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2008年11月28日 (金)

農水省―消費者軽視の重い責任

2008/11/28 --The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 27(IHT/Asahi: November 28,2008)

EDITORIAL: Farm ministry's woes

農水省―消費者軽視の重い責任

We have to wonder about the priorities of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and ask this basic question: Who do its officials think they work for? We raise this point after reading a report on the farm ministry by a government panel of intellectuals.

 農林水産省は、いったいどこを向いて、だれのために仕事をしているのか。そうあきれてしまうような報告書が出た。 

The panel was looking into the scandal over the sale of pesticide-tainted rice that ended up in food products and trying to determine responsibility for the problem. The report states: "The farm ministry itself has tried to evade responsibility for food safety." It also noted that the ministry's entrenched "bureaucratic nature" ensures that officials go about their daily work with no thought as to the consequences of their actions.

 農薬などで汚染された事故米が食用に不正転売された問題で、原因と責任を議論してきた政府の有識者会議がまとめた検証結果である。 

 「農水省自身が食の安全性に責任を持とうとしていなかった」 

 「目先の仕事をこなしていればよいという官僚主義的体質」 

The panel did not mince words in its criticism of the ministry's blatant disregard for public health. We urge the ministry to take the panel's criticism to heart.

 ここまでばっさりと切られるほど、国民に目を向けていないというのは深刻な事態だ。農水省は、この報告を重く受けとめなくてはならない。 

There is no question that those who deserve immediate condemnation are the businesses that committed wrongdoing in the first place. But there is also no doubt that the slipshod way in which ministry officials handled matters made the problem worse.

 確かに一番悪いのは不正を働いた業者だろう。だが、農水省のずさんな対応が問題を広げたことは間違いない。 

Let's also not forget that it was the ministry that sold tainted rice it judged unfit for human consumption to businesses for industrial use. The ministry did not bother to take any special steps, such as coloring the rice, to prevent illegal resale of the grain. Its inspections of the buyers of the rice were also conducted in a perfunctory manner.

 そもそも食用には適さないと判断した米を、工業用などとして業者に売ったのは農水省だ。その際、米に色をつけるといった不正転売の防止策を何一つ取らず、売ったあとの業者への検査もきわめておざなりだった。 

The ministry's first priority was to offload the tainted rice quickly. No thought was given to consumers. Instead of being used for industrial glue and other products, the tainted rice was processed into sekihan red rice, shochu distilled spirit and other items. Consumers had no idea they were being exposed to unsafe products.

 事故米を早く処分することが優先され、消費者は二の次、三の次に置かれた。そうこうしているうちに事故米は赤飯や焼酎になって、何も知らない消費者の口に入ってしまったのだ。 

The report pointed out that sectionalism within the ministry and poor communication with local branches contributed to the problem. It strongly urged successive farm ministers and vice ministers to reflect on the way the ministry was being administered.

 農水省内の縦割り意識や出先機関との連絡の悪さ。報告書はそうした背景を指摘した。歴代の農水相や事務次官らにも強く反省を求めた。 

Farm minister Shigeru Ishiba said he will take disciplinary action against the officials who put priority on rice sales instead of food safety. In this regard, Ishiba said that he, too, would exercise self-punishment.

This is only natural, given the seriousness of the problem and the anxiety it caused to consumers and the food industry.

 石破農水相は、自らを含む関係職員の処分をする方針だという。あれほど消費者を不安にし、食品業界を混乱させた問題である。当然のことだ。 

But the ministry must not close the book on this scandal by simply disciplining the officials involved. This is only the starting point for it to make a fresh start as an organization committed to protecting public safety.

 ただ、処分をすれば終わりと考えてもらっては困る。これは農水省が国民の安全を守る組織として出直すための出発点にすぎないのだ。 

It needs to drastically change the mind-set of ministry officials. Instead of simply following precedents, we want individual officials to reflect on what they need to do.

 まず、職員の意識を本気で変えることから始めなくてはならない。漫然と前例を踏襲するだけでなく、一人一人が問題意識を持ってほしい。 

When it came under intense criticism about the lackadaisical way it dealt with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease, the ministry implemented organizational reform. This included setting up the Food Safety and Consumer Affairs Bureau. But as this new scandal shows, the organization did not live up to its name nor show that it had learned lessons from the past.

 かつて、牛海綿状脳症(BSE)の対応ぶりを批判されたあと、農水省は食の安全を重視するために消費・安全局をつくるといった組織の見直しをした。だが今回、新しい組織は生かされなかった。あの時の反省や経験はどこへ行ってしまったのか。 

This problem does not concern the farm ministry alone. A slew of problems go unattended because they fall into gaps created by the jurisdictions of government offices as well as due to bureaucratic sectionalism and a culture of trying to avoid complications. When it comes to food safety, we frequently see cases in which both the farm ministry and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare take a back seat.

 ほかの省庁もひとごとではない。役所内の縦割りや事なかれ主義だけでなく、省庁の管轄のすき間に落ちて対応が遅れる問題も珍しくない。食の安全では、農水省と厚生労働省がともに腰を引いてしまう例がしばしば起きる。 

Traditionally, the nation's administration has focused on industrial development as its priority. The harmful effects of this policy are surfacing one after another. Despite this background, there are no prospects of the Diet deliberating a bill to establish a consumer affairs agency anytime soon.

 日本の行政が産業育成にばかり目を向けていた弊害が次々に明らかになっている。なのに消費者庁の設置法案は、この国会に出されたまま審議に入るめども立っていない。 

The administration of consumer affairs must be reformed. Both the bureaucracy and politics are being put to the test.

 消費者行政をどう立て直すのか。霞が関も政治も問われている。

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