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Arsenic Builds Up In Plant Seeds, Study Reveals New Findings

First Posted: Dec 23, 2015 11:54 AM EST

Arsenic is a well-known toxin and a carcinogen, generated from minerals and used in a number of pesticides, herbicides, animal growth promoters and semiconductors. A team of international scientists have recently identified how arsenic gets into the seeds of plants such as rice. The researchers' study paves the way for safer and healthier rice grains.

"While the process of how arsenic is taken into roots and shoots of plants is fairly well understood, little is known about how arsenic gets into seeds," Barry P. Rosen, coauthor of the study from Florida International University said in a news release. "Understanding how arsenic is accumulated in seeds such as the rice grain is of critical importance in population health."

The researchers found that Arabidopsis thaliana, which is used as a model food plants like rice, uses transport systems for inositol, which is a type of sugar to load arsenite into seeds. This was the first case of identifying transporters responsible for arsenic accumulation in seeds.

The majority dietary arsenic is found in plants such as rice, which is a major component of the diet for over 2.5 billion people worldwide. The average American eats 25 pounds of rice per year, U.S. Rice Producers Association.

Arsenic is first on the U.S. Priority List of Hazardous Substances and it is a threat to drinking water supplies along with our food supply.

The researchers' new discovery could lead to the development of improved rice cultivation methods with reduced arsenic in rice grains.

The findings of this study were published in the journal Nature Plants.

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