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110. Food Safety and Security in China and Japan: Science, Technology, and “Food Safety Peace of Mind”

Fri, March 17, 3:00 to 5:00pm, Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, Floor: Mezzanine, Linden

Session Submission Type: Roundtable Session


This roundtable brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to compare and contrast risk communication in food safety and security in China, Hong Kong, and Japan. The panelists evaluate the promise of science and technology to meet public demands for food safety and security and assess the role of governments in communicating food safety risk and using food and water for bio-political control. Anthropologist and Japan specialist Nicolas Sternsdorff-Cisterna considers the nexus between radioactive testing equipment and the properties of pollutants in constituting notions about food safety in post-Fukushima Japan. Based on long-term fieldwork after the nuclear disaster, Sternsdorff-Cisterna notes the mismatch between the people’s desire to find food with zero radiation and the inability of detectors to achieve that standard of accuracy due to ambiguities inherent to detecting radioactive contaminants. Sociologist Siu-Keung Cheung uses the concept of bio-power to examine China’s control over Hong Kong’s food and water supplies since 1997. Cheung notes that the Chinese government has sought this bio-political control over the lives and bodies of Hong Kong people to counter the rising radicalism and separatism in the territory, deepen integration, and enhance the legitimacy of Chinese rule, but argues that China’s efforts have been counterproductive. In China, steps taken to improve food security have led to greater anxiety about public health and food safety. Political Scientist and China expert Nicholas Thomas, in a paper co-authored with Catherine Lo Yuk-ping, examines how the use of antibiotics in livestock and agricultural produce has contributed to the global spread of anti-microbial resistant (AMR) disease strains. Despite concern about these AMR diseases, Thomas and Lo assert that Chinese authorities have yet to address the widespread use of antibiotics in the food chain with any degree of urgency. The focus on security of supply has also led to greater interest by the Chinese leadership in genetically modified food, as China specialist and Political Scientist Elizabeth Wishnick examines in her paper. Despite widespread public concerns in China over the safety of GM food, the effort by the Chinese state-owned company ChemChina to buy the Swiss GM food producer, Syngenta, in what could be the largest overseas deal by a Chinese company, has dramatized China’s changing policy toward GM food.

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