Using the World Social Forum as a launching pad, consumer rights group Public Citizen has started a campaign in Brazil to draw attention to what it calls the "dangers associated with foodIrradiation" in the country.
Brazil currently has 11 irradiation facilities, more than any othercountry in the world, the reason for which Public Citizen claims is largely due to lax environmental laws, cheap labourand an influx of agribusiness because of climate and landmass.
During a conference workshop on irradiation, a newly formed coalition of international activists declared a need for an awareness campaign "to educate people on the health effects of consuminga diet of irradiated food, the role of irradiation in trade, and theglobal effects that irradiation will have on family farmers".
Public Citizen, the European Farmers Union, the Institute for Agriculture and TradePolicy, the Integrated Rural Development Foundation and the Brazilianlandless farmers' movement, Movimiento Sem Terra (MST), are part of thecoalition that will conduct the campaign. The workshop featured a panel of speakers from Europe, Brazil and the US who are currently involvedin campaigns to fight irradiation.
"Food irradiation is a sly manoeuvre on the part of agribusiness in order to accrue profits at the expense of people's livelihoods andhealth," said Andrianna Natsoulas, an organiser with Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Programme. "Ultimately, agribusinessis only interested in Brazil for its own profit, not for the economic stability of Brazil."Currently farmland in Brazil is relatively cheap - 2,470 real (€720) per acre, compared to13,587 real (€4,000) in the United States. And according to the lobby group, it is the availability of this cheap land that luresprospectors from across the world who want to grow lucrative cash cropsfor export, pushing indigenous peoples from their land.
Currently Brazil has the most liberal food irradiation legislation in the world -any food can be irradiated at any dose, and for any reason. In view of this legislation and with the support of Brazil's leaders, irradiation companies SureBeam and Tech IonIndustrial Brazil are now planning to build 21 more facilities. As moreUS-based agribusinesses move into Brazil, irradiation will enable themto export more produce, because irradiation extends shelf life and killsinvasive species that are seen as a "barrier to trade."
Irradiation uses gamma rays, X-rays or accelerated electrons that alterthe molecular structure of food in an attempt to kill pathogens andinsects. Leading irradiation providers claim that it provides safer, cleaner, bacteria-free meat with a longer shelf life. The opposition to food irradiation, led by groups such as Public Citizen, claims that the process reduces the nutritional value of food and that it has not been fully tested yet.