Tuesday, April 22, 2014

China Contaminated

Unbridled industrialization with almost no environmental regulation has resulted in the toxic contamination of one-fifth of China's farmland, the Communist Party has acknowledged for the first time.

The report, issued by the ministries of Environmental Protection and Land and Resources, says 16.1 percent of the country's soil in general and 19.4 percent of its farmland is polluted with toxic heavy metals such as cadmium, nickel and arsenic. It was based on a soil survey of more than 2.4 million square miles of land across China, spanning a period from April 2005 until December 2013. It excluded special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau.
In a dire assessment, the report declares: "The overall condition of the Chinese soil allows no optimism."

The Associated Press writes that the report was "previously deemed so sensitive [that] it was classified as a state secret." The official Xinhua news agency blames "irrigation by polluted water, the improper use of fertilizers and pesticides and the development of livestock breeding."
Xinhua says: "In breakdown, 11.2 percent of the country's surveyed land suffers slight pollution, while 1.1 percent is severely polluted." (Update at 12:06 p.m. ET. Earlier, we were citing numbers from The Guardian, but these figures from Chinese state media are being more widely cited.)
Most of the contaminated farm land is on the highly developed and industrialized east coast, but heavy metal pollution was especially bad in the country's southwest, according to The Guardian.
The newspaper says:
"In January, an agriculture official admitted that millions of hectares of farmland could be withdrawn from production because of severe pollution by heavy metals. And last December the vice minister of land and resources estimated that 3.3 million hectares of land is polluted, mostly in gain producing regions."
According to the AP, the report "also points to health risks that, in the case of heavy metals, can take decades to emerge after the first exposure. Already, health advocates have identified several 'cancer villages' in China near factories suspected of polluting the environment where they say cancer rates are above the national average."

As we've reported in the past, China's air pollution has become a real health concern in major urban areas.

I wondered about this when our group of 30 agricultural educators visited for the month of October, 1985.  Pollution was as bad then as what they show on TV today.  It's a major problem.  We need to be careful and I think we are.

Some say we are too careful with too much regulation and others think we are not careful enough?

What do you think?

On this "Earth Day" Celebration, doesn't the rest of the world need to be more concerned about their doings than we?

Ed Winkle


  1. Regulation seems sometimes a bit overreaching in the U.S., but I used "seems" because I don't know the whole story behind the news that are reported by politicized media. Most of the times, it turns out to be sensationalism for some political agenda.
    That said, the regulations only put in word and law and practice what responsible people should be doing naturally anyway. But they don't always, for many different reasons. The libertarian argument that they do naturally does not fly. I don't think the problem is with the regulations, more with how they are applied. They should be used for education purpose first, rather than heavy handed punitive results on first strike, which does not give the maybe unaware offender the opportunity to improve and fix the problem. But it's already how it works, isn't it? The first strike is usually just a notification, to start the paper trail if the situation does not improve.

  2. Regulation is over reaching in America. Doesn't the rest of the world need to catch up? I know we are the land of the free and the home of the brave but our prosperity has brought us regulations we as farmers can barely handle?

    On the negative side, I can see why the fertilizer law came into place in Ohio. Too many farmers didn't do what I think they should do. I am not them and they are not me.

    Can't we meet in the middle?

    Ed Winkle