Japanese scientists to breed rice resilient to radioactive cesium

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Japanese scientists to breed rice resilient to radioactive cesium

Related tags: Japan, Rice

In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japanese scientists from the Fukushima Agricultural Technology Centre are working towards a potential solution for the future of Japanese rice farmers – a strain of rice resilient to cesium absorption.

Research​ has shown that Japanese consumers are concerned about contamination in food products since Fukushima, particularly rice – a staple food in Japan. This consumer mistrust has the potential to impact food manufacturers as Japanese look to imported products for assurance.

The radioactive contamination will take decades to reduce to safe levels according to the Japanese government.

A small team of ten scientists is working on a preliminary research project screening rice varieties at various locations in the Fukushima prefecture. They are hoping to discover strains of rice that have a strong resistance to cesium absorption which they can then use to cross and breed a resilient strain of rice that can be used by Japanese farmers in the future.

Professor Nemoto, of the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Agriculture and Life sciences, who is working on the project spoke to FoodNavigator-Asia.

He said: “The project is a preliminary investigation and was started by the University of Tokyo and the Fukushima prefecture in April 2011. At the moment we are working on about 110 samples, screening rice cultivars with low cesium absorption as preliminary research for breeding.”

Nemoto said that the team is testing samples from all over the world, including those indigenous to India, to see if there are any strains resilient to the lasting effects of the radioactive contamination.

“This research project will take two years, breeding will be an entirely new project,” ​Nemoto said.

If the preliminary research is successful, and strains found with a natural resistance to absorbing cesium oil from the soil will be crossed to breed a strain of rice using marker-assisted selection.

At the moment, no progress can be disclosed until after the rice harvest this autumn.

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