How does China feed its nearly 1.5 billion people

While the article below is laced with humor, it does not take away from some serious lessons for the rest of the countries most of all India. Apart from copying China’s policies to deal with our own food security issues, we are the most vulnerable if food from across our border starts to become the mainstay much like toys, electronics and a host of goods from around the world but with “China’ inside…

15 Sep, 2011, 02.20AM IST, ET Bureau

How does China feed its nearly 1.5 billion people

How does a nation of nearly 1.5 billion people feed a growing population? Throughout its history, China has wrestled with the problem and come up with ingenious solutions. It adopted techniques like river water management, extensive irrigation, pig and poultry farming and so on centuries ago. Today, science is at hand, helping boost crop yields and growth rates.

Alas nothing, not even science, is perfect. Intensive farming, with plenty of chemicals thrown in has ended badly for many rice producers: the heavy metal cadmium, poisonous for people, has been detected in Chinese rice. Melamine, another toxic agent, has turned up in milk; soy sauce has been unwittingly laced with arsenic and mushrooms with bleach. Chicken farmers routinely boost the weight of the birds by feeding them barites, a heavy clay used while drilling for offshore oil. China is a large pork producer, but beef is scarce and expensive.

It’s tempting for pork growers to garnish the meat with the detergent borax, which makes pork look like beef. But nobody expected what would happen when farmers sprayed their fields of watermelons with a chemical called forchlorfenuron, which helps fruits and vegetables grow faster. Instead of growing, the watermelons started exploding spectacularly, spraying swathes of land all around with shrapnel of pips, skin and mushy red insides.

Thus, in a little over two days, over 130 acres of watermelon blew up in the area around Danyang. The Chinese government is alarmed. It doesn’t want anything, not even watermelons, blowing up in its face. Indians import much from China, but should avoid importing its farming practices. We might live down an exploding watermelon or two, but what if coconuts went ballistic?




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