China released a report April 17 disclosing that 16.1 percent of the country's soil and nearly 20 percent of its arable land has been contaminated, largely by heavy metals such as cadmium, nickel and arsenic. This is the price the country is paying for its meteoric rise over the last 35 years, with little thought given to protecting the environment.

The report, based on a joint study by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Land and Resources from April 2005 to December 2013, found that 19.4 percent of farmland was contaminated, ranging from 11.2 percent "slightly" contaminated to 1.1 percent "heavily" polluted.

China accounts for 20 percent of the world's population but possesses only 10 percent of its arable land. The contamination of almost one-fifth of its farmland raises serious health issues and makes it difficult for Beijing to remain basically self-sufficient in the production of food. Environmental pollution also has resulted in the proliferation of "cancer villagers" in the country, with an 8-year-old girl in Jiangsu province emerging last November as the country's youngest lung cancer patient.