Minister Counselor for Agricultural Affairs Geoffrey Wiggin Discusses Food Security

Minister Counselor for Agricultural Affairs Geoffrey Wiggin Discusses Food Security


thank you I’m Jeff Wigan on the head of
the USDA Department of Agriculture office here in the embassy and of course
I know most of you by cider by name as friends and so forth I have to tell you
right off I’m an agricultural economist so I’m not used to being believed on any
subject let alone food safety but I have to say that because I’m not a doctor I’m
not a scientist but what I can tell you about is if my office works very closely
with the Department of the Ministry of Agriculture here and the Ministry of
Health and we know from our interactions with them that they are working very
hard to go out and test Japanese production to find out if it is
contaminated with radiological contamination and they’ve been doing
this for a number of days now in the for pre features that are closest to the
nuclear plant and you’ve undoubtedly been reading the newspaper and you know
that there are categories of products that have been banned from being traded
he’s in general or leafy green vegetables which seem to be the most
easily affected and milk but I think we can expect that there’ll be other
categories and other products that will be affected and that those will be
banned by the government here when they get the testing results the two
ministries are working very closely with the prefectural government ministry of
agriculture has has local offices as well and they’re all involved in this
testing regime the testing has been extended from those four prefectures
that are closest to the reactor now excuse me the eight prefectures that
surround those for there now testing agricultural products there to see if
there’s any contamination the government is doing in my
agricultural economist estimation a good job of getting out and trying to find
where there is a problem with the food supply and they are stopping that
product from moving but what I want you to know is that that’s really just part
of the protections that have been put in place in my opinion they’re adequate but
in addition to that you have many different entities in the food
distribution chain that are all acting on what I would call an abundance of
caution this includes organizations like jha pan agriculture which is the
co-operative organization that markets agricultural products that Japanese
farmers produce so in Chiba j.a there has simply said we’re not going to sell
any of our products until we know that they’ve been tested and are safe so what
you’re so jay is in other words they’re going beyond what the government is
doing and I need to tell you that what the government is doing is adequate to
protect the people of Japan so Jay a Chiba is stopping the sale of all
marketing of all their products agricultural products supermarkets
wholesalers are turning away completely from supplies that are coming from the
affected regions so what does that mean for you as consumers it means that if
you go into your supermarket to buy produce it’s almost certainly I won’t
say certainly but you know unsafe because it’s not only you cannot get
product that is has been contaminated from the regions that are affected but
the private sector entities are going well beyond what the government is
telling them to do and simply not putting on the shelves products that
even come from fukushi or or the affected prefectures same for
restaurants you’ll see restaurants that aren’t even serving spinach of any kind
because they don’t want their customers to sit there and look at the dish and
worried that there might be affected spinach on in that dish so the bottom
line that I can tell you as an economist knowing the food distribution system in
Japan is that it’s being overly cautious if there’s any sort of sin to this is it
there’s going to be lots and lots of wasted good food and that will be one of
the results of this this terrible crisis in the food side but when it comes to
your confidence when you go into the supermarket I think you can have a high
degree of confidence of what you pick off the shelf is safe

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