know. But can you certify that nano grams of Cs are less harmful than nano grams of asbestos that was considered (or let's say hidden) for decades as safe?

    (BTW I fully agree with you that organic crop is a waste of resources, but this would be rightly considered as off topic by the moderator - hence I will no more discuss that).

  • 1

    basroil

    Open MindedFeb. 16, 2013 - 10:37PM JST

    you certify that nano grams of Cs are less harmful than nano grams of asbestos

    Can't certify it, but I can give you the method to verify it. 1gr of Cs137 has 3.7TBq (yes, all the Cs137 released from fukushima can fit inside a very radioactive 2L soda bottle if you really tried), so a single nanogram is 3700 Bq worth. Divide that by 60kg and you have 61Bq/kg in a human, or well under the legal limit described as safe. You can have 10 times that inhaled (and permanently stuck inside your body, which it doesn't) and still be legal food in most other countries. For you to have 1mSv (at most one in a million excess), you would need ten times that.

  • 0

    Open Minded

    Basroil: thanks for your analysis. However I think relating body mass with contamination Bq is irrelevant. Cancer is declared at cell level, thus 1 nano gram of Cs into one contaminated cell (about 27 picogram) makes an exposition of 1.3 *10 exp 14. This is a totally different perspective.

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