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Rice farmers in Fukushima begin testing rice for radiation

49 Comments

Farmers in Fukushima Prefecture have begun radiation tests on the prefecture's main rice yield as harvest time approaches. Radiation tests are currently being carried out on early yields, which are already being harvested in the prefecture, prefectural officials said Friday.

The tests were not carried out routinely last year, resulting in a series of headlines about radioactive goods reaching supermarket shelves. This year, several farmers told reporters that each bag of harvested rice is being tested for radioactivity before they leave the farms, Sankei Shimbun reported.

The main harvest is expected to take place in late September.

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Who is testing the rice? Is it an independent institution? If not I will find it extremely difficult to believe. Even if it is an independent institution testing the rice, my next concern will be the trust worthiness of that institution..

3 ( +13 / -10 )

Exactly, who is testing it, who is making sure the farmers don't mix the rice together to form "acceptable" blends?

The tests were not carried out routinely last year,

Seriously poor effort there, does anyone really care?

3 ( +14 / -11 )

I'll betcha we will get some skewed report that the radiation levels are surprisingly quite low and that the levels don't pose that significant amounts of threat to the population and then going on Television and showing the public the rice is good enough to eat, with cameras and photo ops, eating samples, calming fears of any doubts of lingering contamination.

Just Watch.

4 ( +15 / -11 )

bass4funkAug. 24, 2012 - 02:07PM JST

I'll betcha we will get some skewed report that the radiation levels are surprisingly quite low and that the levels don't pose that significant amounts of threat to the population and then going on Television and showing the public the rice is good enough to eat, with cameras and photo ops, eating samples, calming fears of any doubts of lingering contamination.

And I'll bet you that people will start posting the results here, and blow everything out of proportion, like saying that 500Bq of Cs-137, and leaving out the "per ton" part of it which would make it a thousand times less than the legal limit and ten thousand times lower than the lowest level for concern.

Depending on the location the rice was farmed, we can expect between 1Bq/kg and 50Bq/kg for bags sold to the market, which means they would have a hundred times more radiation from natural sources than Cs137/134.

-8 ( +12 / -20 )

bass4funk: Nah they'll be the "grand sponsor" of some TV show where "talento" goes and eats some food made from the rice and talks about how great it tastes. Just like that TV show every Sunday sponsored by Sapporo beer where they go eat some food somewhere and all drink Sapporo beer (after a close up of the can) and logos in the corner of the screen.

-1 ( +10 / -11 )

gogogoAug. 24, 2012 - 01:52PM JST

Exactly, who is testing it, who is making sure the farmers don't mix the rice together to form "acceptable" blends?

Japan uses several different strains of rice, and mixing of strains is typically avoided for price advantage. However, from a medical and legal perspective, as long as the total dose is less than the limits imposed, there is no danger whatsoever. It's like complaining that a 500 yen item you pay for in 10 yen coins seems more expensive than a different 500 yen item you pay for in 100 yen coins, but the end result is still 500 yen any way you slice it.

In fact, blending grades would reduce your chances of absorption of certain isotopes compared to an even blend (and doesn't change absorption of others). After all, not everything you eat is actually absorbed into your system.

-8 ( +12 / -20 )

there is no danger whatsoever

The official wording is 'no immediate danger'. Get it right, basroil.

It's right that they normally don't mix different strains of rice because single-strain typically sells for more; but single-strain that glows in the dark isn't going to sell at all, so presumably there would be a price advantage to mixing it - sales at a lower price as opposed to no sales. Have no doubt about it, any rice that shows even a hint of radiation is going to get mixed in with other stuff until it's 'harmless'.

8 ( +19 / -11 )

there is no danger whatsoever

blending grades would reduce your chances of absorption of certain isotopes compared to an even blend

You shouldn't say such irresponsible things.Some people might actually believe you (god forbid).

If you feel your claims are legit, please back them up with a valid reference.

3 ( +14 / -11 )

It's real easy. It's contaminated with radioactive isotopes. Don't SELL it, never mind giving people the choice of buying it. No to this irresponsibility. No to money before health.

1 ( +12 / -11 )

as long as the total dose is less than the limits imposed, there is no danger whatsoever

You wouldn't eat say 100 grams of rice that is extremely contaminated would you? But under your logic if you mix it with 900 grams of perfectly fine rice that is okay by you?

You know you are still eating the 100 grams of extremely contaminated rice?

0 ( +10 / -10 )

Cheap mixed rice is available in all parts of the country. I won't be buying Fukushima rice, but I never did before the nuclear disaster contaminated so much of the land and sea. I buy local grown rice, and in Hyogo, Tamba is on of the best. Great sake too.

Contaminated rice could end up in sake, or even animal feed.

The Fukushima rice will be tested by the local gov't but this system will continue to create doubts until a proper, more clear system is put in place.

And I'll bet you that people will start posting the results here, and blow everything out of proportion,

true but then other people will claim there's no problem with radiation whatsoever!

1 ( +12 / -11 )

Cheap mixed rice never states where it comes from.

1 ( +11 / -10 )

gogogoAug. 24, 2012 - 03:04PM JST

You wouldn't eat say 100 grams of rice that is extremely contaminated would you? But under your logic if you mix it with 900 grams of perfectly fine rice that is okay by you?

You know you are still eating the 100 grams of extremely contaminated rice?

You know that if you eat 20Bq/kg it doesn't matter if you eat 900 grams of zero Bq and 100 grams of 20 Bq or 1kg of 20Bq right? Radiation is only harmful by dose and rate, and in properly mixed rice, your dose and rate are IDENTICAL regardless of what you may falsely believe. For it to be under the legal limit, it is almost impossible to have anything that is "extremely contaminated" (we'll set that to be >50kBq/kg, or about a hundred ties the legal limit and ten times the international limit).

Lets actually break down your extremely contaminated grains part. Each grain of rice is about 20-25mg, so 50kBq/kg would be about 1Bq/grain. For 20Bq/kg (above example), you would need 20 contaminated grains in the entire bag, with zero extra contamination (impossible due to radioactive fallout from nuclear bomb tests). With about 50k grains per kg bag, you would have a 1 in 2500 chance of picking one grain that's contaminated. Lets also assume that the average amount you eat in one sitting is 100g, and for the sake of easy math we will assume rice doesn't change weight (it increases in real life). 100g is 5000 grains, so your average probability of contaminated grains would be 2 grains (math is much harder actually, and depends on how many grains are left and how many are contaminated). The average dose hasn't changed, and it is still stuck at 20Bq/kg. Even if you are unlucky and get all the grains in one serving, your maximum dose is 200Bq's worth at once, followed by nine doses of zero.

Your comments are basically like saying that if I put 1ml of salt water with 1gr of salt into a bucket of 999ml pure water, that I would still have 1ml of salt water and 999ml pure water. That is ridiculous, and you will end up with 1g in one liter. Some parts will be saltier than others, but if you drink all of it, it is still just 1gr per liter . There is no danger as long as you keep the total dose small, doesn't really matter how you get there. By keeping each bag under the limit, there is no medical or legal issues.

-6 ( +11 / -17 )

Plutonium was detected at 10 locations. The highest reading was 11 becquerels of plutonium-238 per square meter, detected in the town of Namie. That would be 1.4 times higher than the level that originated from fallout from atomic weapons tests overseas.

1 ( +10 / -9 )

zichiAug. 24, 2012 - 03:06PM JST

true but then other people will claim there's no problem with radiation whatsoever!

I don't think anyone says that there's no issues under any conditions, rather no issues at current conditions. That's like saying that breathing oxygen is fine, but ignoring that 100% oxygen leads to many health problems. There's a reason for legal limits on pollutants, and that is because lower levels are not statistically relevant to whatever issue they try to prevent. In fact, limits are often lower than they need to be out of the politics of fear, or an abundance of caution.

If the rice here is under the legal limit, which is already far below the international recommended limits, there is statistically zero hazard to the public (within the confidence interval for zero).

-5 ( +11 / -16 )

basroil,

I don't think anyone says that there's no issues under any conditions

Except you who stated many times there's no radiation problem even inside the nuclear disaster zone?

2 ( +13 / -11 )

zichiAug. 24, 2012 - 03:41PM JST

Plutonium was detected at 10 locations. The highest reading was 11 becquerels of plutonium-238 per square meter, detected in the town of Namie. That would be 1.4 times higher than the level that originated from fallout from atomic weapons tests overseas.

Not sure how that plays a part in rice since Plutonium is generally not absorbed by plantlife in large enough amounts to be detectable in produce, but your numbers are well within the worldwide average for plutonium, even more so if the point of detection was within the mountain region west of the city (which is still within city bounds)

-2 ( +11 / -13 )

Personally, I don't want to eat rice, or for that matter, any food stuffs with measurable levels of cesium regardless of whatever is considered to be "safe levels" or international standards.

2 ( +12 / -11 )

basroilAug. 24, 2012 - 03:45PM JST

There's a reason for legal limits on pollutants

and they are all set to deal with reality, not safety...

-2 ( +6 / -8 )

More than 1000 sq km of Fukushima Prefecture remain contaminated from last year's radiation fall out.

0 ( +10 / -10 )

cleoAug. 24, 2012 - 02:51PM JST

The official wording is 'no immediate danger'.

No such wording in the article above. In fact, for immediate danger, animal experiments put the LD50 of Cs-137 at about 140MBq/kg (animal, not food for kg). Danger dose would likely be ten times less than that at 14MBq/kg, and even assuming 1kg of food per kg of body weight (you'll get fat for sure!), you would need about 30 THOUSAND times MORE radiation than legally acceptable for immediate danger. Even long term danger is more than ten times more than Japan's limits.

-1 ( +11 / -12 )

"This year, several farmers told reporters that each bag of harvested rice is being tested for radioactivity before they leave the farms, Sankei Shimbun reported."

Yeah, and I'll test my unicorn before flying home on it. This is precisely the kind of thing they said last year.

It's absolutely ridiculous they were allowed to grow the rice to begin with, but now the FARMERS are testing it themselves?? Yeah, people desperate to save their livelihoods and therefore begged to grow the rice anyway are certainly not going to skew any results.

Looks like imported rice for me. Hurry up TPP!

2 ( +14 / -12 )

smithinjapanAug. 24, 2012 - 04:07PM JST

I think the tone of your post is unnecessary, but the point about who tests is actually valid. I doubt they are properly trained for radiation detection, nor do they likely have the screening hardware necessary for it. They should ask an independent company to measure it for them (with an upfront pay contract for the entire batch to minimize their conflicts of interest), at minimum a company with the tools experience to do the job properly and transparently. Just because the goods are probably safe doesn't mean they should avoid proper procedure, it will only hurt them in the long run.

-2 ( +11 / -13 )

Well, obviously we all know the rice is deadly (rolls eyes) so if the tests say otherwise, they are faked, and if the tests find contamination, then we are all going to die.

That's the way it plays out in these comment threads, anyway.

Out in the real world, life goes on, and basically no-one is being significantly harmed by the radiation.

-2 ( +10 / -12 )

People aren't rating the article, they're rating your comments.

1 ( +9 / -8 )

who will actually be foolish enough to buy rice from fukushima? the only buyer i know will be the j-gov't once they realize that no one is buying it.

2 ( +12 / -10 )

The Mainchi Shinbum reported that two Fukushima men in their 70's and their wives are contaminated with internal radiation from eating their own home grown food and Shiitake mushrooms.

One couple lives in Kawamata-machi, the other in Nihonmatsu City.

The couple from Kawamata-machi, have been eating shiitake mushrooms they grow on the logs from Namie-machi, bamboo shoots harvested near their home, and dried persimmons.

It was discovered the mushrooms had over 140,000 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium. The couple didn't know about the very high radiation levels in Namie-machi.

The second couple were eating food given to them by the first couple.

They were tested for internal radiation exposure by using the Whole Body Counter to measure radioactive cesium (cesium-134 and -137) in their bodies in July and August this year.

The man in Kawamata-machi was found with 19,507 becquerels, and his wife was found with 7,724 becquerels. 19,507 becquerels would be equal to 0.85 millisievert exposure in one year, just less than the limit of 1 millisievert per year.

The man in Nihonmatsu City was found with 11,191 becquerels, and his wife 6,771 becquerels

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Thus spoke the reactor monkey.....

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I'm willing to take a chance and buy some, if it will help the rice growers. I've been buying Fukushima prefectures since last year and am still buying them.

0 ( +10 / -10 )

basroil: "I think the tone of your post is unnecessary,"

I'm glad we agree on some points, but I think the tone of my post IS necessary, given that despite the stuff 'escaping' last year and radiation being found in rice from the area, they allowed the farmers to grow it again (a), and as you agreed with, are letting people with 100% interest in getting it sold and on the shelves test it (b).

Mark my words, you're going to see rice with radiation popping up once again after all was given the OK by the testers, and they'll be allowed to grow it again next year after crying about how it means their livelihood. What's more, I have a feeling we're not going to see a 'produced in Fukushima' label emblazoned on the surface of the bags.

It's sheer stupidity. Never have I heard, "Well, the soils contaminated, but let's allow you to grow rice and then test it after it's harvested and put into bags to ship off" before. They should have bought out the farmers in that area and told them the land is unusable.

-2 ( +9 / -11 )

As zichi mentioned before, you would need a current rate of 20kBq Cs-137 to be over 1mSv safe as possible recommendation that government limits are set on. If the maximum rate is found in rice, you would have to eat 40kg and absorb all of that in a short time (far less than 70 days) to be over 1mSv. Under normal circumstances, that amount would likely be double, due to the biological half-life of 70-110 days, and likely more as 10% is excreted within 2 days. If the 20kBq was backdated to a single point source as typically done, the actual amount may be several dozen times more rice need, several times a person's weight in food each year. By comparison, the average Japanese person eats only 65kg of rice a year, so people shouldn't avoid these farmers as long as the amount found is below the legal limit.

-4 ( +6 / -10 )

The current system of testing and food labelling does nothing to dispel doubts and fear over irradiated foods. There are probably many farming areas, including West Fukushima capable of growing "rad free foods".

But the current system or lack of a proper system casts doubts on all foods grown in the prefecture. This will continue every year for many decades until a system is put in place.

Farmers growing "rad free foods" suffer because of the situation.

All farms need to be tested and all farms with clean soil and water issued with a license. All food grown need to be tested. Only famers with the license should be able to grow and sell foods.

All Fukushima foods should be labelled and have the license number of the farm.

5 ( +11 / -6 )

Key word(s) : internal emitters.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

The fact is most people in Japan don't have a clue how contaminated their rice is (and all other farm, fruit and dairy produce for that matter). Inspectors may see contaminated rice deemed unfit for human consumption; unscrupulous others only see it as big bundles of 10,000 yen notes, easily dispersed by truck to other "safe" areas to be mixed in with the local product. Also, the rice problem is not restricted to Fukushima. Niigata, the main rice-growing area has also been affected.

"NHK Documentary: ‘Very serious’ contamination near Niigata border — Rice leaf concentrates radioactivity at 600 times greater than water used for its cultivation (VIDEO)": http://enenews.com/nhk-documentary-very-serious-contamination-near-niigata-border-rice-leaf-concentrates-radioactivity-at-600-times-greater-than-water-used-for-its-cultivation-video

In my opinion, all supermarket chains should be testing ALL their produce and guarantee its safety. They would be held responsible if any products put on sale were found to be unsafe.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

"The crisis at Fukushima was not only a crisis for the people of Japan and the nuclear industry as a whole; it was also a public relations disaster for the Japanese government.

TEPCO, the Japanese utility company that operated Fukushima Daiichi, along with the Japanese government were consistently exposed telling blatant lies or misrepresentations of the truth.

Now, in an attempt to mitigate the public relations fallout that has ensued from their deceit of the Japanese people and those around the globe, the government is devoting roughly 70 million yen or $913,000 to combating what they bill “erroneous information” about the disaster.

The monitoring program was criticized by none other than the Japan Federation of Bar Associations who issued a statement on the 29th of July that argued the program threatens freedom of speech.

The statement, released under the name of the President of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, said that, “The government will likely restrict free discussions by unilaterally criticizing what it regards as ‘inaccurate’ and imperil freedom of expression.”

0 ( +3 / -3 )

smithinjapanAug. 24, 2012 - 05:28PM JST

It's sheer stupidity. Never have I heard, "Well, the soils contaminated, but let's allow you to grow rice and then test it after it's harvested and put into bags to ship off" before. They should have bought out the farmers in that area and told them the land is unusable.

billyshearsAug. 24, 2012 - 06:19PM JST

"NHK Documentary: ‘Very serious’ contamination near Niigata border — Rice leaf concentrates radioactivity at 600 times greater than water used for its cultivation (VIDEO)":

Actually an interesting thing to say. Thanks to the last major radiation release, there was actually quite a bit of research into the effects of Cs137 and plutonium on plant and meat products. The main thing they found is that the level of radioactive isotopes is only impacted by a small amount by soil contamination, it's the water contamination that determines the actual intake of those isotopes. While water passing through the soil would pick up some of the isotopes, it is actually a very small amount and really only an issue in the most polluted of places (which these farms are not, since the farms are only allowed to operate with soil less than 1500Bq/kg of Cs137). As long as the water supply is clean, any radiation is either external (you can wash it off, less helpful for potatoes, but perfectly valid for rice) or much lower than the soil it was grown in. I provided links to the information in prior posts.

There will be Cs137 in the rice, no doubt about that. But at the same time, you can be certain that there was Cs-137 in the rice BEFORE fukushima as well. As long as they use an independent quality control company, there should be no issues with the levels, and will be well within the legal and internationally recommended limits.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Here's some more on the effect of radiation on crops in affected areas:

The absorption rates for produce depends on the type of plant and growing speed (as a function of end weight). Seeds and fruits, which rice is part of, have the lowest absorption, followed by leafy plants (http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201105280267). Again, the absorption is highly dependent on water input, but also on the soil characteristics. Fukushima had some issues with Cs-137 last year, but it turns out that was due to a potassium deficiency in the soil (http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201112260065). As an alkali metal, cesium is chemically very similar to potassium, enough so that the same pathways for potassium absorption (which are mostly the same as sodium as well) work with cesium. This also means that cesium works towards the natural absorption limit of potassium, and thus a potassium saturated plant would have very little cesium uptake. While normal soils for rice are 10-30mg/kg of potassium, the fukushima soils have as little as 6mg, while optimal saturation to prevent cesium uptake is 25mg/kg. Short grain rice used in Japan is generally not a potassium rich food, and thus you can minimize cesium by maximizing the uptake of potassium.

These farmers probably learned from last year's mistakes and used sufficient potassium additives to their soils this year. If so, we won't really see anything cross 500Bq/kg even with proper testing.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

I would not be surprised if the farmers in Fukushima bring in rice from other prefectures for their own families' to eat.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

All this work for a product that'll be next to impossible to get folks to buy it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

basroil,

you haven't stated in any of your comments whether you buy and eat any Fukushima farm produce?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Last year, tens of thousands of kilograms of rice were found to be too contaminated for sale. The government bought up contaminated produce, which remains stored in giant mounds.

The farmers don't know if this year, the gov't will once again buy up the contaminated rice.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Almost 100,000 farmers lost about 58 billion yen ($694 million) by March 1, or 25 percent of production, according to JA. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-19/fukushima-farmers-face-decades-of-tainted-crops-as-fears-linger.html

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Doesn't matter. The results will be flubbed or the radioactive rice will be mixed in with rice from other prefectures.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The Fukushima Prefectural Government plans to launch an online system that allows consumers to check the radioactivity of raw rice.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Last year, many farmers couldn't sell their rice because it was contaminated above the limit. One such farmer was Toraaki Ogata who again planted rice this year and is hoping for better test results.

His crop from last year was bought by the gov't but no one came to collect it or check it was destroyed. Instead it sits in a mound on the earth in one of his sheds.

I was wondering what happens when the rats start eating the rice, and in turn the snakes eat the rats?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

One thing we should have learned over the past year or so is that the government are incapable of telling the truth when it comes to radiation in food produced in Fukushima. They have no concern for the consumer at all. That's why I will continue to avoid all Fukushima produce, no matter what lies the government comes up with.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

zichiAug. 25, 2012 - 06:36AM JST

Last year, many farmers couldn't sell their rice because it was contaminated above the limit. One such farmer was Toraaki Ogata who again planted rice this year and is hoping for better test results.

His crop from last year was bought by the gov't but no one came to collect it or check it was destroyed. Instead it sits in a mound on the earth in one of his sheds.

I was wondering what happens when the rats start eating the rice, and in turn the snakes eat the rats?

Wouldn't do anything to the ecosystem, and in fact it might make removal of Cs137 faster.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

hai my last visit to fukushima in april i enjoyed my food in fukushima the rice was really good

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Basroil

What are the effects of eating low level radioactive food on humans?

You imply that the studies done on plants on animals show no risk but humans are another matter are they not?

Radioactive exposure in humans is markedly different than in animals and cannot be compared.

Maybe you can show the data that categorically shows exposure to low level internal radiation is not a health hazard?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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