The New Food Security Protection Law Concerns Environmental Protection and Pollution Prevention


The new Food Security Protection Law 《中华人民共和国粮食安全保障法》 has been adopted on December 29th, 2023, and it will come into effect on June 1st, 2024. The law aims to safeguard China’s grain supply, ensure domestic food security, enhance the capacity to prevent and defend against food security risks, and protect economic and social stability and state security. It stipulates that both the CCP and the State Council will be responsible for the nation’s food security, and that local people’s governments at and above the county level should undertake specific responsibilities within their administrative regions.

The ‘trinity protection of quantity, quality, and ecology of arable land’ concept is a holistic approach to safeguard China’s food security. Introduced in 2001, this framework emphasizes the critical importance of maintaining the amount of arable land, enhancing its quality, and ensuring ecological sustainability. But it was not until 2011 when the government started formulating more specific policies, such as monitoring heavy metal pollution in soil[1]. These three aspects of comprehensive protection of arable land are all covered in the new law. For example, the law mandates to (1) strictly protect arable land by formulating and implementing the protection red lines for arable land and permanent basic farmland, ecological conservation redlines, and urban development boundaries, and (2) comprehensively establish mechanisms for crop rotation[2] and fallow periods [3].

China’s agricultural situation is a multifaceted challenge that requires balancing various factors. China feeds over 1.4 billion people, accounting for 18% of the total world population, with only 9% of the world’s arable land[4]. This necessitates intensive agricultural practices, which have led to several environmental and sustainability issues. The data from China’s third national land survey illustrates that although there is a significant amount of arable land at 1.2 million square kilometers, the quality of over one-fifth of this land is suboptimal for agricultural productivity due to various constraints. For instance, some high-quality arable lands have been used during the rapid process of urbanization and industrialization[5]. Compounding the problem is the lack of incentive for farmers to practice sustainable agriculture, leading to exploitative land use. Additionally, China’s agricultural methods are noted for their high intensity of chemical inputs. In 2020, China’s input intensity for fertilizers and pesticides was recorded at 313.50 kg/ha and 7.84 kg/ha, respectively[6]. This is considerably higher than the global average — by more than four times — which stands at 72.88 kg/ha for fertilizers and 1.81 kg/ha for pesticides in that same year. As a result, environmental protection and pollution prevention are emphasized by this law: (1) promote green and efficient grain production technologies to facilitate ecological improvement and sustainable resources utilization, and (2) conduct governance measures for soil and water conservation, soil pollution prevention, and excessive groundwater extraction[7].


[1] Chen, K. et al. (2023). 建立健全耕地生态管护制度的若干思考。[Several considerations for establishing a comprehensive ecological management system for arable lands.] Natural Resource Economics of China.

[2] The crop rotation mechanism aims to help adjust the soil environment and enhance soil ecology by cultivating different crops.

[3] The fallow period mechanism aims to prevent wind erosion and conserve soil moisture by reducing agricultural activities.

[4] Liu, H. (2023, December 20). 做好粮食市场和流通文章确保国家粮食安全。[Ensuring national food security by managing the grain market and distribution.]

[5] Yu, F. et al. (2023, November 8). 基于粮食安全底线思维的耕地保护:现状、突出问题及对策。[arable land protection based on the bottom line thinking of food security: current situation, prominent issues, and solutions.] Xinhua Digest.

[6] 我国三大主粮(稻谷、小麦和玉米)安全面临的主要困境初探。[A preliminary study of the main dilemmas facing the security of China’s three staple cereals (wheat, maize, and rice).]

[7] MNR. (2023, December 30). 《中华人民共和国粮食安全保障法》全文来了![The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Assuring Food Security is published.]