Daily News Archive
From June 26, 2006                                                                                                        

Greenpeace Alleges China Uses Banned Pesticides on Supermarket Produce
(Beyond Pesticides, June 26, 2006)
According to Foodtechnology.com, the environmental group Greenpeace has accused the Hong Kong food safety authority of failing to improve testing for pesticides in fruit and vegetables imported from mainland China.

Between November 2005 and April 2006, Greenpeace said it had found 25 percent of vegetable and fruit samples collected from Hong Kong supermarkets receiving produce from mainland China were contaminated by banned pesticides.

More than 70 percent of tomatoes tested were found to have the banned pesticide Lindane, and almost 40 per cent of the samples had a mix of three or more types of pesticides. Lindane is one of the pesticides banned by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants because of its high toxicity and persistence in the environment and people who consume it. China became a signatory to the Convention on May 23, 2001, and ratified it on August 13, 2004, with the stipulation that the Convention would apply “to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China”.

The fact that produce contaminated with banned pesticides was sold to supermarkets in Hong Kong puts China in clear violation of the Convention. According to Greenpeace, the test results showed illegal pesticides are still widely used in agriculture in the Guangzhou farming region, where much of China’s export produce is grown. This is significant because of the fact that chemicals banned by the Convention are typically capable of traveling over vast distances, and do not lose their potency to do harm as they travel. These harmful and highly toxic chemicals also typically do not dissolve in water, which makes it possible for them to travel from farms into streams and river systems via runoff and eventually make their way into the ocean, where they bioaccumulate up the food chain.

China, with the lowest amount of land per person than anywhere else in the world aside from India, is under constant pressure to maximise productivity at farms. Use of pesticides is therefore significant, but a weak licensing system for the chemicals and poor availability of information to farmers have contributed to numerous pesticide poisonings over the years.

John Chapple, manager of Sinoanalytica, a independent food analysis laboratory based in Qingdao, China, says depending on which vegetables are tested for which pesticides, it is not difficult to find residues on Chinese farm produce.

However Mr. Chapple believes that farmers may be using illegal pesticides unknowingly.

“There are very poor information systems for China's farmers,” he said, adding that the recommended time between the application of pesticides and harvesting varies between regions, complicating the guidelines.

Greenpeace has called for Hong Kong to implement better testing procedures to detect banned pesticides in produce sold in its supermarkets and for the Chinese government to educate farmers and enforce laws banning the use of illegal pesticides.