From the Sky to the Land, Pollution's Toxic Toll on China

The thick smog that has blanketed major cities is not the only menace pollution has unleashed on China.

Roughly 8 million acres of the country’s farmland is too polluted with heavy metals and pesticides to grow food, a government official said Monday.

Speaking at a news conference, Wang Shiyuan, a deputy minister of the Ministry of Land and Resources, stated that “moderate to severe pollution” affecting 8.3 million acres meant that those “areas cannot continue farming.”  That acreage represents roughly two percent of the country’s acres of arable land.

According to the Associated Press, some scientists have speculated that the affected area may be closer to 60 million acres.

In February, China refused to publicly disclose the results of a national soil pollution study, saying it was a “state secret.” The findings outlined Monday represent the first publicly disclosed report on land conditions since 996.

In May, public outcry followed the discovery of cadmium in rice samples above the national limits. The New York Times reported at the time:

As China deals with food security for its expanding population, some say that the possibility of feeding the country through organic growing methods is not only possible but can be more productive than conventional, pesticide-reliant farming.

“There is no problem to feed the Chinese through organic farming,” said Xiangming Wu, General Manager of Zhikun Agricultural Development Company.

Last week China announced revised production standards in an effort to curb pollution, as Reuters reported:


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