Arsenic in rice is one of my big nemesis these days. In February and September, 2012 separate studies came out warning about arsenic levels in rice. (See here and here.) Sadly nothing has changed since then despite my arsenic experts made it very clear that agricultural changes can reduce the problem. Astonishingly, Lotus Foods imports rice from farmers who are using those very recommended agricultural practices. The world needs to hear this story.
Ken Lee, the founder and president of Lotus Foods gave me an ear full of education with the woes of current rice production. Arsenic in rice is simply the tip of the iceberg. Watch the video here or listen to the audio podcast.
Be forewarned. It ain’t pretty.
Major Issues with Current Rice Production
Without spilling the beans about the interview, Lee talks about the following:
- System of Rice Intensification reduces the amount of water used to grow the rice patties. Normally rice patties are flooded. The fields are not flooded and allowed to dry out. This method lowers arsenic uptake. (On Lotus Food’s site, the company coins it as One Crop Per Drop.) Cornell University approached Lotus Foods years ago to help market the farmers who were participating in this initiative.
- It takes 600 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of rice. Annually 25 to 30% of Earth’s fresh water is used in rice production.
- Since rice is grown in water, the roots rot away during its 120 to 150 day growing period. This rotting produces Methane gas which is twenty times more dangerous than carbon dioxide. According to Lee, rice production is the second leading cause of methane gas production in the world.
- Flooded rice patties are a major contributor to the World Malaria problem . Enormous amounts of money are spent on netting and vaccines due to Malaria.
- Women gynecological health problems from squatting in thigh high water harvesting the rice.
Lee further explains that the SRI method allows a larger root ball to form and thus creates larger yields. These farmers are growing rice in a more sustainable way which impacts the Earth.
Arsenic and Lotus Food Rice:
Many of the rice brands are grown organically. Lee states in the video that their rice is lower in total arsenic than the rices listed in the Consumer Reports’ article. The rice is tested at the USDA lab at Cornell University. They haven’t found a lab yet that can break down the total inorganic versus organic arsenic levels. For more information, read their FAQs. (Scroll down to the arsenic and rice discussion.)
He does state that scientists generally half the total arsenic level and attribute it to inorganic arsenic.
Lotus Foods only works with farmers that use heirloom seeds. They offer such rices as red, black and forbidden rice to name a few. According to Lee, many of the heirloom seeds are more aromatic and delicious then your variety grocery store rice. None of their rices are genetically altered and many are organic. The Company believes in paying fair wages.
Importantly, some of the rices offered such as black and red rice are being studied for their antioxidant value.
After I listened to Lotus Foods’ success story, it begs the question, why isn’t the rest of the world taking notice and adjusting how they grow rice?
Join the Conversation:
- Have you tried any of Lotus Foods’ rices
- How do you feel about current rice production’s harm on the Earth?