Saturday, September 20, 2008

Poison Milk & Poison Rice

The Sutra of Limitless Life says:

"But this world is filled with evil, such that good no longer occurs naturally. Beings seek hard to fulfill their desires, resorting to mutual deception; their minds and bodies are strained and troubled, drinking suffering and eating poison - these evil works never come to rest."

Indeed, these verses of the Buddha accurately describe the times that we are in now. Because of our tireless pursuit of desires, the world we live in is turning more and more turbid; so much so that even the water we drink and the food we eat become poisonous.

Which brings us to the latest news, focusing on the growing scandal of China's famous Sanlu brand milk products, which was discovered to be contaminated with melamine for months. Melamine is a toxic chemical used to create the illusion of extra protein in milk, but causes kidney stones or kidney failure when ingested by the body. Above we see packets of the toxic baby milk formula sold widely by Sanlu.
So far 3 babies had died of kidney failure, 158 in critical condition and more than 6,000 sick with kidney stones. The nationwide outrage has caused heads to roll, including Sanlu chairwoman Tian Wenhua and party officials in Shijiazhuang (provincial capital of Hebei), who did not report the contamination even though they have learned of it on August 2nd. Individual dairy farmers were also arrested for adding melamine into fresh milk. However these guys are just the henchmen; the real culprits are the unethical factory bosses and the corrupt officials.
And the effects of this scandal can be felt not only in China. Besides Sanlu, related Chinese dairy brands like Yili, Mengniu, Yashili and Suncare have exported their tainted milk products overseas to places like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Yemen, Bangladesh and Myanmar. This caused all the affected countries to stop importing all Chinese milk products and test all existing stock for melamine content. Most of those belonging to Sanlu are found to be unsafe and were disposed of. But for those already sold into the market and taken by consumers, nothing much could be done. Fortunately enough, there are no reports of poisoning in the affected foreign countries so far.
Who would have thought that Japan, a country with a reputation of cleanliness and efficiency would also be struck with a similar food scandal at the same time? Unscrupulous rice traders in Japan were found to have imported industrial rice tainted with mould and pesticide and sold them to food companies as edible rice. These tainted rice from China, Vietnam and the US had since been made into all sorts of food like rice cakes, rice biscuits and rice wine. Shockingly, thousands of Japanese already consumed these rice products, but with no reported ill-effects. Authorities say that was because the concentration of pesticide in the rice was too low to harm people, even though it exceeded government regulations. Still, the Japanese could not believe such a thing could happen again to them so soon after the contaminated Chinese dumplings scandal.
Well this has caused a rice distributor to commit suicide as well as the newly appointed agriculture minister Ota Seiichi (above) to resign in shame. What does the current episode of poison milk and poison rice in East Asia tell us? It tells us that that even though contaminated food can harm many innocent people, it cannot harm as many people as a "contaminated" mind. A mind poisoned by greed, imprisoned by craving transforms the world into a sorry place. Those greedy milk merchants and officials in China, as well as the dirty rice merchants in Japan only care about earning money and expanding their business beyond their means; they don't care about how much harm they would cause the people in their own country. But what goes around comes around. The worldly law had caught up with them and they must now pay for their crimes. In the future, the fruits of Karma will also ripen and great torments await them in the lower realms. The real poison is not melamine or pesticide; the real poison is greed. Greed seeks to benefit deluded individuals at the expanse of the masses, but in the end the greatest harm is bore by those individuals themselves. Therefore we must purify the mind with Dharma and let it be free from greed. Let us pray for those who drink suffering and eat poison; may they come to their senses and follow the Buddha's path, sadhu.

No comments: