Growth Chemical Leads to Exploding Watermelons in China

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Safety goggles may become required for eating watermelons. It seems the wrong chemicals in the hands of the wrong farmers can lead to some pretty fascinating results, such as exploding watermelons. Yup, exploding watermelons. And this isn’t some science experiment gone wrong—or right, depending on how fun your science teacher was—this is farming in China.

According to The Guardian, farmers tending fields throughout eastern China injected forcholorfenuron, a growth accelerator, into their crops of watermelons. The result had these ultra-plump melons literally bursting at the seams, unable to contain their own chemically laden power.

(PHOTOS: Portraits of Chinese Workers)

One farmer told the China Central Television news agency he couldn’t sleep because he couldn’t shake the image of the bursting fruit, hundreds of melons over about eight acres. Throughout the Danyang region, about 20 farmers and 115 acres were affected.

While certainly a spectacle, the event of exploding watermelons certainly puts the microscope on the allegedly lax farming and food-safety regulations in China. This is simply the latest episode in a line of findings that includes metal cadmium in rice, toxins in milk, arsenic in soy sauce, bleach in mushrooms and a chemical in pork to give it a better appearance.

Reportedly, forchlorfenuron has been popular since the 1980s and can increase the size and price of the fruit by more than 20 percent. But the reliance of chemicals to feed the bottom line also gives the world exploding watermelons. By applying the chemical too late in the growing season, during a wet spell and to a variety with a thin rind led to the “landmines.”

While these melons were deemed unsuitable for human consumption and instead fed to pigs (they’ll eat anything) and fish (who knew fish liked watermelon?), maybe we can expect to see the ones that didn’t explode on plates this summer.

(PHOTOS: The Making of Modern China)