Politics

Farm Pollution in China is Getting Worse

By | Apr 14, 2015 08:43 PM EDT
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farmer

A farmer plants paddy on a terrace field in China. Pollution from farms in the country is getting worse, despite efforts to cut back on using fertilizers and pesticides, according to China’s agricultural ministry(Photo : Reuters)

Pollution from farms in China is getting worse, despite efforts to cut back on using fertilizers and pesticides, according to the country's agricultural ministry. The government agency is urging Chinese farmers to use organic farming methods, reports Shanghai Daily.

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"Agricultural non-point source pollution is worsening, exacerbating the risk of soil and water pollution," the ministry said in a statement.

Experts warn that in order to reach the ministry's goal, food output would have to be sacrificed in the world's most populous country. Chinese farms consume about one-third of global fertilizers, with rapid growth in recent years driven by higher fruit and vegetable production. China is the world's biggest grower of apples, strawberries, watermelons and a other fruits and vegetables.

The overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has polluted water sources and has contaminated the soil with heavy metals. There are significant amounts of pesticide residue on food, which is a threat to public health and agricultural productivity.

Zhang Taolin, China's vice minister of Agriculture said that farmers apply 550 kilograms of fertilizer to every hectare of fruit trees and 365 kilograms of fertilizer for each hectare of vegetables. He said that pesticide consumption should be reduced to 300,000 tons from the current 320,000 tons.

"There is large space to reduce this growth," Zhang said, who hopes to halt growth in fertilizer use in China by 2020. "I believe it is absolutely possible to guarantee our food security strategy."

According to data from the World Bank, in 2012  China used 647.6 kilograms of fertilizer per hectare of arable land, multiple times greater than the U.S., which used 131 kilograms.

Over the past three decades, China's use of chemical fertilizer increased by an average of 5.2 percent a year, China state news agency Xinhua reported last month.

Qiu Huanguang, a professor at Renmin University, told Shanghai Daily he has doubts about the plan for farmers to adopt organic methods.

"Soil fertility is declining so it needs fertilizer to maintain it," he said, adding that switching to organic alternatives, such as animal manure, was much more labor-intensive for farmers whoa re already facing rising labor costs.

Chinese farmers use 2.5 million tons of plastic sheeting annually to maintain soil moisture control and control weeds, which is often left behind and damages soil, water and animal health.

The government wants to stop this by promoting the use of waste management systems at livestock farms, as well as the use of biodegradable products, Zhang said.

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