Japan Says Don't Overreact to 'Nuked' Foodstuffs

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 3/31/2011 12:01:00 AM
With alarming news reports coming out of Japan on a nearly daily basis about how various foodstuffs are exhibiting raised radioactivity levels--whether the bulk of them are true or not I cannot ascertain for obvious reasons--its trading partners are becoming understandably wary of importing Japanese food products. In fact, a number of them have already begun slapping bans on imports from Japan. A few days ago, there were indications that Japan would voice its concerns at the WTO over this sort of overreaction:
Japan will ask World Trade Organisation (WTO) members not to 'overreact' to the crisis surrounding the stricken nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture, which has prompted import restrictions on some Japanese food products over fears of radioactive contamination, trade and diplomatic sources said.

The Japanese government delegates will make the request at an informal meeting of the WTO's Trade Negotiation Committee which convenes Tuesday, the first since the March 11 catastrophic earthquake and ensuing tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northeastern Japan.

Concerns over safety of Japanese farm and dairy products are spreading globally as radioactivity levels higher than the legal limit set by the Japanese government under the food sanitation law were detected in several kinds of vegetables and milk produced in Fukushima and its vicinity in the aftermath of the nuclear accident.

Countries including Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Canada and Russia have placed restrictions on the imports of Japanese food products after the United States slapped an import ban on such dairy products and vegetables produced on farms contaminated by the crippled nuclear power complex, while some others said they would step up inspection of such products.

Japan is expected to ask the member countries and regions to abide by the WTO agreement which bans trade restriction not based on scientific grounds, telling them that Japan is taking strict measures such as shipment bans on agricultural and dairy products with radioactive levels above the limits so as to meet international requirements, the sources said.

Yoichi Otabe, ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to the Permanent Delegation of Japan to International Organisations in Geneva, will explain to the meeting the stance of the Japanese government in order to prevent Japanese agriculture from being hit by harmful rumors, the sources added.
The report in fact previewed matters correctly since, just today, Japanese officials in Geneva raised this very issue at a gathering concerning Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) matters. That's 'food safety' to non-trade junkies:
Japanese officials asked the country’s trading partners on Wednesday not to overreact on its food exports in response to the radiation leak at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. A WTO official told journalists that Japan had briefed other countries on the state of food safety following the leak during a meeting of the WTO’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Committee. Japan “urged WTO members not to overreact by implementing ‘unjustifiable’ import restriction,” the WTO official explained. He spoke on condition of anonymity.

Japanese officials said their government has already restricted the distribution of agricultural products which might be contaminated by the leak. “Japan said it has provisional regulations under its Food Sanitation Act for preventing food exceeding residual radioactive contamination levels from being supplied for public consumption. The provisional levels are based on the Japanese government's Nuclear Safety Commission's index, in line with recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP),” the WTO official continued.

The Japanese officials told the WTO meeting that their government is carefully monitoring radioactive contamination of food products. They explained that the government is trying to keep trading partners abreast of latest developments through the WTO, Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization.
Japan's highly protected agricultural industry relies on export markets as an outlet for certain types of food products, and they're certainly not those it would like to lose at this point in time. All the same, these products only make up 1% of its total exports. Yet the concerted lobbying at the WTO and elsewhere abroad indicates this is no small matter for them.