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Chinese Watermelons have been bursting open, covering fields andpoeple alike after some farmers gave them an overdose of growth chemicals during wet weather, creating what’s been called “fields of land mines.”

Bigger more profitable watermelons was the prize farmers were seeking after using a growth accelerator known as forchlorfenuron.

20 or so farmers around Danyang city in Jiangsu province were affected, losing up to 115 acres of watermelons.

So What is Forchlorfenuron?

Well according to the U.S. EPA:

“Forchlorfenuron is a cytokin which improves fruit size, fruit set, cluster weight and cold storage in grapes in kiwifruits.”

Wang Liangju, a professor with the College of Horticulture at Nanjing Agricultural University who was in Danyang when the problems began to occur, believes the chemical is safe when used properly. He told The Associated Press that the drug had been used too late in the season when heavy rain activity raised the risk of the fruit exploding.

He also believes the variety of melon played a role. “If it had been used on very young fruit, it wouldn’t be a problem,” Wang said. He added, “Another reason [for the problem] is that the melon they were planting is a thin-rind variety and these kind are actually nicknamed the ‘exploding melon’ because they tend to split,” he said.

Regulations in China do not forbid the use of the drug, and the United States has allowed it to be sprayed on kiwi fruit and grapes. There have been many reports that surges of farmers in China are abusing both legal and illegal chemicals, with many farms misusing pesticides and fertilizers.

Well…Is It Safe?

According to an EPA pesticide fact sheet, forchlorfenuron is not necessarily harmless. It reports:
  •     Moderate toxicity to freshwater fish
  •     Slightly higher toxicity levels in the avian population
  •     Increased pup mortality and decreased litter sizes in rat studies

How to Tell if Your Fruit Was Grown With Hormones or Pesticides

Almost two-thirds of the 3,015 produce samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2013 contained pesticide residues according to the Environmental Working Group. The results showed a total of 165 different pesticides on thousands of fruit and vegetable samples.

Watermelons grown with hormones display cracks on the inside. 

This is a sign that the watermelon grew faster than it was supposed to.

The produce that tested highest for pesticide residues included:

  •     Apples
  •     Peaches
  •     Nectarines
  •     Potatoes
  •     Grapes
  •     Cherry tomatoes
  •     Snap peas
  •     Strawberries

The produce least likely to contain pesticide residue included:

  •     Avocados
  •     Sweet corn
  •     Pineapples
  •     Cabbage
  •     Onions
  •     Asparagus
  •     Mangos
  •     Papayas
  •     Grapefruit
  •     Kiwi
  •     Cantaloupe
  •     Cauliflower
  •     Frozen sweet peas
  •     Sweet potatoes
  •     Eggplant

A sure signthatyourfruit or vegetable wasn’t grown completely naturally is a distinct lack of flavor.

Although growth enhancers such as florchlorfenuron can stimulate cell division to make the product grow faster, it also drains it of flavor containing compounds known as flavinoids.

Florchlorfenuron isn’t the only growth hormone being used in produce. A hormone known as oxytocin has been known for its use in fruits and vegetables in India. India has banned public sale of the drug, but it is still widely available from fertilizer and pesticide vendors.

Other growth promoting agents used in produce include ethylene, which may contain traces of arsenic, and calcium carbide, which is believed to cause a whole slew of health problems.

We would always recommend to buy, eat and grow organic, especially for the foods that contain the highest levels of pesticides.

If you purchase either organic or conventional, you should still take the appropriate steps to reduce contamination by washing your produce thoroughly and peeling it if needed.

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