It's not easy balancing economic development and the environment.
Almost one-fifth of China's farmland is polluted, according to a government report
released this week. Officials have acknowledged the country's problems with water and air pollution, but the extent of soil contamination has been a closely guarded "state secret," for fear of incriminating certain provinces or companies.
About 19.4% of China's farmland is polluted by cadmium, nickel and arsenic, according to the seven-year study that analyzed a little over half of China's entire land area. One-fifth of China's total arable land
is about 26 million hectares (64 million acres), the same area as the United Kingdom, by the most recent estimates.
The pollution is concentrated around the Yangtze and Pearl River Deltas - key sources of water in the country and home to millions of people - as well as in parts of the south where much of China's rice is grown. Last year, half of all samples of rice in Guangzhou were found to have poisonous levels of cadmium
, a chemical that can cause kidney failure when ingested. The main causes are agriculture and industry, the report said. (Farmers contribute to soil pollution
with their use of fertilizers and pesticides and improper disposal of animal waste.)