Recently, Nature Communications published a joint research report by Chinese and German scientists. By studying about 4000 kinds of rice, scientists have found a rice variety that can greatly neutralize arsenic. The results showed that the content of arsenic in the grain of this variety was significantly lower than that of other varieties, and the content of selenium was higher. The joint research team is led by Professor Rüdiger Hell of Heidelberg University and Professor Zhao Fangjie of the Nanjing Agricultural University of China.
The background of this study is that researchers have found that arsenic, a metal-like element, is increasing in groundwater, especially in agricultural areas of Asia, due to large-scale fertilization and sewage pollution. Due to the paddy field cultivation of rice, its roots absorb a lot of arsenic, which brings this carcinogen into the food chain. In addition, according to Professor Hell, the high arsenic content in some areas also causes huge losses to crops, because arsenic is also harmful to plants. In the experiment, researchers planted more than 4000 kinds of rice in arsenic-containing water to observe their growth process.
The results showed that the arsenic content of astol1 rice grain was one-third less than that of conventional rice, and the selenium content needed by the human body was increased by 75%. There is no difference between astol1 and common high-yield rice in yield, so astol1 is suitable for agricultural production.
Sun, SK., Xu, X., Tang, Z., et al. A molecular switch in sulfur metabolism to reduce arsenic and enrich selenium in rice grain. Nat Commun 12, 1392 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-21282-5