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What's the point of having standards ?

March 1, 2012


Ministry OK's rice planting in areas over cesium limit

The agriculture ministry has announced it will conditionally permit rice planting this year in municipalities where radioactive cesium contained in last year's harvests was found to be from 100 becquerels to 500 becquerels per kilogram.

According to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry's announcement on Tuesday, all packages of rice from these areas will be required to undergo tests.

At the end of last year, the ministry decided to ban rice planting in areas where rice crops were found to contain radioactive cesium levels beyond the government's interim limit of 500 becquerels.

But it continued to consider what to do for areas where rice harvests were found to contain radioactive cesium levels above 100 becquerels, a new stricter limit to be enforced from April.

After examining rice contamination levels and hearing from local governments concerned, the ministry decided to restrict planting rice in these municipalities in principle.

However, as exceptions, the ministry will permit rice planting in these areas if respective local governments oversee rice paddies and all packages of rice are inspected before distribution.

The ministry said it would be possible to prevent the distribution of rice containing radioactive cesium exceeding 100 becquerels in the market by restricting rice shipments until all tests have been completed.

The measure will be applied to 12 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture, including the city of Fukushima, and part of Shiroishi, Miyagi Prefecture.

In 2011, about 31,000 tons of rice was produced in the 12 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture, accounting for about 10 percent of the total rice production in the prefecture.

The ministry will ask the municipalities concerned about their intentions. It remains unknown how many of them want to plant rice this year, according to the ministry's Agricultural Production Bureau.

Agriculture minister Michihiko Kano explained Tuesday that the decision was made out of consideration for the great enthusiasm the municipalities have for growing rice.

However, the ministry has left the final decision to each municipality involved.

As some problems remain unresolved, such as how to test all packages of rice, the ministry may face criticism by municipalities and other parties concerned.

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