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China's Organic Food Movement

Chinese organic rice is a growing export to the US and Europe.

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green agriculture crops food According to Organic Consumers, the concept of organic food was introduced to China 14 years ago. It is defined as non-polluting, safe, high-quality and nutritious. Chinese officials do not mention whether pesticides are used.

More than 2,000 companies are involved in green food production across China. Domestic sales reached $8.8 billion and exports topped $1 billion in 2003, according to Chinese officials. The government had established a national network to enforce laws monitoring production, processing, quality, storage and transportation of produce carrying a green label.

There is discussion in the US about the standards being set by the organic industry in China. Business Week reported in an article in late 2006 that China's widespread use of toxic pesticides and use of questionable fertilizers as well as exploitation of workers don't meet USDA standards for organic labeling.

Site visits and spot checks of incoming foods are conducted by importing companies and the USDA, but organic advocates are skeptical about the burgeoning Chinese organic market for several reasons. As the Chinese export organic rice, they affect the local Chinese food market that is served by already low arable acreage for their own food production.

The China Organic Food Certification Center (COFCC) estimates that currently only 0.2 per cent of all agricultural products in China are certified as "organic." It is in its infancy but seen as having enormous potential. It is anticipated to reach 2% of the country's total food production with the next 10 years.

The impact that cheap organic food will have on US and European markets is also a factor in growing skepticism and concern about the globalization of the organic market. Shipping inexpensive organic supplies around the world also adds to the transportation impact, and thus, emissions and use of fossil fuel.

Companies that are reported to import Chinese rice include Costco Wholesale, Eden Foods and Stonyfield. So far, mainly legumes like lentils find their way into European supermarkets because they can be stored easily.

Organic Consumers Association

Business Week

Edited by Carolyn Allen
| organic | agriculture | food | china |


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