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Get Your Cotton-Pickin' Hands off our rice!

Posted Aug 26 2008 4:31pm
You know how I am about rice. Well, in today's New York Times, there was this tiny, tiny tidbit tucked away in the SCIENCE section about arsenic in rice, and how much of it comes from all the crappy pesticides they put on cotton (another reason to support organic cotton, people, besides the fact that non-organic farming of cotton actually dried up an inland sea) :

Arsenic Levels in Rice

Rice may be a great accompaniment to a main dish, but some rice apparently comes with an accompaniment of its own — the toxic element arsenic.

In the journal Environmental Science and Technology, P. N. Williams and colleagues at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland report on a study of rice bought at American supermarkets. Comparing products from the nation’s two major growing regions, the researchers found that rice from South-Central states like Arkansas and Louisiana had about 30 micrograms of arsenic per gram, or nearly twice the level found in rice from California.

The most likely reason for the difference, the researchers say, is that rice growers in South-Central states are increasingly using old cotton fields, where years of application of inorganic arsenic as a pesticide has contaminated the soils.

Arsenic is a carcinogen and can cause skin, reproductive, developmental and other disorders. Given that most Americans do not eat large amounts of rice, the arsenic levels in the tested rice may not result in excessive exposure to arsenic ?? What IS a "not excessive" exposure to a carcinogen??? .

But the researchers note that some population subgroups — among them Hispanics, Asian-Americans and p eople who suffer from celiac disease and must avoid wheat products — eat much more rice on average . So for them, the researchers calculate, exposure may exceed the limits established for arsenic intake from water, the main source of the element for most Americans.

Interestingly, my parents (and other Korean parents I know) always eschewed supermarket rice and instead insisted on this one brand of rice from California , everyone agreeing it "tastes better." Thumbs down to arsenic as a condiment!

More sad rice stories.

Franken-rice: USDA approves mass planting of GM rice made with human genes

And if you aren't getting your daily RDA of arsenic on rice alone:

Chicken With Arsenic? Is That O.K.? - New York Times : "Arsenic is deliberately being added to chicken in this country, with many scientists saying it is unnecessary."
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