Monday, April 11, 2011

Japan Bans Planting Rice in Radioactive Soil

We are talking about an extraordinary amount of rice on a national scale.

Japan produced 8.5 million tons of rice in 2010, almost all for domestic consumption. It exported just 1,900 tons for sale last year, with Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan the top recipients. It imported about 664,000 tons last year.

Japan bans planting rice in radioactive soil
By Ryan Nakashima

TOKYO (AP) - Fears of radiation spread to rice as the planting season began in Japan, prompting the government to ban its cultivation in contaminated soil as fallout leaking from a tsunami-damaged nuclear plant dealt another blow to the national diet.

Vegetables and milk were the first foods that sparked concerns about the safety of Japanese agriculture after the March 11 tsunami flooded the nuclear plant and its reactors began to overheat and spew radiation. But those worries intensified when highly radioactive water was spotted gushing from the complex into the Pacific and contaminated fish showed up in catches.

Those concerns have abated somewhat after the leak was plugged and bans on produce from some areas were lifted.

But rice has now come under the microscope as the planting season begins in April and May.

"We had to come up with a policy quickly because we are in planting season," said Agriculture Minister Michihiko Kano, who announced the ban Friday.

The ban will apply to any soil found to contain high levels of radioactive cesium, and farmers who cannot grow rice will be compensated. Rice grown in uncontaminated soil will be screened.

Yoshiyuki Ueda, a 47-year-old rice farmer from the town of Futaba, where the damaged nuclear plant is located, said he had already given up on trying to plant this year's crop because of radiation fears.

"The ground is ruined," Ueda said. "I think it will be a long time until things return to normal." more

No comments: