Kitchen Counter Economics Rotating Header Image

Why Where You Get Your Food is Important: The Glow in the Dark Edition

photo: State Library of New South Wales via Flickr

I get rather annoyed with people who say ‘I hate to be an alarmist, but..’

At Chez Siberia, we LIVE ‘belt and suspenders’ because I hate it when I’m right – but I’m really upset when I’ve not taken the precautions. So, here’s Aunt Toby’s take on the nuclear situation in Japan right now.
Being a food person (and if you were standing behind me, you’d see evidence of it all the time — I not only stand on my nutrition principals, I sit on ‘em too), the first thing I thought about when I heard that the Japanese would be doing a release to lessen the pressure was – oh, shit – America’s fruit and veggie supply is based on the West Coast. At the moment, what they are talking about in the atmosphere is Cesium (if you live in the western half of the US, you might want to call up your physician or local health department (if the Republicans haven’t budgeted them out of existence) to discuss Potassium Iodide to block your thyroid from taking up the radioactive iodine, especially if you have infants, children, lactating moms or pregnancies in your midst.

But back to food. Make no mistake about this – radiation can be taken in not only through breathing it in but also ingesting it. Whatever is out in the fields when the winds in the atmosphere hit the West Coast will be contaminated and I think we should all take the position that given the state budgets and the people in power, no one out there is going to stand over the farmers and orchardists with firearms and cans of gasoline to make sure everything in the fields is destroyed so that none of it gets into the food chain.(You’re especially screwed if you like broccoli)

Sort of tough for people who buy their fresh fruits and veggies at the grocery store:”California produces more than half the nation’s fresh fruits and is the leading producer of fresh vegetables…California plants more than 80% of the nation’s broccoli acreage. California also produces 75% of the nation’s spinach, 75% of the nation’s fresh tomatoes, and 95% of tomatoes used for processing….Apples, strawberries, grapes, oranges and peaches made up 69 percent of the value of US fresh market production. California is the leading producer of all these fruits except apples; Washington State accounts for half the nation’s supply.”
West Coast Green

Many people are making comparisons between what has happened already (and what might possibly happen) in Japan with the explosion and fire at Chermobyl. Hundreds of technicians and firefighters died within a couple of months of that event due to radiation sickness and massive increases in thyroid cancers has been one result; the health of people in the region is still monitored, 25 years later. What happened at Chernobyl

But from an agricultural and food aspect, what happened from Chernobyl?
“Twenty four years after the catastrophe, restriction orders remain in place in the production, transportation and consumption of food contaminated by Chernobyl fallout. In the UK, they remain in place on 369 farms covering 750 km² and 200,000 sheep. In parts of Sweden and Finland, restrictions are in place on stock animals, including reindeer, in natural and near-natural environments. “In certain regions of Germany, Austria, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania and Poland, wild game (including boar and deer), wild mushrooms, berries and carnivorous fish from lakes reach levels of several thousand Bq per kg of caesium-137”, while “in Germany, caesium-137 levels in wild boar muscle reached 40,000 Bq/kg. The average level is 6,800 Bq/kg, more than ten times the EU limit of 600 Bq/kg”, according to the TORCH 2006 report. The European Commission has stated that “The restrictions on certain foodstuffs from certain Member States must therefore continue to be maintained for many years to come”.[6]
As of 2009, sheep farmed in some areas of the UK are still subject to inspection which may lead to them being prohibited from entering the human food chain because of contamination arising from the accident:
“Some of this radioactivity, predominantly radiocaesium-137, was deposited on certain upland areas of the UK, where sheep-farming is the primary land-use. Due to the particular chemical and physical properties of the peaty soil types present in these upland areas, the radiocaesium is still able to pass easily from soil to grass and hence accumulate in sheep. A maximum limit of 1,000 becquerels per kilogramme (Bq/kg) of radiocaesium is applied to sheep meat affected by the accident to protect consumers. This limit was introduced in the UK in 1986, based on advice from the European Commission’s Article 31 group of experts. Under power provided under the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 (FEPA), Emergency Orders have been used since 1986 to impose restrictions on the movement and sale of sheep exceeding the limit in certain parts of Cumbria, North Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland… When the Emergency Orders were introduced in 1986, the Restricted Areas were large, covering almost 9,000 farms, and over 4 million sheep. Since 1986, the areas covered by restrictions have dramatically decreased and now cover 369 farms, or part farms, and around 200,000 sheep. This represents a reduction of over 95% since 1986, with only limited areas of Cumbria, South Western Scotland and North Wales, covered by restrictions.[15] ”

Chernobyl: Plant and Animal Health

For several really detailed maps of radiation contamination around the world from Chernobyl, see Chernobyl radiation: where it went

One thing you will notice is that although the other sites cited here talk about contamination in the UK, this is NOT noted on these maps, which only goes to show you that you can have contamination which is not necessarily officially noted. So far, except for a highly suspect map coming out of a private firm in Australia, I have not seen any info on the potential radiation plume except at where there is a very nice discussion about potential paths, standard high pressure domes in the Pacific and the amount of time it might take radioactive particles to cross the Pacific. Winds at Japan power plants

But again – back to food. At the moment, if I lived on the West Coast, I’d be buying up whatever canned goods I could and whatever fresh produce I could find and freezing it or home canning it as quickly as I could. What is on the shelves and out in the fields TODAY is fine. Two weeks from now will be another deal entirely. I have not seen any discussion yet about fruits and veggies grown in greenhouses or in high tunnels; keep your eyes out about that. Ditto on dairy produced in closed systems (which California is the king of, by the way – most cows in California do not see the light of day or green grass… ever). If you have infants at home on formulas, stock up now.

Remember: ingested radioactivity is actually more dangerous than the stuff on the skin that can be washed off. Here is some really good information from (doG help us) New Jersey for their farmers; it is very possible that your state agriculture and markets or emergency preparedness department will be sending out the same sort of information for your state’s farmers, so you might want to call or check out the government web sites in terms of what might or might not be available this spring and summer at your local farmers’ markets:

“How could radiation affect my crops?
Radioactive particles could cause external contamination of your plants. You may not be able to harvest some ripe fruits and vegetables. Fruit that doesn’t have to be picked right away can be saved. It can be picked after the contamination is gone. County agricultural agents will tell you if the crops are safe.

What growing vegetables would be safe to eat?
Vegetables that have leaves, pods, or fruit can be cleaned and eaten. Washing is the best way to clean them. The outer layers of green vegetables should be removed and thrown away.
Roots and tubers like potatoes and carrots don’t absorb much radiation. Underground crops can be eaten after normal cleaning or peeling.

Will the emergency affect my business?
A serious accident may affect your business for several weeks. As mentioned before, you may not be able to harvest ripe fruits or vegetables. If there are delays in milk pick-ups, you may have to throw away milk you can’t store. Another effect might be public reaction. People may not want to buy products from farms near the power plant. State officials will tell you how much contamination your farm experienced. They will also tell how to market your crops and dairy products.

How long could radiation affect my land?
Generally, several weeks. After that, most land could go back to its normal use. State and federal officials will check your land. They will tell you when it is safe.,..

Why is it so important to protect dairy animals?
One of the materials a nuclear accident could release is Iodine-131. If a person or animal eats food or drinks water with Iodine-131 it gets into the body. Cows with Iodine-131 produce contaminated milk. Humans can be harmed if they drink the milk or eat the dairy products. So, protecting your dairy animals is important. By protecting them, you keep the supply of dairy products pure. And you protect people from the harmful Iodine-131.

How can I protect my dairy animals? Products?
You should do these things to protect your dairy animals:
• Take the animals out of the pasture. Don’t let them graze.
• Keep them inside if possible.
• Feed them only stored food.
• Water them only from protected water supplies.
• Use protected self-feeders and automatic waterers if you have them.

What about other kinds of livestock?
Again, take care of your dairy animals first. Shelter them. Give them protected feed and water. Other livestock can be protected the same way. If you have extra shelter, feed and water, give it to them.

What about poultry?
Poultry can be given the same care as other animals. If they are outside, move them indoors. Give them protected feed and water.
Taking care of poultry may be less of a problem. They are usually raised indoors and given stored feed. This means they are already well protected. Also, poultry have more resistance to radiation.

Fish and other marine life raised in ponds may continue to be harvested unless appropriate State or local government officials have determined through laboratory analysis of samples that they are contaminated. Samples of water, fish and marine life from open bodies of freshwater and saltwater should also be analyzed to ensure that they are safe.

Honey should be stored unused until the State has a chance to inspect it.
farmers and radiation contamination

Blog Widget by LinkWithin


  1. Auntie Allyn says:

    Hadn’t considered all of this . . . thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  2. SportsGuy3 says:

    Ugh. I just posted a long response but once I posted it got erased. Anyway, may want to check that. Not going to rewrite but I totally agree with you. I’m submitting this on Reddit to share with my good friends. I’ll just use your title as the title for your hyperlink.

Bad Behavior has blocked 484 access attempts in the last 7 days.