No More Rice For China; Too Toxic...

Discussion in 'Chinese Chat' started by ralphrepo, May 23, 2013.

  1. ralphrepo

    ralphrepo Well-Known Member

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    In the latest poisoned food twist to hits China's people, now they can't even trust their rice. Ironic, isn't it? That the main staple of Chinese since the beginning of time; so iconic that the communist's social net is referred to as an Iron 'Rice' Bowl, is now being publicly derided as too toxic after dangerous levels of Cadmium was found in greater than 50% of samples. Apparently this rice is sourced only from Hunan, and is suspected to have been tainted either by industrial wastes or excessive pesticides. But that hasn't stopped on line Chinese fury over the latest revelation in a wide swath of tainted food products that have poisoned China's people over the last two decades. Food integrity is seemingly unattainable by Chinese authorities whose actions historically have been more towards suppression of damning information rather than solution of the problem itself.

    What now? Do Chinese tourists and diaspora raid overseas supermarkets (like they've been doing with milk powder) and ship 'safe' foreign rice back to China for relatives?

    :facepalm:

    In A Hurry? Just Read The Red Highlighted Lines For A Quick Synopsis

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    • CHINA NEWS
    • Updated May 21, 2013, 12:13 p.m. ET
    Threat to Rice Fuels Latest Chinese Uproar
    Guangzhou Finds High Cadmium Levels In New Scare Over Contaminated Food
    By TE-PING CHEN

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    Xinhua/Zuma Press Farmers work at terraced fields in Hunan province, the provenance of much of the rice found to be contaminated by Guangzhou authorities.

    HONG KONG—A government test indicated that nearly half the rice sold in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou was contaminated with cadmium, triggering anger from consumers that China's staple food hasn't escaped the widespread pollution tainting its air, water and soil.

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    Nearly half the rice samples from markets in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou contain excessive levels of dangerous cadmium, official tests found. Jean-Yves Chow, a senior industry analyst at Rabobank, talks about why the contamination will take time to clean up. Nearly half of 18 rice samples tested in local markets during the first three months of the year contained excessive levels of cadmium, according to the Guangzhou Food and Drug Administration. A carcinogenic metal that can wreak havoc on the body's kidneys, cadmium has been found in heavy concentrations in soil in different Chinese regions, soil-pollution experts say. Fury erupted online after the figures were published late last week on the Guangzhou body's website. The report came in the wake of other recent pollution controversies, including the discovery of rotting pig carcasses floating in Shanghai's water supply and the choking levels of air pollution Beijing experienced earlier this year.

    More in China


    "First water, then the air we breathe, and now the earth. How can people still survive?" wrote one user on Sina Weibo, a popular Twitter-like microblogging service. "I suppose we can always move abroad or to outer space." Social-media criticism has been a crucial driver in the debate over pollution in China. Environmental issues have also received increasingly frank coverage in state media in a sign China's new leaders are attempting to address growing quality-of-life concerns by ordinary Chinese. Earlier this year, Beijing started to release better air-quality data after a campaign by angry social-media users. Food safety is a particular concern, as some of the contaminants from years of industrial development make their way into the country's food from the soil in which it is grown. According to 2011 research at Nanjing Agricultural University, roughly 10% of all rice sold in China is tainted by cadmium, the result of use of industrial wastewater for irrigation, dumping of industrial waste and over application of fertilizer.

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    Heavy-metal contamination in China's soil also includes high amounts of lead and arsenic. In 2006, the country's Ministry for Environmental Protection launched a nationwide soil-pollution survey, which was to have been concluded in 2010. But earlier this year the ministry rejected requests by a Beijing lawyer to see the results, citing "state secrets." Anger that authorities held on to data with potentially serious health consequences was exacerbated by the use of the state-secret argument—common throughout the government to justify refusing information requests. The tactic was even questioned by the flagship Communist Party newspaper the People's Daily on its Sina Weibo account, which called it "the magic phrase for rejecting disclosure." Anger is also rising online that wealthy Chinese, including factory owners who contribute to pollution problems, can emigrate and raise their families elsewhere. "We should prevent Chinese people from emigrating overseas. If we did that, these companies wouldn't pollute so much," wrote one Weibo user on Monday. Users also circulated cartoon rice bowls featuring embedded skeleton heads.

    Some analysts say the government refuses to release data on soil pollution in part because of fears it could unleash social instability. An accurate picture of soil pollution could endanger the livelihoods of farmers by encouraging consumer boycotts of food produced in contaminated areas. It could strengthen the voice of protesters and activists fighting to close down polluting factories and lead to massive compensation claims by residents in areas where the soil has been poisoned by industrial waste. China faces an immense task to feed its population as breakneck industrial development has eaten into the country's supply of arable land. An honest assessment of soil quality would put further pressure on food supplies, and challenge the government's policy of food self-sufficiency, which it believes is a strategic imperative.

    In response to the Guangzhou rice scandal, the People's Daily this week advised people to "diversify" their diets so that they weren't eating produce from just one region. That way, the degree of risk from consumption would be minimized, the paper said. According to the Guangzhou authorities, the contaminated samples were found to have 0.21 milligram to 0.4 milligram of cadmium in each kilogram of rice. The Chinese government allows a maximum 0.2 mg of cadmium in each kilogram of rice.

    The rice was mainly imported from nearby Hunan, a province that is traditionally known as the "land of fish and rice," thanks to its bountiful produce. All the rice was produced at small-scale mills of the kind common in China's agricultural sector, which remains extremely localized and composed of smaller operations, making it difficult to regulate standards. Over the weekend, Guangzhou authorities said the sample size was small, and not necessarily representative of all rice being sold in the city. It was also unclear how the report compares to previous findings in Guangzhou.

    China has been a net rice importer for several years, but sends some amounts of rice elsewhere, including to the U.S. and Hong Kong. U.S. researchers have found rice from China contain high concentrations of lead, according to the American Chemical Society. Authorities in Guangzhou—southern China's largest city—initially refused to disclose the name of the rice producers, triggering even more of a backlash. The government succumbed to the pressure and released the names of the mostly small mills over the weekend. The rice producers included Daban Rice Factory, as well as Xiasheng Rice Factory, Rixing Rice Mill and Dongyang Rice Mill. None of the Hunan mill operators could be reached for comment. An employee at one additionally named Guangdong producer, Daojiao Jinying Rice Product Factory, based in the city of Dongguan, said he was unaware of the issue.

    The government said it had forbidden the use of the rice, "adopted control measures" and will continue surveillance and random sampling of rice in the city. Cadmium is frequently found in leafy vegetables such as spinach and choi sum grown in polluted conditions. For cadmium to be evident in rice grains as well, the soil in which it was grown must have been especially highly polluted, said Jonathan Wong, a Hong Kong biology professor who has studied mainland soil pollution extensively. In Japan during the late 1960s, an outbreak of itai-itai disease, or "ouch, ouch" disease, was traced back to cadmium after it poisoned people and softened their bones. Experts say removing cadmium from the soil is a costly process that would likely require seeding certain plants for long periods to help remove toxicity. The metal doesn't degrade on its own, and can linger in the human body for decades. Local and national food-safety regulators didn't return requests for comment.

    —Zhoudong Shangguan contributed to this article. Write to Te-Ping Chen at te-ping.chen@wsj.com

    A version of this article appeared May 21, 2013, on page A8 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Threat to Rice Fuels Latest Chinese Uproar.

    Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB100...2413470.html?m od=WSJAsia_hpp_LEFTTopStories

    [video=youtube;6XGT1ArkKlQ]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XGT1ArkKlQ[/video]
     
    #1 ralphrepo, May 23, 2013
    Last edited: May 23, 2013
  2. EvilTofu

    EvilTofu 吃|✿|0(。◕‿◕。)0|✿|吃

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    The media in Guangzhou has a news show that just totally bash the gov't that deals with food safety and people who's doing all these things.

    Nothing is safe to consume in China now. They talk about going to HK to buy rice but it's illegal to buy more than 15kg.

    The law they have now is weak on these offenders and a bigger problem is that no one really enforces the law or do enough to stop it. Corruption is obvious in some cases cause the media their reported a few incidents and when the police got there, all the criminals are gone.
     
  3. surplusletterbox

    surplusletterbox Well-Known Member

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    Looks like the western countries outsourcing their factories and production to China, India and elsewhere is having too many negative effects. It is time to move these polluting factories elsewhere or clean-up. Clean up will be dear. If China went the same way as Japan, Korea and Taiwan in cleaning the pollution,plus improved health and higher quality of life, then the higher cost of living may gain parity with these neighbouring countries.

    By the way American rice is about half the toxicity of Chinese rice. Look up the toxcity level of American rice in the ex-cotton farm belts if you did not realise before. Of course the range of concentration of heavy metals will vary a lot depending on the new source and old sources of polutants. Thai rice is also variable, some very low toxicity and some comparable to US rice in toxicity. Likewise Italian and Czech rice are not much better than Chinese rice.

    Essentially there is no declaration of heavy metals contents in rice any where in the world so it is very hard for consumers to make an informed choice. Essentially the general American consumer advice, I researched into this, to be on a safer approach, is to eat approximately 2 days in a week of rice. This means even when you are on a total American US long grain rice as it contains heavy metals too! The rest of the days should be balanced with potatoes, bread, pasta etc..

    The most notorius Cadmium poisoning happened in the Jinzu River 神通川 flowing to Toyama Bay. This caused the Itai Itai disease which the mining company had denied any legal responsibility (but failed). The cleanup began in 1979 at a total cost of ¥40.7 billion. So it is not cheap nor easy to mobilise anti-polution when China began massive industrialising in the 1980s. At the end of the day all businesses have to run economically and competitively, sometimes, human suffering could be said to be too high cost. The same could be said of sub-prime mortgage and financial meltdown which caused toxic loans and toxic debts. In politics people who slowly and quietly die from pollution is much more acceptable than death by other means (especially if economic effect is positive).
     
    #3 surplusletterbox, May 26, 2013
    Last edited: May 26, 2013
  4. ralphrepo

    ralphrepo Well-Known Member

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    Hmm... You're essentially paraphrasing Mao.

    I understand perfectly what you're saying, even as I disagree entirely with such a premise. Historically, Mao's ideology would have China cut off its left hand in order to make the right hand stronger. In essence, his way of thinking would allow millions of peasants to die so that the remainder lives (as did happen with the Great Leap Forward); that was a perfectly acceptable calculus as the cost of nation building. What's disheartening to me is that there are many in present day China, especially the ardent nationalist, who basically believe in the same mantra; that millions of 'other' Chinese shouldn't complain if they have to die in order for the country to get stronger (militarily, economically, educationally). These are the ones who are pervasive on the net, calling any disagreement with inhumane Chinese government policy as 'China Bashing' or some other emotionally charged sovereign insult.

    The most interesting thing to me however, is that every time the US has a problem with a product safety, do we feel the need to compare ourselves to China? No; because frankly, whether Chinese live or die, it doesn't matter to American product safety. That is why it is so puzzling that whenever Chinese product safety is called into question, there is almost always a knee jerk reflex to defend it comparatively by saying, "well, don't forget the US had blah blah blah too..." The point is, will people in China be any less affected, or feel better that Americans (anyone else for that matter) are being poisoned too? China is arguably one of, if not the richest country in the world right now. For it to have such pervasive societal anxiety because of persistent widespread food product safety concerns, is frankly pathetic.

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    In the photograph above, WE Smith, who took on, at great personal sacrifice, the industrial bosses of Japan, photographically documented the disease caused by severe mercury poisoning in the waters of Minamata City way back in 1956. The effects of long term heavy metal poisoning of the environment was clearly established more than a half century ago. Does China need to be so stupid that it has to go through a half century of wide spread poisoning of its own people in order for it to become 'industrialized' properly? Then to add insult to injury, in its defense, say that 'other' industrialized nations' people had to suffer through that too, before they can become world powers?

    That's a laughable position to take; such self serving ideology is ethically baseless as it is morally bankrupt. China certainly does NOT need to make the same industrialization mistakes as other nations historically did; it can be much better than that if it only set its mind to do so.
     
    #4 ralphrepo, May 27, 2013
    Last edited: May 27, 2013
  5. surplusletterbox

    surplusletterbox Well-Known Member

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    China will probably makes the same perfection and mistakes as any other human beings on earth. Some lessons could be learnt from history and some lessons would repeat themselves. This is because business place profit usually before all else. Human beings are driven by a passion to survive, succeed and to be spirited, along the way, humans are driven by compassion, greed, forgiveness, jealousy, competitiveness, generosity, often against and for humanity itself.
    In order to be a rounded scholar, one has to learn from others, compare oneself with others , and do one's own research and development. Then form one's own opinion. If you know any better how to reduce the cadmium in China I am sure they would welcome your science and investment. Failing that you could round up a number of like minded people to pay for an industrial study by leading companies in the world which specialise in pollution reduction. I would be surprised if any one would decline any positive contribution to reduce pollution on an economic basis.
     
  6. ralphrepo

    ralphrepo Well-Known Member

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    Mind, I'm not disagreeing with you, that the human potential for avarice drives against many of the things that are possible in China. IMHO, it has been the primary reason behind the seemingly endless stream of bad news vis a vis bad or toxic food items coming out of the 'people's' republic; many of which are totally avoidable. This is why such revelations are so frustratingly maddening. My point was, that given the easy access to many forms of historical information regarding food safety issues, it seems ludicrous to me that a nation with the advanced technical knowledge of the PRC should fall prey to having its citizenry lose faith in its ability to protect its own food sources.

    Cadmium, as well other heavy metals, once in the environment, is exceedingly difficult to remove. That is why most governments do not allow industrial effluents to exceed certain levels. I'm sure the PRC government knows all about this. The key difference here is, I think, the lack of proper or vigorous enforcement of existing environmental rules. Like with anything else in China, the endemic corruption of low level government 'officials' makes this nearly impossible as a matter of routine; there just isn't the political or moral mettle, at least not enough for those few honest individuals to dare go up against a party apparatus that thrives through the fruits of such practice.

    What can be done immediately? Realistically, not much. Other than curtailing the pollution cause, punishing a few greedy culprits, the land on which that rice was grown probably has to lie fallow for years to come. There have been promising studies in which detoxification (by dedicated bacterial strains or by floral phytoextraction methodology), can recover tainted lands after being thus treated over several years. However, given the lack of political will in the PRC, even this low cost approach seems rather unlikely.
     
  7. surplusletterbox

    surplusletterbox Well-Known Member

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  8. hellokittysansan

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    Seems like nothing is safe in China anymore how could you trust them. For something like rice seen as a necessity for everyone in China even that is tainted.