The watermelons in eastern China have been bursting open, covering the fields, after the farmers gave them overdose of growth chemicals during the wet weather, creating what hass been called “fields of land mines.”
In hopes of making their watermelons bigger and much more profitable, the farmers were using a growth accelerator which is known as forchlorfenuron.
Around 20 farmers inDanyang city in Jiangsu province have been affected, losing up to 115 acres of watermelons. What is Forchlorfenuron?
According to the U.S. EPA, “Forchlorfenuron is cytokinthat improves the sizeof the fruit, the fruit set, cluster weight and cold storage in grapes and in kiwifruits.”
Wang Liangju, the professor with the College of Horticulture at Nanjing Agricultural University was in Danyang when the problems start happening. He believes that the chemical is safe when it’s used properly. He told The Associated Press that the drug was used too late in the season when a heavy rain activity raised the risk of the fruit exploding. The professor also believes the variety of melon played a very important role. “If it had been used on very young fruits, it wouldn’t be a problem,” saidprofessor Wang. He also added, “Another reason [for the issue] is that the melon that they were planting is a thin-rind variety and these types are actually called the ‘exploding melon’ because they tend to split.”
Chinese regulations do not forbid the usage of the drug, and it is allowed in the US on kiwi fruit and grapes, but it was reported that manyChinesefarmers are abusing both illegal and legal chemicals, with many farms misusing fertilizersandpesticides.
Is This Safe?
According to the EPA pesticide fact sheet, theforchlorfenuron is not necessarily harmless. It reports:
- Increased pup mortality and decreased litter sizes in rat studies
- Moderate toxicity to freshwater fish
- A littlebit higher toxicity levels in the avian population
How to Tell if Your Fruit Was Grown With Hormones or Pesticides
According to the Environmental Working Group, around two-thirds of the 3,015 produce samples that have been tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2013 contained pesticide residues, with a total of around 165 different pesticides on thousands of vegetable and fruit samples.
Watermelons that are grown with hormones are going to display cracks on the inside. This is a sign that watermelons grew faster than they were supposed to.
The produce that tested highest for pesticide residues are:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Snap peas
The produce that were least likely to contain pesticide residue are:
- Sweet corn
- Frozen sweet peas
- Sweet potatoes
One telltale sign that somevegetable or fruit wasn’t grown completely naturally is the lack of flavor. While growth enhancers likeflorchlorfenuron stimulate the cell division to make the product grow faster, it also drains of the flavor.
Florchlorfenuron isn’t the onlygrowth hormone that is being used in produce. The hormone known as oxytocin was known for its use in vegetables and fruits in India as well. The drug is banned for public sale in India, but it’s widely available from pesticide vendorsandfertilizer.
Other growth promoting agents used in produce is ethylene, which might contain traces of calcium carbide, and arsenic, which is believed to cause an entire slew of health problems.
If you want to reduce your exposure to pesticides and chemicals, you should buy organic — especially for those foods that contain the highest levels of pesticides. Whether the things you purchase areconventionalor organic, you still need to take steps to reduce contamination by washing the produces thoroughly and peeling them if needed.