China now has a population of 1.3 billion people, roughly one in every five people on Earth. However, China only has about 9 percent of the Earth's arable land, and is chronically plagued with water shortages.
Both of these are necessary to raise livestock and feed the people of the world's most populous country.
China's meat consumption per person has quadrupled in the last 30 years, putting a strain on their environmental resources. Because livestock has to be fed in order to be raised, it requires even more agriculture to sustain it. Dairy facilities have to import as many as 100,000 cows this year to keep up with demand, and industrial meat production facilities have had to store pigs in tight enclosed quarters.
Waste from increased food production, including waste from livestock and pesticides from agriculture, have polluted waterways throughout the country and have made life difficult for fishermen. The pollution is toxic, and the number of fish in a catch has dropped by half.
"If it gets any worse, we will need to ask the government to give us money because we won't be able to make enough money to live," said fisherman Miao Lingshen.
Food safety has become a concern throughout the country, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration now has an office in Beijing to help train Chinese companies and government inspectors and officials.
Although the internet is not as free in China as it is in the U.S., Chinese citizens have been using blogs to voice their concerns about safe, affordable food and damaging the environment. It will be up to Chinese officials to respond to these voices.
"I think if you had better wages for workers, allowing them then to pay for better quality food, you would see the investments that are needed starting to flow into agriculture, so that you could grow food that is grown in ways that are more sustainable environmentally," - Jim Harkness, Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy.
1. Which country in the world has the biggest population?
2. What are the challenges to feeding large cities with big populations?
3. Think about your dinner last night - where did the plant and animal products come from?
4. If you were a farmer who produced cows for meat, what resources would you need to get the meat to market?
1. What part of this video did you find most interesting?
2. Does the U.S. have any of these same problems?
3. What would you recommend that China do to help alleviate its food and environmental problems?
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