Nuclear Farmicide: The effects of the 3/11 Disaster on the farmers of Fukushima

Nuclear Farmicide: The effects of the 3/11 Disaster on the farmers of Fukushima
–Research Report #3 by A Concerned Citizen(Ruel Bernard)
Like many people here in California, the meltdowns at Fukushima are making me wonder about our own two nuclear power stations, Diablo Canyon and San Onofre. Just like Fukushima, they’re located on the ocean and in an earthquake zone, very close to multiple fault lines. Everyone already agrees that we are due for a big earthquake here in California any day now.
As we saw in Fukushima, an earthquake and tsunami are terribly destructive. But even worse is the nightmare of nuclear meltdown, an ongoing disaster that, six months after the event, is stilluncontrolled, still leaking and venting radiation into the air and water around it.
I saw a video on You Tube in which Japanese farmers being interviewed were crying on camera, having lost family farms going back generations. ‘Who should I direct my anger at?’ asked one of them. I began to wonder how such an event would affect the farmers and hundreds of thousands of farm workers here in California: aren’t we the leading agricultural producer in the country? What would happen if one of those two plants experienced an out-of-control accident like Fukushima, and blew a mess of radiation into the atmosphere? To answer that question, I studied the effects of the disaster on the agricultural communities in the Prefecture of Fukushima and surrounding areas.
Before the disaster
Fukushima Prefecture’s prominent, large-scale agricultural and fishery industries play important roles as suppliers of food, not only to Tokyo but also to the nation.
The prefecture boasts Japan’s fourth largest farmland area. Because of the favorable climate, many of the agricultural products grown in Japan, including rice, are produced in Fukushima. The prefecture ranks among the top producers of such fruits as peaches, apples and pears and such vegetables as tomatoes and cucumbers, as well as leaf tobacco and raw silk. Livestock farming is also active. Fukushima’s 159 kilometer-long Pacific coastline is the site of the prefecture’s vigorous fishing and seafood processing industries and the area’s haul of fish is among the nation’s largest.
The prefecture seeks to ensure the continuing productivity of its agricultural and fishery industries while at the same time working to conserve the natural environment.”–from the prefecture’s official website
Now I am sad to report that all that agricultural bounty is a thing of the past. In the initial shock and hydrogen explosions at the plants, large amounts of radioactive iodine was released, traveling as far away as Tokyo and California. But because iodine has a half life of only eight days much of it cleared up relatively quickly, leading many to claim that the disaster was over.. But large accumulations of radioactive cesium, which has a half life of five to thirty years have also been found closer to the plant, as far as 100 miles away. Cesium is taken up by the roots of vegetables and rice, leading to measurable contamination of farm products from the region.
As of August 12, seventeen countries still had a ban on imports of Japanese products. The Fukushima Prefecture’s Department of Agriculture and Fishing has compiled a list of products for “voluntary restraint of shipment and consumption”: all leafy vegetables, broccoli family,turnips, all fruits,wheat and chestnuts,tea leaves,mountain vegetables, mushrooms, milk, beef and fish.
Contaminated beef from the area made it into the Japanese market and contaminated rice straw was sold out of the region, thereby contaminating beef from far away. Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported that all Japanese exports have “plummeted” as a result of world fears of contaminated food. They say that apples accounted for 40% of Japan’s agricultural export and their sales have fallen by 80-90%, including apples from Aomori, 200 miles from the plant. Brand Japan has no market.
Social consequences
With their livelihoods destroyed, families and communities are in a state of confusion. I have read of older farmers committing suicide, of families breaking up as the wives and children flee to a safer place while the men stay to try to salvage a life on the land. I know of a family, friends of my wife Akiyo, who moved to the Fukushima area thirty years ago to practice organic agriculture as a healthy alternative to the materialist and rapidly industrializing dominant society, raising their children in a healthy environment. Now, their land is contaminated, the small income they had earned by selling organic eggs is gone. “What will you do,” Akiyo asked them. “Stay here, because that’s all we have, and we’re older now. But the kids will never come home.”
I saw a video in which one farmer had to watch 30,000 chickens, his whole life’s work, starve to death because nobody would deliver feed to his area. The entire web of social relations in the region has been torn to pieces and it is difficult to say if it will ever recover. Probably not.
An uncertain future
The question on every evacuee’s mind is “When can I go back? When will it be safe?” The crushing answer is, “nobody knows.” The plant is in an uncontrolled meltdown. It has been acknowledged that it will take ten years to just remove the hot fuel rods from the reactor. Because the reactor core containment vessels are broken, there is a constant flow of highly contaminated water leaking out all the time, which has to be replaced constantly. Steam and gases build up that have to be vented, sending plumes of radiation to descend once again on the surrounding communities Even when they decontaminate and recycle the radioactive water they are then left with radioactive sludge which they need to store in great quantities or dispose of. And any moment the whole thing could also go boom and contaminate things on a much greater scale than what we have sen to date. They just don’t know. Some people are calling the area a “national sacrifice zone.”
San Luis Obispo County
Diablo Canyon is located in rural San Luis Obispo County, which counts on agriculture as the main economic engine of the region, bringing in $713 million in 2010.It is the third largest wine grape producing area in the state, with strawberries, avocados, cattle and vegetables of all kinds. Sounds like Fukushima Prefecture, doesn’t it? We have seen what happened there, so we are now warned what can happen here in California if we don’t close down our own nuclear power stations at Diablo Canyon and San Onofre. Imagine if seventeen nations banned the import of California produce, and if the rest of our own country was scared to eat anything grown here. Suddenly whole towns and cities far from Diablo Canyon would crumble under the burden of massive unemployment and no revenues. We have more than half a million farm workers here in California, who spend what they earn locally, generating service jobs in farm communities What would happen if they all lost their jobs?
We can’t let it happen here.
One Response to “Nuclear Farmicide: The effects of the 3/11 Disaster on the farmers of Fukushima”
  1. Thanks for that awesome posting. It saved MUCH time 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: