China’s waterways are smeared with the dense tint of pollution, their air thick with smog. Chinese women are facing an increased risk of breast cancer. But it’s not for the reason you think. The increase of breast cancer in Asian women is associated with the westernization of their diet. Meat, sugars and all those processed foods are filling many of their plates, rather than the previous consumption of a high vegetable and soy based diet. Yet, many countries are turning a disapproving eye toward China and their lack of social responsibility when it comes to health and environmental safety issues. China is recoiling, citing unfair treatment within the world trading system, for once not in reference to the anti-dumping provisions they are often held subject to.
The U.S. FDA is turning away one shipment after another from the environmentally wayward country, and for good reason. But there is a fine line between naivety and turning a blind eye. It’s hard to imagine that China has only recently taken to shipping low-quality, sub-standard products to the U.S. and other countries – even harder to imagine that the biggest health and safety crisis in the U.S. lies with the contamination of these products alone. Thoroughly inspecting imports is only one small, well publicized step in what needs to be made a nationwide awareness of the growing health and safety crisis within the U.S., not to mention worldwide.
We are the same country whose vise president swayed public officials to side step previously mandated endangered species policy, leading to the death of nearly 70000 salmon between California and Oregon in 2002. Apparently, it’s ok to kill our own fish and leave them floundering along the shore, as long as our irrigation systems are working properly. And our own FDA has pulled previously approved pharmaceuticals from the shelves, Vioxx and Zelnorm, and increased restrictions on approved drugs such as Avandia and Actos. Yet the Chinese government has just executed the former director of their State Food and Drug Administration for accepting bribes to approve unsafe and fake drugs. The last time I checked, Ex-Tyco CEO L. Dennis Kozlowski, Martha Stewart and Enron officials are all alive and kicking; no examples here. So what are we to do, as we point our most prominent finger at the Chinese suppliers for sending us contaminated goods, from a polluted nation?
Do we refuse contaminated food from China, appalled and angered at their blatant disregard for health and safety, while we ourselves continue to poison our children, ourselves, and even other countries with processed foods and empty calories? Do we roll our eyes at a government that is executing State Food and Drug Administration directors for accepting bribes that allowed unsafe pharmaceuticals onto the market, while we ourselves question our own FDA and their ability to remain unbiased and effective in protecting our safety? The U.S. and China have entered into a full scale game of finger pointing, trying to prove one more corrupt and dangerous than the other. We’re two bullies on the playground, fighting between ourselves over who’s going to take the blame for the largest portion of crying, bloody nosed children running for the nurse’s office. China is not the enemy. The U.S. is not the enemy. We’re all citizens of wayward government policy, a symbolic group of bloody nosed children seeking shelter, seemingly defenseless against government bullies. Yet, I’ve always wondered when all the bruised and bloody children were going to realize that even two bullies don’t stand a chance against a united fury of tiny, perhaps bloody, but determined fists. The only way to truly protect our own rights for health and safety is to protect the rights of all citizens across the globe. Have we forgotten that reform begins with citizens, frustrated and ready for reform of a government that is no longer meeting their needs?