A Japanese proverb says, “A meal without rice is no meal.”
It’s true for over half the world’s population. Rice is a life sustaining grain. While in the United States, I do not need rice to sustain life for my family. Rice is a staple in our diet. Rice became top of mind for me yesterday as I drove down a South Dakota highway on my way to speaking engagement. Arsenic levels in rice was the lead story on the news. I drove down the highway…reflecting on rice of all things. Is it safe? What about the arsenic levels? How will we know?
|California rice harvest|
I saw rice being hauled into a facility like a grain elevator I know on the prairie. Right on site, the “processing” happens. Only it’s hardly processing. I saw a machine that literally is just like sand paper take what is the brown rice and turn it into pearly white rice. That was the processing. And other rice remained brown rice. Stacked high in a building, I saw the many different bags of California rice that is shipped out to specialty markets, all over the world.
Rice is a grain that connects people.
And yesterday as I was driving down a South Dakota highway, far from where rice is grown, listening to news headlines about arsenic levels in rice, following a Consumer Reports article discussing “worrisome” arsenic levels in rice, I reached out to my friends who grow rice, promote rice and know rice. In a crisis, I have learned to listen first before responding.
Because I know rice farmers and all I could think was:
Who would suffer the most if rice was not safe to eat?
(all photos courtesy of Jim Morris of California Rice Commission)
It would not be you or me. It would be people far from us, people far from grocery stores and endless food choices.
What most affluent, well fed Americans don’t think about…and research has shown people don’t care about…is our food being safe impacts a global, hungry population. I want rice to be safe to eat for half the global population that survives day to day and sustains life in themselves and their children because of rice. And if rice is ever not safe, can you imagine how many other foods won’t be also? And who will suffer the most? Not you or I blogging, tweeting or reading from a computer in the comforts of our secure homes in America.
But before the alarmists create another attention grabbing food scare headline, we all should know:
Arsenic is found everywhere. It is naturally occurring. Arsenic is found in the air, water, soil and rocks. That is why arsenic gets into rice, or any other food grown in the ground. It doesn’t matter if it is conventionally raised or organically raised. No arsenic based pesticides are used to grow rice.
Rice is safe to eat. I’m going to trust the scientists on this one and reflect back to the rice farmers I know and the positives I have seen from the rice industry.
Everyday I could get up in arms about a food issue or headline. Rice is just one example. At the end of the day, we all want safe food. I believe in America we have the FDA to assess and decide how to use well documented research to keep our food safe. We want food choice. If you want to change the food system, do it with your purchasing. But don’t shoot bullets at those of us choosing different food choices than you. We need farmers to raise food not just to feed our wealthy nation, but to sustain life for global population.
And the globe needs rice. Because “a meal without rice is no meal.”
Awesome article. I have never seen it grown or harvested. I am glad you explained to people that it is safe and that arsenic is found everywhere in nature. I can hear the news and the scare tactics used for ratings to get people to “tune in”. I was not raised eating rice, but have incorporated it into my diet as an adult to cut down on some of the flour products I gravitate to. I recall years ago the warning not to eat peanut butter, or beef, or pork because of various dangers that caused a lot of harm to those in the industy and were later proven false. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for your calm & thoughtful assessment. We should all look at the latest “worries” as objectively. From a California rice farmer.
Well put, Katie. Thanks for reminding us to think and research before we react. And to remember that we have freedoms of choice that so many don’t.
Thanks for your thoughts on rice, Katie. The news report I saw over lunch a couple days talked about the levels being very, very low but not until the end of the segment and only briefly. It seems to me most articles in print and online read that way too. They tell you it’s awful right from the get go, and then you find out it’s not so bad or not a worry at all by the end.
Rice is a crop I’ve never seen in person growing in a field. Sounds like it’s processed about like our popcorn. Popcorn is basically run through sieves to be cleaned and then it’s ready to be bagged and/or flavored.