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Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011

Farmers stuck with radioactive rice straw


Staff writer

Farmers in eight prefectures have 7,200 tons of rice straw contaminated with radioactive materials, and currently no one has a plan for how to dispose of it, agriculture ministry officials confirmed Tuesday without identifying the prefectures.

Many farmers have no choice but to keep the contaminated straw in their storage facilities or other sites because local opposition is preventing them from incinerating it, ministry official Masahiro Seki said.

Another official, Hiroaki Ogura, refused to identify the eight prefectures or give a breakdown of the contaminated straw they're stuck with, but a media report said the straw, as of Oct. 7, was being kept by 1,018 farms in Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate, Tochigi, Hokkaido, Akita, Yamagata and Ibaraki prefectures.

Miyagi reportedly had the most, at around 4,700 tons, followed by Fukushima with 1,500 tons, Iwate with 600 and Tochigi with 270.

"We must find a way to quickly process (the straw)," Ogura told The Japan Times. "We will need to take measures in collaboration with prefectural governments."

Earlier this year, beef contaminated with radioactive materials from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant were found on the market, stoking nationwide consumer fears. It is believed the cows had eaten rice straw contaminated with radioactive cesium.

The ministry told farmers not to let their cattle eat the contaminated straw and to separate it from untainted feed.

After cesium exceeding the government limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram was found in beef, the government in July and August banned shipments of beef cattle from Iwate, Fukushima, Tochigi and Miyagi prefectures.

According to the agriculture ministry, almost 5,000 cows possibly contaminated with cesium were shipped nationwide.

However, eating beef contaminated beyond the standard level would probably not cause immediate health problems, given the small amount of tainted meat that reached the market, the health ministry said.



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