Japan will be restarting exports of rice grown in Fukushima for the first time since foreign sales were halted due to fears of contamination by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations (Zen-Noh), a major wholesaler of Japanese agricultural products, said it will send 300kg of the grain to Singapore.
Its provenance will be marked and it will not be mixed with other produce, an official said. The rice was grown some 60km to 80km west of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, he said.
The association has been negotiating with countries to start accepting Fukushima rice again. The group said it succeeded in convincing Singaporean officials of the product’s safety.
“Despite our efforts at explaining the safety of Fukushima-made farm products, up until now we have not been able to find retailers who wished to trade rice grown in Fukushima,” said an official for Zen-Noh. “From now on, we aim to export more Fukushima rice, including to Singapore.”
Customers in Singapore will be able to buy the Fukushima rice starting this Friday (22 Aug).
“All rice grown in Fukushima is being checked for radioactivity before being shipped to the market,” another Fukushima official said.
“Our rice is proved to have passed the government safety standard of 100 becquerels per kilogram (a measure of radioactive contamination), and is mostly below detection levels” of measuring instruments, he said.
PM Lee eased restrictions on food imports from Fukushima
On 31 May 2014, during a joint press conference with Japan PM Shinzo Abe, PM Lee announced that Singapore is easing restrictions on food imports from Japan, including Fukushima prefecture with immediate effect [Link].
The announcement came “after AVA’s review and on-site assessment, as well as satisfactory surveillance results from Japan and AVA”.
“Japan’s surveillance results have also shown that radioactive contamination in food is very low. This is supported by AVA’s on-site assessment early this year to verify and understand Japan’s food safety measures,” AVA then said.
“The suspension of agricultural produce and processed food products (fruits and vegetables, milk/milk products, meat, green tea and green tea products, and rice) from Fukushima will be lifted,” AVA added.
“We would like to assure the public that food imported from Japan that is available in the market is safe for consumption,” AVA concluded.
Genetically modified rice seedlings from Fukushima?
However, according to a recent article on Nature World News [Link], it was reported that low level gamma radiation in Fukushima Prefecture began to alter healthy seedlings on a genetic level in only three days, hampering the activation of self defense traits and altering DNA replication.
“The experimental design employed in this work will provide a new way to test how the entire rice plant genome responds to ionizing radiation under field conditions,” explained Randeep Rakwal, who authored the study.
Butterflies suffered too. While populations remained stable with no mass insect deaths, pale grass blue butterflies in the immediate Fukushima area were found to be smaller and growing slower than average, suggesting an impact at a developmental level.
In other words, even if no radioactive contamination can be found in Fukushima rice, its DNA at the genetic level may be modified and consumers may not be getting the original Fukushima rice.
It’s not known if AVA will test the Fukushima rice at the genetic level and assuming that the DNA of the rice seedlings has been modified by the radiation, it’s not known what the long term effect to humans will be if we consume these genetically modified rice.