Bigger isn’t always better. At least went it comes to watermelons, the summer treat that nearly everyone loves. The tasty fruit can be eaten in a variety of ways including: by the slice, as a smoothie addition and even as a way to sweeten up your salad. They are even used as a bowl for certain summery cocktail mixes where friend can gather around and soak up the sun while sipping through a straw. The growth of the fruit’s reputation has spiked, but in China, the growing fruit has had detrimental effects.
Unknown to China farmers, they had been using a fertilizer that contained a chemical called forchlorfenuron. The chemical has the power to expand the size of a watermelon by 20% at a more rapid pace, which ultimately leads to greater profits. At least that is what the fertilizer company thought.
When farmers had started to see their melons breaking in half and taking on a shape that was absent from their natural form, they were alerted. Even the taste and texture was altered from its original state. Farmers saw an abnormal amount of white seeds when the fruit normally contained mostly black seeds
The breaking in half of the watermelon was said to look like an explosion. While the chemical, which has been utilized since the early 1980s, is thought of as safe, Director of the Vegetable Research Institute at Qingdao Academy of Agricultural Science Cui Jian stated that it is best to veer away from plant hormone chemicals because watermelons are particularly sensitive to chemicals.
While the chemical used in the fertilizer seems to have the power to explode a watermelon, it has been confirmed that it is not harmful to health. The major downfall of the oversized fruit caused by the chemical is the watermelon may end up looking slightly abnormal and not many people have the room to store such a large food item that has a less-than-natural taste.
While Jian made his statement, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) countered it with an argument of their own. Also used in kiwis and grapes, the fertilizer is proven to be cytotoxic and can lead to acute dermal, oral and respiratory toxicity if ingested. While not carcinogenic, the substance contains toxins that can lead to bigger issues including increased fetal mortality and stomach lesions. Multiple tests have been completed on animals and proven to cause damage.
In addition to the toxin damage, the chemicals in the fertilizer can spread into the environment leading to damaging effects on our health that stem from the chemical blending with flora and fauna.
The Chinese government will continue to use its power to maintain an increase in food production, regardless of the poor effects on our health and the environment.
While the output of food is very important to the Chinese government, they offer a bit of hope in veering away from the toxin filled fertilizers and urge consumers to aim for organic fruit and vegetables.