Did you know that watermelons grown in eastern China have been bursting open, after they were given an overdose of growth chemicals during wet weather, resulting in what’s been called fields of land mines?
The farmers actually used a growth called forchlorfenuron in hopes of making their watermelons greater and more profitable.
Nearly 20 farmers around Danyang city in Jiangsu province were affected, losing up to 115 acres of watermelons.
But, what is Forchlorfenuron?
Forchlorfenuron is a cytokin that improves fruit size, cluster weight, fruit set, as well as cold storage in grapes in kiwifruits, according to the U.S. EPA.
A professor at the College of Horticulture at Nanjing Agricultural University, Wang Liangju, who was in Danyang when the problems start occurring, considers the chemical is safe if used properly.
Moreover, he explained to The Associated Press that the drug had been used too late in the season when heavy rain activity elevated the risk of the fruit exploding. The professor also believes the variety of melon played a role. According to Wang, in case it had been used on very young fruit, it wouldn’t be a problem. He also stated that another reason for the problem is that the melon type they were planting is a thin-rind variety and this type is nicknamed the exploding melon since they tend to split.
The use of the drug is not forbidden by the Chinese regulations, and it’s also allowed in the United States on kiwi fruit and grapes. However, it’s been reported that many Chinese farmers are abusing legal and illegal chemicals, and a great number of farms are misusing pesticides and fertilizers.
Is it safe?
Forchlorfenuron is not necessarily harmless, according to an EPA pesticide fact sheet, which reports:
– Higher pup mortality and reduced litter sizes in rat studies
– Slightly higher toxicity levels in the avian population
– Moderate toxicity to freshwater fish
How to recognize if the fruit is grown with hormones or pesticides
In 2013, about two-thirds of the 3,015 produce samples that were tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture contained pesticide residues, with a total of 165 different pesticides on a large number of fruit and vegetable samples, according to the Environmental Working Group.
Hormone-grown watermelons will display cracks on the inside – a clear sign that the watermelon grew faster than it was supposed to.
This produce showed highest levels of pesticide residues:
– Snap peas
– Cherry tomatoes
This produce is least likely to contain pesticide residue:
– Sweet corn
– Sweet potatoes
– Frozen sweet peas
The lack of flavor is one telltale sign that a fruit or vegetable wasn’t grown completely naturally. In other words, besides growth enhancers like florchlorfenuron stimulate cell division to make the product grow faster, but it drains its flavor, too.
But, florchlorfenuron isn’t the only growth hormone being used in produce. Also, oxytocin is another hormone that has been known for its use in fruits and vegetables in India. Additionally, it is banned for public sale in India, but it is widely available from fertilizer and pesticide vendors.
Other growth enhancers used in produce include ethylene that may contain traces of arsenic, and calcium carbide, which is considered to result in a whole slew of health issues.
So, it is advisable to buy organic produce to decrease your exposure to pesticides and chemicals, particularly for the foods that contain the highest pesticide levels. Regardless of the fact you buy organic or conventional produce, it is still recommended to reduce contamination by washing your produce thoroughly and peeling it if needed.