Radioactive Contamination Found in Vegetables

Greenpeace radiation expert Rianne Teule (from South Africa) checks crops for contamination in Minamisoma, 25km North of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. © Markel Redondo / Greenpeace

Dr Rianne Tuele

Rianne Teule

It’s nearly three weeks since we started the second part of the radiation monitoring work in Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture. It was an extremely intensive and exhaustive experience, but also one of the most motivating operations I've been involved in -- and I’m sure the rest of the team agrees with me.

It was motivating because spending time in the Fukushima area and bearing witness to the impacts of the horrifying accident with our own eyes made us so angry -- angry at the nuclear industry whose lies are being believed by so many, whose short-sighted self-interest is sickening.

People in the area are exposed to the impacts of nuclear radiation often without being made aware by TEPCO or the authorities. We found radioactively contaminated vegetables with levels up to 75 times over the limits for consumption -- even the growers had not even been warned against eating their crops! By providing information on simple protective measures (like: please don’t eat the vegetables from your garden) to the population in affected areas, the government could easily prevent significant radiation risks to the public.

Our testing of total activity in food and soil samples raised serious concerns about food and soil contamination. It is clear that additional protection measures are needed to safeguard consumers, but also to ensure that no additional damage it done to farmers. Long-term contamination of soil can have serious impacts on the region's economy, and measures should be taken as soon as possible to support the farmers and protect their livelihoods.

Last Monday, we had the opportunity to present our findings at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo, where we were joined by about 100 journalists and scientists who listened to our briefing and asked us many detailed questions. Our call for action was heard, and our independent assessment is clearly highly appreciated.

Greenpeace has a very important role to play following this disaster, supporting the Japanese public and providing the so much needed independent assessments. But of course it is Japan’s government who should take immediate action to protect its people from radiation impacts, and clean up or evacuate high-risk areas.

Dr. Rianne Teule - Team leader for the Climate and Energy Campaign in Greenpeace Africa. She is also a radiation expert and has has been the team leader for the second radiation monitoring team in Japan.