Polluted water is a growing problem in China, where it may be used to water crops.
Multiple recent reports exposed conventional foods manufactured in China as fake and even toxic: scams involving rice that contains plastic, fake eggs made from chemicals and many food items containing high levels of arsenic.Now that country-of-origin labeling has been removed by Congress (for meat), and companies are struggling to find new sources of food to meet the growing demand for organics in the United States, it’s becoming more likely that your organic food could come from China or other countries rather than U.S. farmers.
Considering the country’s overall level of pollution and shocking lack of standards compared with the U.S., that could be a serious problem. Here are six reasons why:
1.Organic Products from China Can Contain an Unlimited Amount of Heavy Metals
While certified organic does mean that the producer cannot add pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals and other toxins when growing the produce, there are no rules about the outside environmental factors such as pollution.
A farmer in China can use water with mercury or chemicals on the crops and keep the organic label. Since many parts of China have been experiencing extreme pollution (to the point that some have been buying canned air out of desperation), a lot of its water is heavily polluted. But the lack of traceability in comparison to U.S. organic farms means you’ll have a hard time finding out any more information on how it was grown.
2. China Has Almost No Environmental Regulations
China is on a verge of a complete environmental disaster. Lack of regulation has caused the country to experience record air pollution in Beijing, and studies have shown that at least 40% of rivers are polluted, as well as 90% of groundwater, reportedThe Guardian. According to another report in the paper, about 1/5 of the country’s farmland is polluted.
The water is so polluted that a few years ago, an eyeglass-retailer executive dared a local environmental protection chief Bao Zhenming to swim in a river for 20 minutes for more than £20,000. Bao has declined.
This is the same water that may be used to water the “organic” crops.
While there are companies that are honest and wise when it comes to growing organic produce, it is nearly impossible to know who to trust.
Environmental problems such as smog and polluted waterways are becoming rampant through much of China. Photo: Wikipedia Commons.
3. Agencies and Government Departments in China are Not Operating Properly
Guangzhou Daily reported that when one consumer wanted to inform someone about fake organic produce, they were bounced between four government departments before finding out that none of them had the authority to deal with this problem, according toThe Epoch Times, an independent source of news from China.
At the same time the USDA is trying to keep track of all the shipments coming from China (though the agency has fraud allegations of its own), but they have reported that several shipments of organic beans and berries were full of unsafe pesticides. Whichever agency on the Chinese side approved the shipment was not following regulations.
4. Supplements and Herbs from China Are Often Contaminated with Lead
Because many herbs have detoxifying properties, they absorb heavy metals easily. It has been tested, for example, that chlorella from China was most contaminated with aluminum, and also contained arsenic, cadmium and lead.
Although not organic, many conventional green tea companies have illegally used banned chemicals, as reportedby Greenpeace. Can it happen to organic tea? – It might, because organic certification in China cannot be trusted.
5. Corruption: China Has Forged Organic Certification Label and Other Documents
Rumors about companies in China forging documents have been around for years. And in 2011 USDA released evidence of a fraudulent organic certificate made by a non-certified company. The firm used this fake certification to pass non-organic soy, millet and buckwheat as organic, according to the Cornucopia, the nation’s farming watchdog.
“Not many people, including myself, believe the organic label. I think maybe 30 percent of farms that put the organic label on their food produce the real thing,”said Tony Guo, sales director of City Shop, the Shanghai grocery chain.
6. Organic Products in China are Often Certified by Third-Party Agencies
The agency in charge of certifying organics in China is The Chinese Organic Certification Center (COFCC). However it has been reported that they only inspect 30% of products, the rest are inspected by private third-party firms.
Though organic products imported to the US are supposed to be certified by a USDA certifier, there are not enough certifiers to meet the need, and the USDA relies on hiring third party certifiers in China. On at least one occasionthe certifier from China provided the paperwork but did not physically confirm that the organic food complied with the organic regulations.
Until better regulations are enforced in China, and the country resolves its pollution problem, it might be wise to avoid food from China altogether, even if it has the “organic” stamp on it. Because even if it was not forged, it might not mean a whole lot considering the country’s dire environmental situation.
Chinese “Organics” at Whole Foods?
According to a 2008 investigation by a news station in Washington, D.C., Whole Foods in particular sells a ton of organic products from China. The company’s organic “California Blend” even came from the country, before this investigation came out and forced Whole Foods to change. Whole Foods said in 2010 that it stopped sourcing frozen veggies from China in its own line of products, except for edamame.
I am an attorney in the Washington DC area, with a Doctor of Law in the US, attended the master program at the National School of Administration of Việt Nam, and graduated from Sài Gòn University Law School. I aso studied philosophy at the School of Letters in Sài Gòn.
I have worked as an anti-trust attorney for Federal Trade Commission and a litigator for a fortune-100 telecom company in Washington DC. I have taught law courses for legal professionals in Việt Nam and still counsel VN government agencies on legal matters. I have founded and managed businesses for me and my family, both law and non-law.
I have published many articles on national newspapers and radio stations in Việt Nam.
In 1989 I was one of the founding members of US-VN Trade Council, working to re-establish US-VN relationship.
Since the early 90's, I have established and managed VNFORUM and VNBIZ forum on VN-related matters; these forums are the subject of a PhD thesis by Dr. Caroline Valverde at UC-Berkeley and her book Transnationalizing Viet Nam.
I translate poetry and my translation of "A Request at Đồng Lộc Cemetery" is now engraved on a stone memorial at Đồng Lộc National Shrine in VN.
I study and teach the Bible and Buddhism. In 2009 I founded and still manage dotchuoinon.com on positive thinking and two other blogs on Buddhism. In 2015 a group of friends and I founded website CVD - Conversations on Vietnam Development (cvdvn.net).
I study the art of leadership with many friends who are religious, business and government leaders from many countries.
In October 2011 Phu Nu Publishing House in Hanoi published my book "Positive Thinking to Change Your Life", in Vietnamese (TƯ DUY TÍCH CỰC Thay Đổi Cuộc Sống).
In December 2013 Phu Nu Publishing House published my book "10 Core Values for Success".
I practice Jiu Jitsu and Tai Chi for health, and play guitar as a hobby, usually accompanying my wife Trần Lê Túy Phượng, aka singer Linh Phượng.
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