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BOB HIRSHON (host):
Keeping arsenic out of crops. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.
Arsenic is a toxin and also carcinogenic, or cancer causing. Elevated levels can occur in soil and groundwater, and at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, University of Nottingham plant biologist David Salt explained that food crops, especially rice, can absorb it.
DAVID SALT (University of Nottingham):
So in soils that have high levels of arsenic, generally through natural processes, but also through historic application of arsenic pesticides, then you can get arsenic accumulating in the rice grain.
The concern is greatest for young children in India and Bangladesh, who consume rice daily. Salt’s lab is studying plant species that are able to expel arsenic from their roots, or sequester it away from the rest of the plant. The goal is to eventually develop cultivars of rice and other crops that are able to do the same thing. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.
Story by Bob Hirshon