Farmers in Xiaokuai village, Henan province, have recently been found to use unprocessed paper mill wastewater to irrigate their wheat farms. Admittedly, these wheat, if harvested, are more likely to be toxic than not. But questionable grain in China due to water and soil pollution isn’t exactly news. What surprises a lot of people in this case is the farmers’ reaction.
Dongfeng Paper Mill was set up in 1982 in the village, currently with an annual production of 500 thousand tons of paper. To meet growth needs, the mill has been digging deeper and deeper wells over the past 30 years, slowly draining away local underground water.
Unable to afford wells as deep, local farmers turned to a convenient source – the wastewater pipe located just a few yards from their farmlands. They cut it open and use unprocessed wastewater for irrigation directly.
As a result, local farmlands are covered with a thick, grey, cardboard-feel layer, as if the wheat is growing out of concrete. When asked about whether they themselves dare to eat wheat harvested from such farmlands, one farmer thus responded…with a big smile on his face:
“They are all sold to you. We don’t eat [wheat soaked in wastewater]. There are still wheat farms irrigated by [clean] water from the wells. We eat those.”
This is not the first time when we observe similar “not me” effect when it comes to food safety problems in China. Every so often we hear about news exposing small food workshops or factories that use excess chemicals, toxic addictives or questionable ingredients to produce food products. For example, the countless underground gutter oil shops, and the businesses that send out the following card to purchase dead pigs.
“To buy: Big, medium, small pigs; dead pigs.”
The people behind these businesses must very well know that their products may endanger people’s health or even life, but it’s “the other” people. The assumption is somehow that they themselves, or their family and friends, are not subject to the risk of toxic food.
The irony is, China has way too many people in the food industry who think the same way that nobody is safe. Like a popular online saying goes: “China has become a country where pig farmers don’t eat pork, and cow farmers don’t drink milk.” And wheat farmers no longer eat wheat…Netizen 原味呼吸 asked: “When “you” think “you” have nothing to do with “us”, an era of people killing people comes. If you don’t care about others, who would care about you?”
Most netizens viewed it as a lose-lose situation due to China’s at-all-cost development model. Like netizen 亚当孙今生 commented: “This is beyond a conflict of the poor and the rich. To farmers, urban residents are rich, who, at the same time, have no choice but to eat toxic rice.” Netizen 书剑2002 commented: “The cities have been exploiting the farmers. And the farmers are poisoning urban dwellers. At the end, no one survives.”
When things deteriorate to this level, everyone is guilty. Like netizen 123zzq强 pointed out: “I blame the government for doing nothing. I blame the paper mill for dumping unprocessed wastewater. I blame the farmers for using wastewater for irrigation with knowledge. “
The paper mill has already been close for investigation. But the same story is probably happening somewhere else in China, right now.
“All sold to you.”