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Friday, April 17, 2009

From Evernote: Pesticide Residues on Vegetables From China


Pesticide Residues on Vegetables From China

by rweinert


Pesticide Residues on Vegetables From China

By Shi Shan
Radio Free China Apr 16, 2009

A vegetable vendor counts money as people shop at a market in Beijing. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)
Greenpeace China recently conducted a survey on vegetables sold in China's large cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The organization found many pesticide-ridden vegetables; some of them even carry cocktails of many highly poisonous pesticides.

In the Greenpeace China report titled, “Pesticide Cocktails: Have You Drunk Some Today?” the organization said that residents in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou almost drink a cup of pesticide cocktail from their fruits and veggies every day. Among the pesticides found, five of them cause cancer. The report also shows that 89 percent of the samples found in these three major cities have pesticide residues; 20 percent contain illegal and highly poisonous pesticides; 60 percent have residues of at least five kinds of pesticides.

A commodity inspection official in Guangdong province said that the abuse of pesticides increased in recent years. “Farmers did not know much about pesticides eight or ten years ago. In recent years, the farmers started to focus more on economic returns and the appearance of the produce and apply pesticides heavily. Now the farmers don’t eat what they grow, they eat vegetables that require very little pesticide.”

Gao Dawei, a former professor of South China University of Technology who specializes in food additive chemicals, said that residues of multiple pesticides are more harmful to the human body than a single pesticide. “It’s a ‘synergetic effect’ as we call it in chemistry. A single chemical may not have much effect but several of them mixed together, cause the chemical reactions to amplify the effect. Most ingested poisons in the human body have such a kind of synergetic effect and hence a cocktail of poisons may cause more serious damage than a single one.”

However, Beijing published an official survey recently that states that 96 percent of vegetables in the city conform to national standards. According to a report in Beijing Daily on April 3, the Produce Safety Inspection Division of the Standing Committee of the Beijing People’s Congress announced that 96.75 percent of vegetables in Beijing passed safety inspections in 2008.

Gao, a commodity inspection official in Guangdong said that official inspections most of the time are not reliable because of the complex interests between the producers and inspectors. Gao said that China has very detailed regulations on produce pesticide residue but in reality they are not enforced.

“The (Chinese) standards were developed from international standards and are even stricter. However, when pests became (pesticide) resistant, the farmers must apply higher dosages. Natural disasters from pests have been getting worse these years and farmers will not have crops if they don’t use a lot of pesticides,” said Gao.

To deal with the residues, Chinese people often choose to prolong the time of soaking and washing their produce. However, some pesticides cannot be cleaned this way according to Gao. “Water can only remove general water-soluble pesticides on the surface. I know at least two kinds of pesticides that can not be washed away. One of them is the acidic pesticides. They react with the produce and bind tightly to it. That is why approved detergents for vegetable cleaning often contain a little alkali. The other kind can permeate into the cells of the produce and nothing can wash it away.”

Read this article in Chinese
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