We all love watermelon, especially in the hot summer days. You can use it to make a fresh fruit salad, make a delicious summer smoothie or just eat watermelon. We can’t imagine a picnic or a cookout without a juicy watermelon. But at what cost are these gigantic watermelons being produced? This is really shocking – recent news has shown that the drive to make the fruit bigger and more profitable has had an unexpected effect in China: exploding watermelon.
This is how the story goes – well, it all started when farmer’s noticed that some of their fruit had cracked in half out in their fields. Before long, hundreds of acres of melon had been lost to the mysterious phenomenon. But, the real truth is that these melons weren’t exploding on their own: while 19 of the 20 farmers affected insisted they didn’t use chemicals in their field, one popular fertilizer was found to be the culprit.
They’ve all used forchlorfenuron. This chemical is used to make melons up to 20% bigger and bring harvest forward by two weeks, ensuring a more significant profit for farmers. The bad thing is that watermelons that are treated with this chemical are usually less flavorful, more misshapen and filled with white seeds instead of black ones. Note: this chemical didn’t caused the “explosion”, but heavy rain and poor timing contributed to the strange reaction.
Is Forchlorfenuron Safe?
Well, the experts say that this chemical has been used in China since the 1980s and is generally considered “safe”. Cui Jian, director of the vegetable research institute at Qingdao Academy of Agricultural Science said:
“Well, in general we don’t suggest chemicals with plant hormones be used on watermelons, as they are very sensitive. And you should know that they might end up looking very strange and people will not want to buy them. The taste won’t be as good and storage is more difficult, but it should not harm anyone’s health.”
Note: The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) thinks otherwise. They say that the fertilizer, which is also used in the United States and elsewhere to increase the size of grapes and kiwis is cytotoxic. Many different animal studies have discovered that this chemical can cause acute oral, dermal and respiratory toxicity as well as kidney inflammation. Although it’s not considered a to be carcinogenic, you should know that the fertilizer can cause reproductive toxicity, stomach lesions and increased fetal mortality.
But, if that wasn’t enough for you, then you should know that these chemicals are leeching into the environment and affecting both fauna and flora all around the world. And here comes the million-dollar question – if these fertilizers have such a devastating health and environmental cost, why are they still being allowed? With the Chinese population exceeding 1 billion people and the Chinese agricultural industry relying on international exports, it’s no surprise that the government is doing all it can to increase food production, even if it means long-term side-effects.
Pan Jing of Greenpeace says:
“The government is aware of the environmental problems caused by chemical fertilizer, but they are also concerned about food output.”
How to Protect Yourself
Here’s what you need to do – well, the best way to keep harmful chemicals out of your food is buying local organic produce or growing your own food. But, if you’re on a budget, you should try to avoid Chinese products, which have been criticized internationally on multiple occasions for fake products and even illegal use of toxic pesticides.
Note: and if you can’t afford organic all the time, here are the safest and most dangerous non-organic foods. The dirty dozen soaks up pesticides and herbicides, so they should always be organic while the clean 15 just need a vinegar rinse and a good scrub to be eaten safely. Thanks for reading and don’t forget to share.
- Bell peppers
- Cherry tomatoes
- Snap peas
- Sweet peas
- Sweet Potatoes