Exploding Watermelons in China
Recently, China has been in the news for their lapse in proper farming practices and food safety scandals. Let us not forget that China promised decisive action after a huge milk scandal in 2008 that saw at least six babies die and 300,000 made ill by dairy products tainted with the industrial chemical melamine, added to give the appearance of higher protein content. However, whether it is the discoveries of the heavy metal cadmium in rice, toxic melamine in milk, arsenic in soy sauce, bleach in mushrooms, and the detergent borax in pork, added to make it resemble beef – one thing is for sure – Chinese farming has not changed it regulations.
The latest scandal is the growth accelerator forchlorfenuron that has been used on watermelons. The chemical is legal and is said to stimulate cell separation, improve fruit size, fruit set, cluster weight and cold storage, but in the case of melons it often leaves melons misshapen and turns the seeds white. In this case, the improper usage of this chemical caused watermelons to explode like land mines.
Farmers claim that by using chemicals, they can jump start the season by as much as 2 weeks, as well as increase the fruit size by 20%. Seems like a win-win, except that many farmers grow their own food separately from the chemically-raised crops they sell. ”I feel there is nothing safe I can eat now because people are in too much of a hurry to make money,” said Huang Zhanliang, a farmer in Hebei. Sadly, this food safety issue doesn’t stop here. Last week, reporters shed light on more food safety issues such as the use of human birth control used on cucumber plants, barite powder that has been injected into chickens in Guizhou to increase their weight, tainted pork, “recycled” cooking oil, toxic baby formula, and even cadmium (a heavy metal that affects the nervous system) that tainted more than a tenth of China’s rice.
China is the 3rd largest supplier of US food and animal feed. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the United States imported $4.1 billion worth of seafood and agricultural products from China in 2006. In 1995, it was $800 million. I haven’t done a whole lot of research, but I would love to know what percentage of our food actually does come from China. The whole thing weirds me out, and reaffirms my passion for knowing where our food comes from. I will opt to play it safe and choose to eat locally and have the freedom to ask my farmers about their practices.
Here is a short video on the issue, and to read more click here