Group to study DNA of cows near crippled Fukushima nuclear plant

Kyodo

A team of Japanese and U.S. scientists have launched a study to analyze the effects of radiation exposure on cows raised near the crippled Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant.

Researchers from Kitasato University and the University of South Carolina have begun analyzing the DNA of 40 cows at three ranches within a 20-km radius of the nuclear power plant, which was crippled by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The group announced the launch of the project on Wednesday during a symposium in Tokyo. Researchers will measure the total radiation exposure of the 40 “black-haired” beef cattle and check for lymphocyte DNA damage.

The researchers will compare the results with cows in Aomori Prefecture that have not been exposed to fallout from the plant.

In May 2011, the Japanese government ordered local authorities to slaughter farm animals within the 20-km radius of the plant, but some ranchers ignored the orders.

The government subsequently allowed farmers to continue raising animals on the condition that they are not shipped from the ranches.

“I don’t think we will find any effects on the animals at these radiation levels,” said Masahiro Natsuhori, a professor at Kitasato University’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

“If that’s the case, the research will be a step toward revitalizing areas that people can’t currently enter,” he added.

The project was launched after Timothy Mousseau, a biology professor at the University of South Carolina, asked Natsuhori to collaborate on the research.