The food safety crisis, which is worsening as a result of the March 11 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, is having a devastating effect on farmers in the region.
"A growing number of people are killing themselves in Fukushima," said Toshihide Kameda, 63, who is a rice and vegetable farmer from the Prefecture. He was one of about 300 farmers from the Tohoku region who attended a rally outside the Tokyo headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) on Wednesday.
"We are suffering from mental agony. We don't know when we can return home, and we can't work even though we want to," he said. Kameda said orders this year were less than 20% of normal levels and gloom was spreading, with alcoholism on the rise among dispirited farmers.
Farmer Mitsuyo Tarukawa, 61, whose husband committed suicide in the wake of the nuclear accident, said: "Please clean up the contaminated soil. The soil is everything for farmers like us. Without it, we can't do anything."© 2011 AFP