Sources in China are reporting that as much as 50% of the rice crop in southern China is contaminated with cadmium, a heavy metal that when consumed can result in a wide range of health problems. The reports say that million of acres of land may be contaminated.
The contamination is contributed to China’s rapid industrialization and runoff from the widespread mining of rare earth minerals. China is the world’s top producer of rare earth metals.
Cadmium can produce bone loss, kidney disease, and a wide range of other ailments. China recently began regulating the mining of rare earth metals, but has difficulty doing so in some areas because large open pit mines are frequently run by crime syndicates. In China, that mostly translates to the semi-autonomous military generals that rule each region like a a mafioso godfather. Large open pit mines are scattered through out the country and are contaminating water supplies, which then contaminate crops. Rice tends to be particularly good at absorbing some metals such as cadmium.