Over 10 percent of China’s farm land is contaminated, threatening the ability of the world’s most populous nation to feed itself, the official Xinhua news agency has said.
Excessive fertilizer use, dirty water and solid waste were among the main pollutants, with heavy metals alone poisoning around 12 million tonnes of grain a year, the report said, quoting the Ministry of Land and Resources.
That pollution caused 20 billion yuan (US$2.59 billion) of annual losses.
In total, around 12.3 million hectares have been damaged, and the country is also losing large amounts of arable land to development as its cities expand, posing a “severe threat” to national food security, Xinhua quoted an unnamed ministry official saying.
China had already announced that agricultural land had shrunk by 306,800 hectares in the first 10 months of last year alone, to a total 121.8 million hectares.
Beijing is trying to halt the outward sprawl of its cities, with a series of restrictions on luxury developments and the use of farmland for housing or industrial zones.
Officials have called for efforts to keep arable land at or above 120 million hectares by 2010. (US$1=7.716 Yuan)