David Stanway and Niu Shuping
May 27, 2013
The discovery of dangerous levels of toxic cadmium in rice sold in the southern city of Guangzhou, the latest in a series of food scandals, has piled more pressure on China to clean up its food chain – possibly at the expense of Mao Zedong’s cherished goal of self-sufficiency.
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.