MUKTOSHRI: ARSENIC-FREE RICE VARIETY

MUKTOSHRI

Context: A rice variety which is resistant to arsenic has been developed by the researchers in West Bengal.

This new variety of rice known as Muktoshri — also called IET 21845 — was developed jointly by the Rice Research Station at Chinsurah, coming under West Bengal’s Agriculture Department and the National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow, over a period of several years. WHY THIS VARIETY OF RICE IS UNIQUE? This variety absorbs very less amount of arsenic from soil and water than the other varieties of rice. The variety yields 5.5 metric tonnes per hectare in the Boro season and 4.5 to 5 metric tonnes per hectare in the Kharif season. ABOUT ARSENIC POISONING IN INDIA 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.  The first known case of arsenic poisoning in India occurred in 1983 in KolkataWest Bengal, when a patient developed skin lesions.  Before the 1970s in India, surface water from tanks, ponds and open wells was used for drinking. But since then, millions of tubewells were installed in the Ganges delta to prevent gastrointestinal diseases such as diarrhea from surface water. People soon became dependent on groundwater. The cause of the upsurge in arsenic concentration is the overuse of groundwater for irrigation and drinking, which happens when withdrawal rates exceed recharge rate.  These changes mean arsenic, which previously occurred in a relatively harmless insoluble conjugate with iron called arsenopyrite, then split due to overuse, contaminating the groundwater with a soluble ionic form of arsenic that has since been consumed by millions of people for decades. Chronic arsenic poisoning can lead to cancer, depending on factors such as the dose, how long it is consumed, a person’s nutrition levels and any genetic predisposition. Arsenic has been linked to various forms of cancer in India, the most common being skin cancer, followed by cancers of the bladder, kidney and lungs. Common symptoms of arsenic poisoning include pigmentation and keratosis, a condition that leads to hardening of the skin on the palms and soles of the feet. Arsenic poisoning can also lead to respiratory diseases, vascular diseases, neuropathy and liver fibrosis.

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