East Asian Leaders meet in solidarity in Fukushima

Wen Jiabao, Naoto Kan and Lee Myung-bak at evacuation center in Fukishima City
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

The leaders of China, Japan and South Korea publicly munched on farm produce grown near the stricken Japanese nuclear plant on Saturday in a show of solidarity with Japan’s recovery efforts.

Premier Wen Jiabao of China and President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea arrived in Japan on Saturday for a two-day meeting that was expected to focus on resolving differences over Japan’s handling of the nuclear crisis.

China and South Korea have criticized Japan for spilling radiation into the air and sea, and have banned imports of farm products from areas near the plant, citing what they call inadequate checks for radiation. Japan says the restrictions are unjustified.

Before the meeting began in Tokyo on Saturday night, the Japanese prime minister, Naoto Kan, took the leaders to visit a refugee shelter in Fukushima, 40 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant that was crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Before entering the shelter, a converted gymnasium, Mr. Kan steered the group to a table displaying strawberries, cucumbers and other produce grown in Fukushima Prefecture.

The leaders, who did not appear to have been surprised by the photo op, smiled and nibbled gamely. “Very delicious,” Mr. Wen said…

Before meeting Mr. Kan, the two visiting leaders also paid separate visits to the city of Natori, which was devastated by the tsunami.

The warm feelings of the two leaders came through in their visits to disaster areas and an evacuation center,” Mr. Kan told reporters. “I’m glad they came.”

No doubt import restrictions to China and South Korea will be reduced following this meeting. The interesting bits will be – what else is resolved over the weekend?

The earthbound disaster has pushed Japan’s economy into an artificial recession. Individual Japanese corporations have started working their way out of the context of parts suppliers and individual enterprises both being handicapped by the damage to physical plant and infrastructure. Collective effort will be welcomed – no doubt – to aid Japan’s recovery.

California strawberries just started sounding less sweet to me

SACRAMENTO — Even as the sweet strawberry harvest reaches its peak here, a bitter disagreement has erupted between the State Department of Pesticide Regulation and a scientific review committee over the approval of a new chemical, the outcome of which could affect farmers across the country.

Members of the review committee say the state’s decision to approve the new pesticide, methyl iodide, was made using inadequate, flawed and improperly conducted scientific research.

“I’m not in blanket opposition to the use of pesticides, but methyl iodide alarms me,” said Theodore A. Slotkin…a member of the scientific review committee. “When we come across a compound that is known to be neurotoxic, as well as developmentally toxic and an endocrine disruptor, it would seem prudent to err on the side of caution, demanding that the appropriate scientific testing be done on animals instead of going ahead and putting it into use, in which case the test animals will be the children of the state of California…”

For decades, farmers injected another chemical, methyl bromide, into the soil before planting strawberries. Then the Montreal Protocol international climate treaty banned methyl bromide, saying it had been found to deplete ozone. That sent regulators, farmers and the chemical industry scrambling for an alternative.

They found methyl iodide, a chemical less harmful to the ozone, but with more potential hazards to human health. In 2007 the chemical was approved by federal environmental regulators to the chagrin of many scientists. More than 50 chemists and physicians, including members of the National Academy of Sciences and Nobel laureates, had asked the federal Environmental Protection Agency not to approve the chemical…

How worthless do you think planning for safety was during the Bush years? Do you think they did a better job on pesticides than they did, say, on offshore drilling permits?

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