Former Japanese PM Taro Aso faces heat for claiming climate change makes ‘tastier’ rice

Japan’s former Prime Minister Taro Aso, who’s been known to make controversial comments, drew attention again on Monday when he claimed that global warming has led to “tastier” rice. Recently elected Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has since apologized on his behalf. 

The incident: Aso made the comment that there is “something good” to global warming while giving a campaign speech at Hokkaido city of Otaru in support of a candidate from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), reported Newsweek.

  • The 81-year-old politician, who serves as the current vice president of the LDP, claimed that Hokkaido rice “used to be unsalable” until the rising temperatures made it tastier. 

The aftermath: On Tuesday, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida apologized on television and noted that Aso’s comment was “inappropriate,” Japan Times reported. 

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  • “The taste of rice becomes better through tireless efforts by the people involved, such as cultivar improvement,” Kishida said.
  • The prime minister also added that climate change poses a major challenge to the world, as it may lead to natural disasters and disruptions to farming. 
  • Hokkaido’s chapter of the LDP’s main opposition party, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, along with the Hokkaido Farmer’s Union have both objected to the remarks, claiming that they undermine the work of farmers. 
  • Hidehiko Tanaka, a professor of crop science at Takushoku University Hokkaido College, said, as per Mainichi: “To produce rice grains, temperatures need to reach a certain level within 40 days after rice stalks emerge. Higher temperatures partly contribute to crop yield and quality.” 
  • He then suggested that Aso’s remark was not accurate, as “an accumulation of factors such as breed improvements and farmers’ efforts is the foundation of producing good-tasting rice.”

Past incidents: While Aso was prime minister of Japan from 2008 to 2009, he has been under fire for various controversial statements throughout his entire political career. 

  • In January of last year, he claimed that Japan was the only country to “[last] 2,000 years with one language, one ethnic group and one dynasty” despite the presence of ethnic minorities and indigenous groups.
  • He later addressed the matter at a news conference, saying, “If I made a remark that has caused misunderstanding, I have to take care of my way of speaking and correct what I said.” 
  • In 2017, Aso drew outrage for his comment on Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler that he later retracted. He described Hitler, who led the mass murder of millions of Jews, as having the “right motives,” to show the way politicians are remembered for their results regardless of intent.

Featured Image via Getty (left), Rahul Viswanath (right)

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