Christopher Clement, an expert at the International Commission on Radiological Protection, a global nonprofit authority on radiation health, says the food standards in Fukushima are safe. They are lower than the maximums set in Europe after Chernobyl.
Still, people across Japan — and even in Fukushima — are shunning food grown here, though Takeshi Takagi, a manager at the York Benimaru supermarket chain, said customers are gradually returning to locally grown produce.
York Benimaru has clearly labeled shelves for Fukushima-grown food, and bright banners encouraging shoppers to support local farmers. But some pass right by.
"We have our rice shipped from outside Fukushima," said Tomohiko Hashimoto, a 30-year-old house-husband, strolling his infant son through the aisles. "We're careful about what the mother eats, too. She is breastfeeding."
Last year's sales of Fukushima vegetables and fruit on the Tokyo wholesale market were 20 percent lower than the 2010 total, according to Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market data. Masataka Kase, spokesman for Tokyo Seika Co., a major wholesaler, said the drop came from crop damage from the disaster, shipment bans for radiation and consumer fears about Fukushima.
Ogata won't need to sell his rice to skeptics. He plans to sell some of his 10,000 kilograms (22,000 pounds) of rice direct to customers he has cultivated for years, families who live in the area. The rest he will sell to a local farming cooperative that distributes to corporate buyers, such as restaurants, that are more willing to buy Fukushima rice.
A handful of farmers are giving up on growing rice. Some are switching to flowers, which don't require radiation checks. Others are suing Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility that operates Fukushima Dai-ichi, for damages.
Fukushima farmer Shoichi Watanabe is angry he even has to worry about radiation.
"See how peaceful this place is," he said, pointing to paddies filled with gently croaking frogs. "I want to say at the top of my lungs that we would not be going through all this suffering — if only Tokyo Electric had done its job right."
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