Muktoshri- Arsenic-Resistant rice

Context: Researchers in West Bengal have developed and commercialized a rice variety that is resistant to Arsenic and can be grown in areas with very high arsenic-contamination. Last year West Bengal issued a Gazette notification for the commercial use of “Muktoshri”.

About Muktoshri:

  • The new rice variety, Muktoshri, also recognized as IET 21845, was jointly established by the Chinsurah Rice Research Station, which functions under the Department of Agriculture of West Bengal and the Lucknow National Botanical Research Institute.
  • This variety contains even less soil and water arsenic than other rice varieties.
  • Agricultural water requirements in most of the rural areas are met from groundwater source. In arsenic affected areas, often arsenic contaminated groundwater is used for irrigation. Many researches reported that food is the second largest contributor to arsenic intake by people after direct ingestion of arsenic contaminated water.
  • In food, rice is most sensitive to arsenic followed by vegetables. Also, most of the arsenic affected areas use rice as its staple food.

West Bengal is among the states with the highest concentration of arsenic in groundwater, with 83 blocks across seven districts having higher arsenic levels than permissible limits.

Arsenic contamination:

  • Arsenic is found naturally in the groundwater of a lot of different countries at high levels. Its inorganic form is highly toxic.
  • The most significant hazard to public health from arsenic is arsenic-contaminated water used for drinking, food storage and irrigation of food crops.
  • Several studies have shown that arsenic from groundwater and the soil can enter the food chain through paddy.
  • Long-term exposuse of Arsenic to drinking-water and food can cause cancer and skin lesions. This was also related to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
  • In utero and early childhood exposure, it has been linked to negative impacts on cognitive development.
  • Arsenic and arsenic compounds are classified as carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
  • WHO’s provisional guideline value for arsenic in drinking water is 10μg/l. It is now accepted that in 50 countries at least 140 million citizens were drinking water containing Arsenic above the provisional guideline value of the WHO. Arsenic is one of the 10 major public health chemicals at the WHO.