A Sichuan University professor believes the high level of undigested bamboo fiber in panda droppings can boost the anti-cancer properties of tea if used as a fertilizer. (File Photo/CFP)
A professor at Sichuan University in Chengdu, Sichuan province, has been awarded a patent for his method of growing tea using panda feces as fertilizer.
An Shi, who is known for his paintings of pandas, said tea fertilized with panda droppings could prevent cancer and fetch a price of more than 440,000 yuan (US$69,000) per kilogram.
The idea crossed An's mind during a forum in July at Yaan, a panda conservation base, after an expert told him that pandas can only digest 30% of the bamboo they eat. "That means there is still 70% bamboo in panda excrement," An was quoted as saying on the website Scol.com.cn.
"Just like green tea, bamboo contains an element that can prevent cancer, and enhance green tea's anti-cancer effects, if it is used as fertilizer for the tea," the professor said.
In his application for the patent, An claimed that tea grown in this way could fetch about 440,000 yuan per kilogram, or ten times as much as the most expensive tea, Zhu Ye Qing.
Tang Chunxiang, a senior engineer at the China Conservation and Research Centre for Giant Pandas in Wolong, Sichuan province, said it was feasible to use panda droppings as a fertilizer for tea, but there were no studies yet about the anti-cancer properties of tea grown this way,and that it was impossible to estimate the price of such a product.
The centre boasts dozens of giant pandas, with each producing about 20 kg of excrement a day, amounting to some 200 tons of excrement a year.