A study has found China’s agricultural pollution to be far worse than the soil in the US, and its farmers are actually doing more damage to the environment than they are getting credit for.
The study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, also found that China is responsible for more agricultural land degradation than any other country.
In China, more than 30% of the land that was planted in agriculture in 2011 was lost to deforestation, according to the study.
“The damage to soils from agriculture is much more widespread than the damage from other sources of human-induced pollution, such as air pollution,” study co-author Jie Chen, a postdoctoral researcher at China’s Agricultural Research Institute, told Reuters.
Chen said that this was a major problem because it meant that the government’s “policy of ‘good agricultural practice’ is not delivering what is needed to meet the country’s sustainable development goals,” adding that China had not made good on its commitment to reduce deforestation.
More than 2.2 billion hectares of agricultural land have been lost since the late 1980s, according the report.
A survey conducted by the China Agricultural Research Foundation last year found that Chinese farmers were losing over 3.7 billion hectares annually.
But the problem was compounded by China’s massive expansion of agriculture and the expansion of industrial farming in the country, which means that land is often left unused.
For example, some 1.4 million hectares of farmland were lost to industrial agriculture in 2012, up from 0.6 million hectares in 2009, according a report by the US-based Pew Charitable Trusts.
It also showed that about 7.3 million hectares were lost in rural areas between 2000 and 2011, while about 2.5 million hectares had been lost in urban areas since 2000.
Many of the farmers in China’s rural areas had to be relocated because of poor access to water, Chen said.
And the impact of climate change on agriculture was also apparent.
China is now the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter and it is estimated that it is emitting more carbon dioxide per capita than the US in 2030, the study found.
Scientists have estimated that climate change will cause an average of 5.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year by 2050, according to a new report published by the Climate Accountability Initiative.
That’s equivalent to adding more than 2 million cars to the roads every year, the report said.