Russia plans to use radiation on agricultural products

This technology can provide an answer to the many problems facing the animal feed industry. But environmentalists are still not entirely convinced that it is safe for mass application. Based on information from Rosatom Rusatom Healthcare subsidiary.

Fear of nuclear technology is an obstacle

As part of the proposed processing technology, the products are exposed for a limited period of time to radiation from a radioactive isotope, for example cobalt-60. This belongs to a class of synthetic radioactive isotopes, which means that it can only be produced artificially in nuclear reactors. Speaking to the Russian press a few years ago, Dmitry Teplyakov, Marketing Director of Rusatom Healthcare, claimed that while the technology has proven to be safe and promising, widespread fear of nuclear technology appeared to be a major obstacle on the way to full-fledged marketing. .

Use of ionizing radiation supported by the IAEA

The use of ionizing radiation in the agricultural industry is supported by the international atomic energy agency (IAEA). This organization recognized the technology as safe for disinfection and disinfestation of crops by insects.

Studies show no danger for agricultural products

According to Rosatom, none of the studies to date have shown that agricultural products that have undergone radioactive exposure could in any way be dangerous. Rosatom has performed studies that strengthen its claims about the effectiveness of the technology.

In 2011, an experiment in the Republic of Tatarstan showed that pre-sowing treatment resulted in a 17-23% increase in wheat harvest, an 11-12.4% increase in barley production and an increase in barley production. from 21 to 27% of corn production. , compared to the parameters of the control group.

Rosatom executives have also repeatedly dismissed rumors that food products treated with radiation may lose their taste or smell, or change in appearance.

Some doubts remain as to the complete safety of the use of radioactive treatment of agricultural products.  Photo: Peter JERoek
Some doubts remain as to the complete safety of the use of radioactive treatment of agricultural products. Photo: Peter JERoek

Radiation use on agricultural products around the world

Rosatom has already signed preliminary agreements to build commercial irradiation centers outside of Russia. In 2018, Rusatom Healthcare and A Brown Company Inc. signed a project development agreement for the construction of a network of irradiation centers in the Philippines.

The technology we offer to our Filipino partners is based on more than 70 years of nuclear experience, and we hope it will contribute to the sustainable development of the Philippines. – Denis Cherednichenko, CEO of Rusatom Healthcare, after the signing ceremony.

Turnkey solution in radiation technologies

Rusatom Healthcare offers a turnkey solution in the field of radiation technologies, which includes the design and construction of irradiation centers, manufacture and delivery of equipment, training of personnel and commissioning of the facility. .

In 2016, Rosatom signed a bilateral cooperation agreement for the development of a network of integrated infrastructure irradiation centers with the Indian Agricultural Association, Hindustan Agro Co-Op Ltd. In total, at least 7 centers were to be built.

“The use of irradiation will reduce grain losses from 15% to 3-5% per year,” Cherednichenko said after the signing ceremony.

Worldwide, 1 million tonnes of food is sterilized by radiation

According to Food Irradiation Global Market Outlook, nearly one million tonnes of food is sterilized by radiation worldwide. Sterilized foods are in great demand in hospitals, especially for patients with AIDS and chemotherapy. However, in most cases x-rays are used, and not radioactive isotopes, which is considered less effective. However, Rosatom has not reported any significant progress in building foreign irradiation centers in recent years. The nuclear company declined to comment on the current status of these projects.

Treatment may become compulsory

Rosatom has always emphasized that it only offers technologies in the world market that have proven to be safe and effective in Russia. However, Russian environmentalists are protesting against recently drawn up plans to employ low-dose radioactive treatment of food and agricultural products.

“In 2019, an irradiation center was opened in the city of Obninsk, in Kaluga oblast. It is planned to build 3 other irradiation centers [in Russia]”, commented Albert Garapov, president of the Antinuclear Society of Tatarstan, where the country’s first experiments involving the use of radiation for agricultural products were carried out.” In addition, the State Duma (the lower house of parliament Russian) has registered the bill, which has already passed first reading, under which all products are offered for compulsory treatment with ionic radiation, “Garapov said.” Lobbyists for this radiation law have turned to the monopoly so that there were hardly any products that were not exposed to radiation. They just want to eliminate the competition, fully understanding that people with more or less literate will choose non-irradiated foods. environmental community is, of course, against that, ”he added.

There are risks of unexplored consequences, as substantial doses are needed to kill bacteria …

Radiotoxins cause concern

According to environmentalists, experiments with using radiation to process agricultural products have led to bad things in the past. “After the collapse of the USSR, the United States had to finance projects aimed at finding and safely storing sources of agricultural radiation in Georgia and Moldova”, commented Andrey Ozharovsky, a specialist in the organization. Russian environmental non-governmental organization, the Nuclear Waste Safety Program. . “Radiation therapy produces radiotoxins – substances formed in the irradiated body that can cause radiation damage. As the experiments carried out in the USSR have shown, the consumption of food products exposed to radiation leads to serious illnesses and affects many generations, ”Garapov said. lead to unwanted changes in seeds and agricultural products, ”said Ozharovsky.

Amalia H. Mercado