9 August 2002

Selenium worries over UKs wheat

BRITISH wheat contains 10-50 times less selenium than American or Canadian grain, which could lead to a higher risk of cancer, new research suggests.

Greater use of home-grown wheat in UK breadmaking grists over the past 30 years has contributed to a 50% drop in consumer intake of selenium.

Steve McGrath, of Rothamsted Research, who carried out the research on selenium levels in UK grain, believes reduced pollution may be to blame.

"A general deficiency of selenium in UK soils and reduced atmospheric deposition from fossil fuel burning are probably the most important contributory factors."

However, more research is needed before growers are advised to apply selenium-enriched fertilisers, says Prof McGrath. "We need to test Se additives under UK conditions, with UK cereal varieties to determine what should be added and when." &#42