The Organic Center steps up research focus

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UNFI Foundation provides grant for arsenic and rice research

Contact: Barbara Haumann (; 802-275-3820)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 5, 2013)—The Organic Center has signed an agreement with U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) for ARS scientists to conduct targeted research on the factors affecting the presence of arsenic in organically grown rice. Making this research possible is a $50,000 grant to The Organic Center from the newly formed UNFI Foundation.

The Center, which recently added Jessica Shade, Ph.D., as its Director of Science Programs, is funding organic rice research headed up by ARS scientist Anna McClung at the Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center in Stuttgart, AR. For the studies, The Center has channeled an additional $12,500 in support it received from the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) through a grant also made possible by the UNFI Foundation.

“This research advances the mission of the UNFI Foundation by strengthening consumer confidence in the safety of organic rice and rice-based products through the development of organic farming practices,” said Melody Meyer, Executive Director of the UNFI Foundation. She added, “Funding this research is a timely proactive approach to protecting public health, and advancing organic farming.”

Currently, as a result of the agreement, ARS scientists are testing stored samples of organic rice grown under controlled organic conditions at USDA research facilities, and examining the factors that directly impact the rate of arsenic accumulation in rice grown organically—varietal selection, flooding and organic compliant fertilizers. The goal is to offer future strategies to the organic sector to minimize such accumulation.

“The organic industry is committed to maintaining the safety of food, and to working proactively on solutions to help minimize the presence of arsenic, especially in certified organic foods. The Organic Center’s mission includes convening credible, evidence-based science on the health and environmental benefits of organic food and farming, so we are helping to facilitate this research,” said Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs for The Center.

The Center is leveraging public investment it has received for research critical to the organic industry and of importance to public health. Because the studies are using stored samples, the timeline for completing the research is expected to be cut substantially. Currently, the studies are expected to offer tangible mitigation strategies for the organic sector within a year, and to be published in peer-reviewed journals by USDA scientists.

“The Organic Center is truly grateful for the huge support provided by the UNFI Foundation and OFRF. Without them, this research would not be possible,” Shade added.

The Organic Center's mission is to convene credible, evidence-based science on the health and environmental benefits of organic food and farming, and to communicate the findings to the public. As an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) research and education organization, operating under the administrative auspices of the Organic Trade Association, The Center envisions improved health for the earth and its inhabitants through the conversion of agriculture to organic methods.