Food Scares Put Mao’s Self-sufficiency Goal at Risk
Starting with Mao Zedong, China has long aimed to be self-sufficient in its food supply. But with toxins being discovered in domestically-produced food, imports of many of the staples are on the rise. From Reuters:
The ruling Communist Party has long staked its legitimacy on its ability to guarantee domestic staple food supplies, and has pledged to be at least 95 percent self-sufficient even as demand increases and the fastest and biggest urbanization process in history swallows up arable land.
That has led to a drive for quantity rather than quality – securing bumper harvests even from land contaminated by high levels of industrial waste and irrigated with water unfit for human consumption. “China has a big population and we used to face food shortages so the government has focused on quantity,” said Li Guoxiang, a researcher at the state-backed Rural Development Institute of the China Academy of Social Sciences.
But food safety is becoming a bigger worry than food security after a series of scandals ranging from melamine-tainted milk to toxic heavy metals in rice and vegetables – and raising the share of imports may be the least-worst option.
The government, under increasing public pressure and facing anti-pollution protests, has promised to reverse some of the damage done to the environment by three decades of breakneck industrial expansion. But the scale of the problem is huge, especially as China looks to maintain its economic growth, find jobs for millions of new urban residents and ensure that just 9 percent of the world’s land can feed a fifth of the global population. [Source]