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BOCOG denies milk irrigation for Olympic vegetables
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The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) has denied reports that the Olympic vegetable base in Yanqing District is using milk as fertilizer.

There was a media report yesterday saying that the vegetables grown in the Olympic vegetable base have a brighter color, better flavor and higher nutrition. The report revealed the alleged secret by quoting a base chief's saying that special fertilizers such as soybean milk, vinegar, beer and milk are regularly used during the harvest season. The chief also explained the function of each fertilizer -- soybean milk enriches vegetable nutrition; beer polishes vegetables and prevents them from cold; vinegar may kill bacteria and cow's milk helps plants absorb nutrition. Along with the report, there was a picture showing a worker irrigating the vegetables with a spoonful of milk.

The photo of a planter pouring milk into the field is posted on the website of The First, a Beijing-based newspaper.

The report soon sparked controversies on the Internet. Netizens criticized the BOCOG for resource waste and sensationalism. One of the netizens said that Olympic vegetables enjoy better treatment than children in remote mountainous areas who seldom drink milk.

However, the base denied they had provided the vegetables with a luxurious growing environment. Guo Jinwang, Deputy Director of the base, said they only use soybean milk in the winter and the short period after sowing. "It's too expensive to irrigate with milk or soybean milk every day," said Guo. "Annually, there is at most one ton of milk or soybean-made products used as fertilizers per mu (about 0.066 ha)."

According to Guo, a total of 1,500 mu of vegetable fields exist on the base, with the annual yield around 2,000 tons. As an organic vegetable growing base, they usually use organic fertilizers. "We will spray soybean milk onto the vegetables in the winter when sunshine is insufficient or during the critical days after sowing," claimed Guo. "Too much milk may result in rotten roots."

The special irrigation measures were implemented in 2006 when the vegetable base was established.  Milk and soybean milk nurtured vegetables have entered the market and are not limited to Olympics-related events, according to Guo.

Guo admitted the base staff developed the measures without any scientific proof. They continued the practice when encouraged by customers' compliments on better flavor. The average price of such vegetables is 20 yuan per kilogram.

Guo also said his base was selected as an Olympic vegetable supplier during the preliminary phase. No final decision has yet been made whether the base will be the authorized supplier.

An official from the BOCOG refuted the report immediately, stating that the season for Olympic vegetables supply had not yet begun. According to the official, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Commerce will select farm products suppliers for the Games and the final result has not been revealed. He also said the BOCOG would launch an investigation into the false report together with the bureau.

Last month, the BOCOG denied a similar report that pigs reared for meat during the Games were living a life of luxury. Yang Yanyun, Chairman of Luck Crane, the Games' sole authorized pork supplier, is alleged to have said that his animals were being immunized with natural herbs and Chinese medicines, were given two hours' exercise per day, and were being raised in special breeding centers far away from areas with high air or water pollution.

However, the BOCOG said in a report on its website that the "special rearing methods" boasted about by the pork supplier were false. The report said all farm products produced for the Games were part of the same food supply chain used to feed the people of Beijing.

( by Huang Shan, December 26, 2007)

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