China will no longer chase bumper grain harvests and instead make safer foods a priority and boost imports as it bids to tackle its rural environmental problems, government officials said, according to the South China Morning Post.
The shift in emphasis suggests the authorities are willing to forgo their obsession with agricultural output growth.
Achieving bumper harvests has long been considered a political necessity for the world’s most populous country, particularly after Mao’s 1958 'Great Leap Forward' industrialisation campaign led to widespread famine.
China has been beset by a series of food safety scandals in recent years.
These included the contaminated milk controversy in 2008 when at least six children died after drinking baby formula containing the industrial chemical melamine.
It had been added to watered-down milk to distort tests into showing the produce was high in protein.
Han Jun, the deputy director of the Office of Central Rural Work Leading Group, the country’s top decision maker on rural policy, said. “In our current grains policy, one of the most important ideas is to speed up the transition in the way we boost grain output.
“In the past we were exhausting our resources and environment in pursuit of yield and now we have to focus equally on quantity, quality and efficiency and particularly the quality of grain output growth, environmental protection and sustainable development,” Han told the China Development Forum on Saturday.
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