Monday, May 23, 2011


Chinese food producers and processors are notorious for short circuiting the consumers through illegal and dangerous practices and the tragedy surrounding the Melamine-tainted milk which affected thousands of children some time back is still fresh in the memory of the world. Many such episodes followed the above fraud with Chinese authorities having no clue as to how such unscrupulous players can be controlled and the citizens protected from dangers lurking in the market place. Now comes another bit of news from this autocratic country about the misuse of a plant hormone in Watermelon cultivation resulting in fruits with a tendency to burst open like a "bomb" as it matures!

"Watermelons have been bursting by the score in eastern China after farmers gave them overdoses of growth chemicals during wet weather, creating what state media called fields of "land mines." About 20 farmers around Danyang city in Jiangsu province were affected, losing up to 115 acres (45 hectares) of melon, China Central Television said in an investigative report. Prices over the past year prompted many farmers to jump into the watermelon market. All of those with exploding melons apparently were first-time users of the growth accelerator forchlorfenuron, though it has been widely available for some time, CCTV said in the report broadcast Monday night. Chinese regulations don't forbid the drug, and it is allowed in the U.S. on kiwi fruit and grapes. But the report underscores how farmers in China are abusing both legal and illegal chemicals, with many farms misusing pesticides and fertilizers".

Probably Chinese farmers got the idea of using Forchlorofenuron from their US and New Zealand counterparts as this chemical, relatively a new one was permitted recently for use in grapes and Kiwi fruits for enlarging the size of the fruits and for early maturation. The Chinese farmers must have been scared by the unusual phenomenon of the fruit exploding in the field and the news came out because of the uncertainties regarding the safety of these fruits as the chemical was never used before in Watermelons. If the news reports are to be believed, in China there is widespread use of illegal chemicals while permitted ones are used in concentrations beyond the legal limits. One can only wonder why a country competing with US for being "glorified" as a super power cannot enforce global standards in agricultural and food processing practices by the industry!


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