A few months ago, local state media exposed that farmers in China's Jiangsu province were affected by the problem of “exploding watermelons” due to the overuse of chemicals. On 5 July, 2011, the Ministry of Agriculture asserted [zh] that the chemical growth enhancer for watermelon is safe as the toxic residue level is low.
The Ministry also stated that if growth chemicals banned in China, the whole agricultural industry sector would be affected.
Exploding watermelons found in Eastern China
According to Hutong news summary [zh], the watermelons were exploding in the fields like balloons. The growth enhancer involved in the incident is Forchlorfenuron, which is also legal in the United States. As the growth enhancer drains fruit of its flavor, farmers have also been applying chemical sweeteners and dyes to the watermelons.
Don't blame the watermelons, according to the Ministry of Agriculture
[Ministry of Agriculture: Toxic level of watermelon growth enhancer is low and safe] July 5, the official from the Ministry of Agriculture has given official responses to the “watermelon growth enhancer incident”. It is stated that the toxic level residue of growth enhancer remains at a very low level. If the farmers apply the enhancer according to the dosage, there wouldn't be any food security problems. If growth enhancer is banned, the whole agricultural sector will have problems. Detailed report: http://t.cn/apCbAA [zh]
The public statement made by the Ministry of Agriculture has not restored consumers’ confidence. Instead, netizens are skeptical of the lack of regulation in the application of additives to watermelons.
The latest scandal is the discovery of plastic material inside a watermelon in Jinan city. Below is a television news segment showing what a plastic watermelon looks like:
In addition, netizens have read between the lines of the statement made by the Ministry of Agriculture and are criticizing for being irresponsible. Below is a selected translation of comments from Sina Weibo's news thread [zh]:
@焦然blog: the agricultural ministry is only concerned about agricultural production and doesn't care about other problems. This is very bureaucratic. The “safe” food under your definition would eventually enter your mouth. When you stretch your legs [meaning die], you would say you suffocate yourself rather than being poisoned to death. (July 6 13:53)
@DQ肥龙: Our government is so xxx. Take the statement literally, definitely there is toxicity, the issue at stake is the toxic level. The press conference is not to deal with the problem, but to stabilize production. The agricultural production has more importance that food security. No one shall undermine the agricultural production, that's all. (July 6 13:48)
@林川-大脚八: All I want to know is what else in our daily food does not have an additive? A little bit of it in watermelon, in potato, in pork, in fish and shrimp, in chicken and duck, won't they accumulate in our body?
@人民视点: Vegetable growth enhancer is different from animal hormones. There is no need to panic. However, there is no way for the authority to guarantee that the farmers are not abusive in their dosage. This is the real problem. (July 6 11:28)
@苏格拉秀: Without growth enhancer the agriculture production would face problems? So growth enhancer is more important that sunshine and water? Go to hell Ministry of Agriculture!! Give us back green agricultural products! (July 6 11:20)
gloria98 专家以及相关负责人说的话，现在已经没人相信了……(7月6日 11:03)
@gloria98: No one believes in officials and experts anymore… (July 6 11:03)