Jun 29, 2008

Last laugh

Well actually the fish did as I refused to eat him and had to endure his Cheshire smile my whole meal. I've gone from beimg a pesco-veg to a full veg while in Vietnam cause the quality of the fish in all but the very best restaurants (or sidewalk vendors) is suspect.

This guy came from the streams around La Luoi, and while the Agent Orange used to defoliate that area during the war breaks down fairly quickly, the dioxins it was contaminated with have a 50-year half life. Although the denuding effects of Agent Orange are comparatively easy to correct through replanting, the dioxins are in the soil - and thus in the food chain - will be wrecking havoc for a long time.

Christie Aschwanden brought the issue to my attention through an article she wrote for the New York Times last year. With her help I got in touch with Phung Tuu Boi, a Vietnamese biologist in Hanoi who has done great work to limit the villagers' exposure to the most heavily contaminated areas. Mr. Boi has planted trees that grow to form natural fences around many of what would be superfund sites in the US. These trees both limit access to the area and produce a nut that can be harvested to make soap. The dioxins are still in the ground but at least they aren't getting into the local people's diet.

Whether or not my piscine buddy was contaminated I'll never know, but I figure that tofu and rice are safer alternatives. Plus they don't give me any 'tude.

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