World View: China Admits That 20% of Its Farmland Is Polluted

World View: China Admits That 20% of Its Farmland Is Polluted

This morning’s key headlines from

  • China admits that 20% of its farmland is polluted with cadmium
  • Pro-Russian Ukraine activists refuse to stand down
  • MERS in Malaysia raises concerns of ‘super-spreader’

China admits that 20% of its farmland is polluted with cadmium

A previously top secret report has emerged from China’s EnvironmentalProtection Ministry showing that 19.4% of China’s farmland iscontaminated with heavy metals, particularly cadmium, nickel, andarsenic. The toxins come from factories and mining. Rice crops areparticularly vulnerable, since rice paddies are flooded with water, so the soil can be contaminated by a mine that’s miles away. Thereport was released as a result of numerous scandals about taintedrice containing cadmium, which can cause kidney damage or cancer.Almost half the supplies of rice sold in Guangzhou, a major city, arecontaminated with cadmium.

Chinese food traders have little regard for the dangers caused bytainted food. Investigations have shown that traders have beenselling rice known to be cadmium-tainted to food processors. This isreminiscent of 2008, when some 54,000 babies fell ill and werehospitalized with kidney problems because of melamine added to milkpowder to fool inspectors into thinking that it had more protein thanit really had. (See “A generational view of China’s growing melamine food disaster”from 2008.) AP and Shanghai Daily

Pro-Russian Ukraine activists refuse to stand down

Pro-Russian east Ukraine activists have refused to honor theinternational agreement that was signed on Thursday, saying that theyweren’t bound by any agreement that they were never asked to sign. Aswe reported several days ago,Russia’s ambassador to the European Union said that any such agreementwould be “betraying” the people of eastern Ukraine, and he’s right –activists are saying that Russia sold them out. They’re refusing tovacate the buildings they had occupied until the Ukraine’s interimgovernment in Kiev is ousted. Russia is supporting this opposition.The White House has warned of “serious consequences” if Russia doesnot honor the agreement it signed. 

Many commentators believe that Russia’s president Vladimir Putin islooking for an excuse or just waiting until the time is right to orderan invasion of east Ukraine. But he’s had plenty of excuses up until now, and his 40,000 man army has been on Ukraine’s border for weeks.He could have ordered an invasion at any time in the last few weeks if he had wanted to. 

It’s at least as probable that Putin is looking for a way to avoidinvading and to create a status quo under terms favorable to Russia.An invasion would not be quick and would meet a great deal of localresistance. Russia’s army would get bogged down in a protractedbattle which, according to several analysts, Russia cannot afford.Under this interpretation, Putin’s flip-flop was really an act ofdesperation, as he had ruled out an invasion and had no otherviable choice. AP

MERS in Malaysia raises concerns of ‘super-spreader’

MERS-CoV (the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus)raised serious concerns late last year as it was spreadingin Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries. Butnow two new outbreaks, one in the Middle East and onein Malaysia, is causing new concerns that the virus may havemutated and can spread more easily. 

There have been 238 confirmed cases of MERS up until now, with 92leading to death, which is a high death rate. In the last week therewere 20 cases in two distinct clusters, one in Saudi Arabia and theUnited Arab Emirates (UAE), and one in Malaysia. It’s knownthat both clusters were caused by a 54-year old man who traveledbetween Saudi Arabia and Singapore in mid-March but did notbecome ill until April 4. 

It was just such a “super-spreader” who caused the SARS virus tobecome an international crisis a decade ago. The fear is that theMERS virus has mutated enough to allow such a super-spreader to causeanother international crisis. Arab News and Recombinomics and World Health Organization (WHO)

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, China, Environment Protection,cadmium, nickel, arsenic, Guangzhou,Ukraine, Russia, Vladimir Putin,Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, MERS-CoV 

Permanent web link to this article

Receive daily World View columns by e-mail