Risky Food: Abstract

“Risky Food: Understanding Potentially Disadvantageous Taiwanese Food Trade Restrictions.”

I plan to research two cases in which Taiwanese fears about the safety of imported food led to trade restrictions. In the first case, fears of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) and the food additive ractopamine led to restrictions on US beef. Restrictions have been ongoing for over a decade. In the second case, Taiwan has instituted and maintained of¬†radioactive¬†contamination of food products from the Fukushima area of Japan, where the 2011 nuclear disaster occurred. While there remains some level of risk with both foods, the danger has been argued to be relatively low. Potentially more consequential is the risk of damaging relations with the United States and Japan, two of Taiwan’s most important partners.

My research will examine this puzzling situation. I will seek to understand why Taiwan apparently may be willing to risk compromising its relationships with the United States and Japan. I plan to investigate the role of the state, media, and other actors in shaping public perceptions of risk and the impact of Taiwanese-style democracy on gaps between expert and public opinions. I will compare the two situations in hopes of gaining insights from their similarities and differences. I will question how differing perspectives of international relations might respond to the situation.

Puzzling out this paradox will provide better context for future actions that navigate the precarious waters surrounding Taiwanese international relations.