‘Nuke food’ row sheds light on irrational fears

The China Post news staff

Should Taiwan keep its ban on “nuke food” from Japan? The answer to this question is definitely “yes” if “nuke food” refers to radiation-contaminated food. But the ongoing controversy over the Japanese food ban is not really about irradiated food. Rational discussion of the issue has been hampered by sensationalized and misleading labels on food products that Taiwan is mulling lifting the ban on: They are the ones from areas neighboring Fukushima, which was the site of a nuclear disaster in 2011. The misnomer “nuke food” is simply adding fuel to our fears about eating food from unsafe and dubious sources. While the nation’s health must not be compromised, we cannot let ourselves be dictated by irrational fears. The Japanese government has provided assurances that agricultural products from Fukushima’s neighboring regions are safe.

But some environmentalists from Taiwan recently conducted radiation checks in those areas. Their findings led them to conclude that the radiation levels of the soil in those areas exceeded acceptable levels. Taiwan’s health authorities have expressed reservations over the findings. They question the sampling process and the accuracy of the handheld devices used in radiation tests. They stress that more sophisticated tests must be done to determine radiation levels. Who should we trust? While the issue could be settled by science — namely accurate scientific tests of the agricultural products and the soil of the farmlands — science has been clearly brushed aside. In its place, we have chosen to rely on our instinctive fear and chosen to believe selectively. We instead fall into our usual skepticism of the government, believing that Taiwan and Japan are looking to work together in a “black box” to let radiation-contaminated food products pass as safe ones. It is such skepticism that has blocked the cross-strait service trade pact. Such a pact has been standing in the way of the U.S. bid to export ractopamine-containing pork to Taiwan. It is leading us to believe that this democratically elected government is not for the people, but rather against them.