Saturday

26th Sep 2020

MEPs call for Fukushima food data to be made public

  • Rice harvest. Rice from Fukushima was under more stringent controls, but according to data analysed by the EU commission that is no longer necessary (Photo: Chris Oostyen)

The European Parliament's food safety committee adopted a text on Thursday (7 September), warning against the danger to public health of a proposed change in inspections of imported food from Japan, amid accusations of using "Trump-style alternative facts".

"Rather than protecting citizens, you are creating scares," said British Conservative MEP Julie Girling ahead of the vote.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"Consumers are perfectly protected," she said.

The European Commission, more diplomatically, also said the MEPs' fears were groundless.

But a majority of committee MEPs supported the resolution through show of hands.

The text is a response to a commission plan, which proposed taking rice and several fish species off the list of imports from Japan that need extra inspections.

The inspections were introduced as an emergency measure after the nuclear disaster in Fukushima in March 2011.

According to the commission, the decision to scale back on checks is based on a thorough analysis of data on radioactive levels from samples.

But the parliament committee's resolution said "there are sufficient reasons to believe" that the change "could lead to an increase in exposure to radioactive contaminated food with a corresponding impact on human health".

It called on the commission to withdraw the proposal and come with a new one before the end of the year.

On Tuesday, centre-left MEP Christel Schaldemose told EUobserver that the EU should be "cautious" with importing food from Fukushima.

"We are completely relying on data from the Japanese side. … I wouldn't say we can't trust them, but it is worth checking ourselves," said the Danish MEP.

However, MEP Girling said that the text was full of "mistruths" and that she was "shocked" when she read it.

"It's verging on Trump-style alternative facts," said the member of the third-largest political group, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR).

As an example, Girling gave the complaints in the resolution that there was a lack of access to information.

The text said "while the changes in the draft proposal are based on a detailed analysis of the aforementioned data, neither this analysis, nor a link to the raw data, was provided in the draft proposal".

It added that it is "very difficult to verify whether the measures proposed are sufficient to protect the health of Union citizens".

But Girling pointed out that raw data is already public.

"If anybody wants to have the links to the website, we got them in two minutes," she said.

The commission has also offered to provide MEPs with the detailed analysis that was mentioned.

The British MEP noted the text wrongly implies there is a "conspiracy", and reminded her colleagues that they have often complained about the "alternative facts culture".

"It's deeply disappointing we seem to be indulging in it ourselves," she said.

No postponement

The largest group in the parliament, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), had proposed postponing the vote, after an EU commission official had informed MEPs that the relevant committee of member states will not vote on the proposal in September.

"So if we postpone today, and vote in October in the plenary, that will still be in time," said MEP Peter Liese. "That would send a stronger signal than to rush it now."

Greens MEP Claude Turmes noted, however, that there was no time to lose.

"If we don't vote today we lose our democratic right to have a say on this issue," he said.

He said he believed that the relaxing of inspections is related to the negotiations for an EU-Japan free trade agreement, and referred to statements made by commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker last July at an EU-Japan summit.

Juncker had said he was "confident and [that he] will work in that direction that we will have, after the summer break, a further lifting of import measures".

To the Green Luxembourgish MEP, this is proof that the change in the inspections procedure was a bargaining chip in the trade talks.

Of the 60 MEPs, only 25 supported to postpone the vote, while 35 opposed it. In general, the support for adopting the text came from the left and the centre-left.

The parliament's text itself is non-binding in nature.

Analysis

Visegrad lobby makes food quality an EU issue

Fico convinced the EU commission chief to take action in the perceived problem of discriminatory food practices, even though the evidence for the phenomenon is anecdotal.

Egg scare prompts review of EU alert systems

Health ministers' meeting called to discuss improvements to EU alert systems, but Danish and French authorities said pesticide levels in eggs too low to harm people.

Feature

The 150 random French citizens advising Macron

Some 150 randomly-picked men and women make up Emmanuel Macron's Citizens' Climate Convention. This week Macron invited them to the Élysée Palace and promised - nearly - all of their wishes would come true .

France shuts oldest reactor amid Macron climate pledges

France's oldest nuclear power plant finally closed on Tuesday, one day after president Emmanuel Macron pledged to speed up the country's transition to a greener economy responding to the proposals from the French citizens' convention on climate.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. Berlin repeats support for EU human rights sanctions
  2. China's carbon pledge at UN sends 'clear message' to US
  3. Far right using pandemic to win friends in Germany
  4. Visegrad countries immediately push back on new migration pact
  5. Why no EU progress on Black Lives Matter?
  6. EU migration pact to deter asylum
  7. 'Era of EU naivety ends', MEP pledges on foreign meddling
  8. Anti-mask protesters pose challenge for EU authorities

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us