Eat Up

While there is no limit to the things people want in their lives, there are only so many things a person needs to survive. Food is one of those requirements. With time and technology, the cultivation of nutrition has become increasingly easy across the globe. However, this does not indicate that the problem has been resolved. In fact, since the Cultural Revolution, China has struggled to feed its people.

During the Cultural Revolution, the main goal was to rid the nation of capitalist principles and instill Mao’s ideology into the minds of every citizen. One way they accomplished this was dictating what people did with their lives. This could mean anything from working in a factory to a farm. Anchee Min was forced to work at a farm in the novel Red Azalea. These farms were really labor camps that claimed to produce enough food for the entire nation. The biggest problem was that no one actually knew how to farm. Without proper knowledge of how to use the chemicals, the workers not only destroyed their toenails but also failed to grow much of anything. By autumn the majority of crops were being eaten by the soldiers because they were not given enough money to buy food for themselves. So contrary to what the government had been telling the citizens, the farming techniques were failing.

Jump forward to present day China and the farming industry is once again faltering. One problem according to a New York Times article is “a rapidly growing middle class” and a need to feed them all. The other is China’s struggle with “genetically modified food.” Scandals and an overall ignorance of the science have scared the population away from these foods. In an attempt to combat these issues a company within China is currently bidding to merge with a Swiss company in order to dominate the global agricultural market for seeds and chemicals. The takeover would give China the upper hand and the ability to finally improve their farming techniques within China, instead of relying on outside help. Hopefully this time it is more successful.

Here in Minnesota over half of all the land is used for agriculture according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. We have used chemicals for a long time to help facilitate the growth of crops, just like in China. While our land types might differ, the struggle to produce as much food from the earth as possible is the same goal. In fact, two of the chemical companies that are involved with the China deal have locations in Minnesota. As the markets become more and more globalized, the ability to share successes and failures in all aspects of life increases. So all we can do is hope that if China finds a revolutionary new practice after the merger, it makes the 7,000-mile journey to Minnesota. Until then, we can sit back and enjoy our corn and potatoes.

Min, Anchee. Red Azalea. London: Bloomsbury, 2009.


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