Rice planted in former no-go zone

District in Tamura first to resume farming near Fukushima No. 1


Farmers in the city of Tamura, Fukushima Prefecture, have begun planting rice in a district once designated a no-go zone because of radioactive fallout ejected by the disaster-hit Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

It is the first time since the March 2011 core meltdowns that rice intended for sale has been planted in any former hot zone within 20 km of the power plant.

Saturday’s rice planting was carried out in Tamura’s Miyakojimachi district, about 15 km from the plant. In all, three farms are planning to seed 6 hectares there.

Miyakojimachi was reclassified in April 2012 as an area where evacuation orders might be lifted. Residents can enter without permission during the daytime but aren’t allowed to stay overnight.

In their rice paddies, work to clean up radioactive fallout ejected by crippled power station has already finished. The farmers use fertilizer containing potassium to help reduce the amount of cesium absorbed by the rice plants.

All of the rice grown in the paddies will be given radiation checks before shipment.

Hisao Tsuboi, 62, one of the farmers, plans to plant Hitomebore and two other rice varieties on 2.5 hectares this year.

“Looking at the paddies turning green, I finally got the feeling that I have engaged in farming,” Tsuboi said with a smile.

On Saturday, his eldest son planted rice using a tractor. Five local policemen and a man from Miyagi Prefecture who has been a buyer of Tsuboi’s rice helped out.

But Tsuboi said that he is concerned because he has to leave his temporary house for his rice paddies at 4 a.m. every day and return home late at night. It takes an hour to drive from the temporary house to the rice paddies. Therefore, Tsuboi says he is not sure if he can continue working until the harvest in autumn.

“I want to ask the municipal authorities to allow me to stay at my own house for several days a week,” Tsuboi said.

Controlling water supply in the paddies is very important for growing rice, and the work is difficult if the farmers live far away, an official at the Fukushima Prefectural Government said, adding that allowing farmers to stay overnight is a task it needs to consider.

Among the former no-go zones, Miyakojimachi is the only district where decontamination has been completed, according to Fukushima Prefecture and the agriculture ministry.

  • Max_1

    So Japan is growing food for human consumption in land that is not safe for humans to live on… Tell me when this makes sense.

    • disqus_pkrRDJU42M

      If decontamination has finished and if it was carried out thoroughly and correctly, then the land should be safe to live on. If the land is technically save to live on then the rice that is grown there should be safe to eat in theory.
      There are still too many ifs for my liking, but still…

      As long as the rice is thoroughly checked and is proven to be safe to eat, there is no harm in growing rice there. The biggest danger of course is people trying to sell the rice for human consumption either without checking the food is safe or ignoring any detrimental results. One advantage of growing rice on decontaminated land is that the quality of the rice produced would be an indicator of the quality of the decontamination in that area.

      Of course, whether or not the rice ends up in the food chain is a different matter.

      • Roy Warner

        “As long as the rice is thoroughly checked and is proven to be safe to eat, there is no harm in growing rice there.” None of the contaminated food in Japan has been “proven to be safe to eat.” It is only assumed to be safe by a government and food industry that have a vested interest in selling it to people. The testing regime is primarily conducted by producers’ associations that lose if the product tests too high and win if it doesn’t. Most or all of this rice will go into processed foods or convenience store lunches to hide the origin.

      • thedudeabidez

        Yes, a point worth repeating is that many people see the ND result (“none detected”) on various food products and believe that they are safe to eat. ND does NOT mean no cesium detected, but rather none detected in amounts over the arbitrary limit set by the government. Whether this is truly safe or not long-term is a rather open question.

      • I will only agree with you that the Japanese safety limits are “arbitrary” – arbitrarily low, completely ignoring science and reason. 1/10 of internationally-accepted standards. Safe short-term and most definitely long-term.

      • disqus_pkrRDJU42M

        Thank you for supporting the arguments in my post.

        ” None of the contaminated food in Japan has been “proven to be safe to eat.”

        Contaminated food cannot be proven safe to eat. Rice that is safe to eat would be uncontaminated, and the only way to see whether rice is contaminated or uncontaminated would be to grow the rice in the first place and then test it, which is what the whole article is about. What alternative would you suggest? Not use the land for growing food and sustaining the population for at least the next two hundred years or so? Considering that Japan already had very limited land on which to grow food, and the Fukushima fiasco reduced that further. Trying to recover the land and make it usable makes more sense than just not doing anything and giving up.

  • Anita Railing

    I hope all of this rice goes directly to the cafeteria at the Diet and to the Tepco executive kitchen. Or will it end up in Aeon labeled as Niigata rice?

  • Max Erimo

    Does nobody remember Chernobyl……..

    Mr Abe is preening himself sayin he is ready to talk to North Korea about the abductee issue. Sorry for sounding heartless, but dealing with the domestic nuclear issue is much more important. Why does he not want to touch it? Because it’s too difficult and he may have to say some unsavoury truths like, “the land is unusable, it is not safe to grow or consume food from the area at the moment…etc”.

    All vote losing. Talk about the abductees ad when things don’t go well, he can always blame the bad guy, ie. North Korea. And of course he looks good for trying anyway…..

  • robyn

    I agree with all the other comments. If they are taking measures to limit the amount of cesium that is taken into the rice, then it is not decontaminated. It couldn’t be in my opinion, with cesium having a half life of 30 years, there is a long time to wait yet until the levels are low enough.

    I certainly won’t be knowingly consuming this rice. Lets hope I don’t unknowingly either!

  • Eric

    Rice does not naturally take up much Cesium from soils, and after two years the Cesium has begun to bond tightly to the clay. The use of Potassium rich fertilizer further mitigates the risk of Cesium uptake.
    As long as the end product is properly tested, I don’t see why it can’t be grown.

  • Robert Staton

    The contaminated rice will be made “safe” by diluting it with rice grown elsewhere.

    • Since contamination is measured by bq/kg, that would actually work. If rice contained 100bq/kg of cesium (which is already a safe amount) and it was mixed 50/50 with rice containing 0 bq/kg, the resulting rice would be 50 bq/kg. However since the policy is to dispose of any rice or foodstuff that exceeds Japan’s extremely stringent and, frankly, over-the-top nanny-state limits, there won’t be any mixing. Even if there was, since existing limits are ONE-TENTH of international limits there would hardly be a problem – they would be making “safe” rice “safer”.

    • Starviking

      Any sources for this new conspiracy theory?

  • Sam Gilman

    Why are the anti-nuclear crowd so hostile to the people of Tohoku?

    This story is GOOD news. If there is a chance that farmers affected by the nuclear crisis can get back to producing safe food, we should be interested and supportive. We should actively want this experiment to succeed.

    Of course – duh – there needs to be proper checking and testing, but if this works, isn’t it good news for everybody?

    So why are there several anti-nuclear commenters doing everything they can to undermine confidence? They’re not simply saying ” so long as the checks are done properly”, but “no checks will ever be good enough”. They’re not saying “so long as we have a proper labelling regime”, but “there will be no labelling regime we can ever trust.” They refuse to recognise that the government limits are extraordinarily stringent by international standards, but call them “arbitrary”. (In one sense they are arbitrary, but not in the sense that particular commenter means)

    Why do they want the people affected by Fukushima to continue to suffer? Why do they want this to fail? It’s the same with the health reports. International experts investigate and reveal a very low risk to people exposed, so the anti-nuclear crowd, instead of saying, “phew! TEPCO are b****rds, nuclear power stinks, but thank Heavens”, say “LIES! LOTS are going to DIE!”

    Don’t these people realise they’ve taken a moral wrong turning somewhere?

  • Sister Jane

    See lot’s of post here about how safe or not the rice may be. Now, since the governments and Tepco have lied constantly since the Construction of the Fukushima Plant, what in the world makes anybody think that their telling the complete truth now? They keep lowering the bar on safety, if you are not listening or reading independent studies of safety in the effected areas and you wish to eat food grown from the effected area, have at it. The frightening thing is the government has already bought rice from the area, next it will be mixed with other rice, governments are good at covering their tracks. By the time it reaches the super markets you will never know what your getting, to just say that profits are the motive is bad marketing, they will never, ever say that, no, they will say “Safety First”, and the sad part is people will swallow it, (pun intended)

    • Sam Gilman

      What independent safety studies do you recommend, sister?

      What is your source for the assertion that the government is going to mix this rice with other rice? Are you absolutely certain you’re not just making it up?

      • Sister Jane

        They government bought the rice, how many times in Japan have we found foreign rice mixed with Japanese Rice and sold to the public as Japanese Rice? A very large percentage of Rice and Ocha is blended, to suppose that this will not happen in this case is absurd and naive. I’m very sure I’m not making up anything, and are you sure your not a shill? I did not recommend anything, are you sure your not a shill? What assertion do you have that I do not, that the benevolent government will Not mix (Blend) this rice? Are do you trust the government (any government) enough to tuck you in bed at night and sing you a lullaby Sam. (The Rice and all Food products should be thrown away quickly after testing it’s radiation levels, which are going to be there.) For news in English on Fukushima visit, http://fukushimaupdate.com/ Sam you don’t think it’s even a possible that after the Japanese government buys the Rice and stores it for a time in it’s warehouse that it will not eventually blend it and feed it to somebody or somebody scrupulously evil will do it. You don’t think this Fukushima Rice that’s grown near a Nuclear disaster area should be destroyed quickly Sam? Sam are you sure your not just making yourself up, because you don’t
        feel real Sam, you really feel like a Shill Sam, are you a shill Sam?