Saturday, September 29, 2012

Rice - my health vs the environment

For years we ate imported Thai white rice. It's delicious, and in my multicultural city, cheaply bought in 25 pound bags. About six months ago we decided to switch to brown rice. It's healthier and better for the environment. Grown here in the United States it's not shipped across oceans, and it takes less energy to produce the same number of calories of brown rice as white rice. I could even get organic brown rice for not much more than the white rice we had been buying.

Then this study by Consumer Reports came out. Thanks to years of high-pesticide cotton farming in the South and the fact that rice is grown in standing water, rice contains an alarmingly high amount of arsenic. That's right. Arsenic. Arsenic is a carcinogen. There are federal guidelines regulating the levels of arsenic in drinking water, but no regulations concerning arsenic in food. All rice tested contained some arsenic (and most other grains contain small amounts as well), but rice grown in the US is particularly high due to pesticides containing arsenic used on cotton farms (a practice that is still legal).

The solution seemed simple. Buy brown rice from Thailand or India. The problem with this is that most Asian cultures don't eat brown rice. The only brown rice we found by an Asian company is grown here in the US. So, with my apologies to the environment, we are back to eating Thai white rice in the 25 pound bag.


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