China is making it illegal to leave any food on your dinner plate!

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Food imports into China

In a move which only China could make, China’s administrators are introducing a law which states that diners who fail to finish their meal in a restaurant could be fined. President Xi appears to be on a personal crusade to stop food waste in China and the reason? China’s poor food security. They rely on as much as 100 million tonnes of food imports (2018). The president wants China to be more independent in terms of food and despite China being the world’s biggest producer of food and despite the fact that they could theoretically feed their 1.4 billion citizens they have to import it in the millions of tonnes.

Food imports into China

Food imports into China. Photo in public domain.

China accounts for one fifth of the world’s human population but the country contains about 7% of the world’s arable land. About 6% of China’s total food production is lost or wasted annually. It’s enough to feed 50 million people. It adds up to more than 35 million tonnes of food. Half of the food waste comes from food purchased at shops or restaurants according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

They’ve had a bumper crop but President Xi wants Chinese citizens to have a sense of the crisis that afflicts the country with respect to food security. He believes frugality is a virtue and the only way to ensure that careful food consumption happens is to force people to change their habits. There appears to have been a growing culture of food excess in China.

The global marketplace is uncertain because of the political battle between China and America and other Western countries, which has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. There is tension between the East and the West and it is not getting any better. There is speculation that the Chinese government is preparing for an economic shock because of the deteriorating relations between China and Western powers.

Relevance to wild animal conservation

What has this got to do with the animal-human relationship? Quite a lot as it happens. I recently wrote an article about the maximum human world population that the planet can sustain in terms of food production. It’s quite a revealing discussion because some people think that we’ve already reached the maximum human population while, of course, others don’t. But there’s no doubt that if we are to protect the wild species we are going to have to find more efficient methods of food production because at the moment humankind simply destroys forests in order to graze cattle and plant soya et cetera. Many species will become extinct in the wild if humankind carries on this way with population growth without efficiencies and sustainability in food production.

Humankind can’t go on destroying the habitats of the wild species which rely on forests and large tracts of open land without catastrophically damaging the survivability of iconic wild species and hundreds of other vulnerable species. Food production to feed humans is a major conservation barrier and the cause of much of the problems in trying to protect wild species.

President Xi is positively not thinking about wildlife conservation in the introduction of this law, far from it. He’s thinking about how to make China stronger so that they can dominate the world economy with greater strength. He doesn’t want a weakness. Perhaps he’s foreseeing the possibility of Western governments stopping food imports into his country which could be a way of forcing them to change their ways and I’m referring to their expansionist military policy.

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