A local farming official in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, said Monday that rice grown in the area of the 2011 nuclear disaster has passed that country’s radiation checks. Small amounts of the region’s approximately 360,000-ton rice harvest did not pass in 2012 or 2013 and had to be destroyed.
“The fact that the amount of rice that does not pass our checks has steadily reduced in the last three years indicates that we’re taking the right steps,” said Oonami, who oversees rice farming in Fukushima.
The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima caused a meltdown of three of the six reactors at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s nuclear plant.
As a result, Japan had to temporarily stop exporting produce and fish from the area. The plant is now mothballed, although leaking radioactive water remains a serious problem. In 2011, China banned all dairy, vegetable and seafood imports from Fukushima and several other prefectures, and, in 2013, South Korea banned imported fish from eight regions of Japan, including Fukushima.
Since the Fukushima disaster, rice planting has resumed in the area around the nuclear facility known as the “no-go” zone, which has been redefined to allow access where radiation levels are relatively low. Some farmers and other residents near where the rice paddies are located had to be evacuated and are only allowed in during the day.
Oonami said the paddies have been “considerably decontaminated,” water for irrigation has been channeled to them, and area farmers are using potassium fertilizer to limit the amount of radioactive cesium absorbed by the rice plants. Even so, he noted that agricultural products from Fukushima face an uphill battle in the marketplace.© Food Safety News