Break the food chain

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Break the food chain

What shocked and upset consumers most from the unprecedented egg scandal was that many of the yields from farms certified by the state as “environmentally friendly” contained pesticide residues. Of 52 farms discovered to have overused pesticides beyond accepted levels, 31 were environmentally friendly. Eggs from two environmentally friendly farms contained dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), a pesticide banned in Korea since 1979 because it is highly toxic.

At the heart of the problem was the revolving-door practice where retired officials from the agriculture ministry found jobs in private certification agencies that did the work on behalf of the government.

Every major accident involved collusion between bureaucrats and enterprises behind it. The sinking of the Sewol ferry was attributed to the granting of illegal ship renovation and train accidents also had some kind of collusive connection between former bureaucrats and the industry. The conniving ties between the public and private sector have long threatened the safety and competitiveness of Korean people and economy.

The law restricting hiring of retired government officials in related corporate fields since 2015 somewhat helped curb the practice. But officials from state-invested and umbrella institutions still found jobs in related industries easily.

Some say it is inevitable since the industry requires bureaucratic expertise. But their expertise was used incorrectly. Most of the environmentally-friendly farms hired officials from the agricultural ministry’s umbrella institution to get approval for the quality of their produce. Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon ordered a thorough investigation to track down the connection, and the agricultural ministry vowed to follow up on the move.

But the case must not end in a makeshift action. The prosecution too must embark on an investigation. The government must come up with more fundamental solutions to root out the deeply seated collusive supply chain among state regulators and industries.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 22, Page 30
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