China aims to grow rice in polluted, saline fields. Photo: Xinhua
China aims to grow rice in polluted, saline fields. Photo: Xinhua

Beijing has sounded the food security alarm as sweeping industrialization nibbles away at the nation’s farmland, along with pollution and erosion further complicating the situation. 

China’s shrinking arable land has forced agriculturalists to devise ways of growing alkali-resistant rice in barren, saline-alkaline soil, which is estimated to total 100 million hectares.

State broadcaster China Central Television has reported that experts from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences have selected 176 types of rice for nationwide trials. The goal is to find at least one type of rice that will pass the academy’s tests, according to Zhang Guodong, the deputy director of the Qingdao Sea Rice Research and Development Center.

The aim is to get the optimum yield and best quality rice that can be grown in the nation’s northwestern provinces, including the arid and semi-arid regions in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and the Yellow River Delta. These are areas that reply on rice grown and shipped from elsewhere.

“The rice will be promoted and planted across the country next year if the tests proves successful,” Li Xinqi, a research fellow at the China National Hybrid Rice R&D Center, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Chinese consumers are wary about the quality and dangers of rice grown in polluted fields and tips about identifying what’s known as “saline rice” have been circulating on social media after rumors of the rice being on sale for a long time.

Li told Global Times, in a bid to dispel the skepticism, that the rice may contain different elements, but its taste and nutritional value would only be slightly different from ordinary rice.

This rice was developed by Yuan Longping, China’s “father of hybrid rice,” who helped establish the Qingdao center in October 2016.

Another report that appeared in the Agriculture Daily noted that “saline rice” would only be used to feed cattle and was not genetically-modified, so consumers should not worry too much about potential health risks.

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