Japan is faced with various problems related to food and nutrition. Japanese agriculture and fishery is in a free-falling decline and food scandals and irradiated food products stir fears amongst Japanese consumers. Japan’s low food self-sufficiency ratio and the dependency on imported foods have been discussed among policy makers, consumer advocacy groups and producers alike for several decades. The paper discusses discourse on three different food safety issues: GMO foods, the use of pesticides and irradiated food. It analyzes the agendas of consumer advocacy groups, producers, JA and the national government against the background of global food chains, livelihood problems of rural food producers in Japan and the growing complexity of food choices Japanese consumers have to handle. This paper argues that within this discourse, the spatialization of food safety and food risks is a strategy in favor of producers’ interests and thus not necessarily on behalf of consumers. Based on recent field work in different parts of Japan, the relationship between food distribution networks, consumer advocacy organizations, farmers, food producers, JA officials and ministry bureaucrats will be explored.
Dr. Cornelia Reiher is a Lecturer in the Institute of Political Science and Japanese Studies at Halle University, Germany. She received her PhD from Leipzig University for a thesis about ‘Discourses on local identity in rural Japan. Arita’s ceramic industry in global contexts’. Her current research focuses on globalization, food politics and identities.