Experts find link between rice and arsenic in soil

Scientists working in Japan say they may have discovered why rice absorbs so much arsenic from soil. The breakthrough could lead to new efforts to block arsenic from rice, Asia's staple food.

The experts reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the journal of the United States National Academy of Sciences, that they had identified two proteins in rice plants that appeared to transport arsenic from the soil to the grain. Using mutant paddy that did not have these two proteins, the experts found sharply reduced levels of arsenic, said Ma Jianfeng at Okayama University’s Research Institute for Bioresources.

Arsenic occurs naturally in the environment, but prolonged exposure to it – in drinking water, for example — has been linked to cancers, cardiovascular disease and other illnesses. Poisoning is an especially serious concern in areas such as Bangladesh and India, where arsenic-contaminated groundwater is used for irrigating rice crops.

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