China is now reported to be paying a high price for its three decades of rapid industrialization and strong economic growth and that is because about 3.3 million hectares of the country’s farmland is now too polluted to grow crops.
The area of contaminated land is said to be about the same size as Belgium and according to an official of land and resources no more planting would be allowed on it as the government was determined to prevent toxic metals entering the food chain.
China’s determination to squeeze as much food and resources as possible from its land has put thousands of farms close to chemical plants, mines and other heavy industries, raising the risks of contamination.
The growth of Chinese industry, overuse of farm chemicals and lax environmental enforcement have left swathes of the countryside tainted by lead, cadmium, pesticides and other toxins.
This year, inspectors found dangerous levels of cadmium, a cancer-causing metal, in rice sold in the southern city of Guangzhou. The rice was grown in Henan, a major heavy metal-producing region.
With food security still the most pressing concern China is determined to rectify the problem and had committed billions of dollars a year to pilot projects aimed at rehabilitating contaminated land and underground water supplies.