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Farmers Stuck with Radioactive Rice Straw

18 October 2011

JAPAN - Farmers in eight prefectures have 7,200 tons of rice straw containing radioactive materials that at present there are no plans to dispose of, agriculture ministry officials confirmed Tuesday, without identifying the prefectures.

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

In a separate phone interview, 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, was being kept by 1,018 farms in Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate, Tochigi, Hokkaido, Akita, Yamagata and Ibaraki prefectures.

Miyagi reportedly had the largest amount, 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 spewed from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant were found on the market, stoking nationwide consumer fears. It is believed the cattle 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 farm ministry, almost 5,000 cattle possibly contaminated with cesium were shipped nationwide.

However, even 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.

TheCropSite News Desk

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