Chinese Food Safety: Too Many Pesticides and Too Few Inspections

Farmers are well aware of the toxicity of these pesticides, but they accept the risks because of their effectiveness in controlling pests. (Image:  pixabay  /  CC0 1.0)
Farmers are well aware of the toxicity of these pesticides, but they accept the risks because of their effectiveness in controlling pests. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Recently, a Chinese food safety map was circulated on the web. Shandong Province ranked at the top of the list, with 17 food items containing high levels of pesticides.

Extensive use of highly toxic pesticides was found in Cangshan County, a well-known vegetable producing region. Farmers are well aware of the toxicity of these pesticides, but they accept the risks because of their effectiveness in controlling pests.

Zhang Chunxin has been growing vegetables for 40 years. He applies the pesticides Phorate and Shen Nong Dan to control nematodes. Both pesticides are banned, but they are often sold under the table. According to Zhang, these pesticides are very effective and without them, his yield would be cut in half.

Zhang Chunxin applies the pesticides Phorate and Shen Nong Dan to control nematodes. (Image: Bob Goldstein via flickr CC BY-SA 3.0)

Zhang Chunxin applies the pesticides Phorate and Shen Nong Dan to control nematodes. (Image: Bob Goldstein via flickr CC BY-SA 3.0)

Zhang’s son, who works in a hospital, refuses to eat any vegetables from his father’s farm. He normally buys his own vegetables in the market. He explained that since other farmers do not use banned pesticides, he feels more comfortable buying their produce.

Zhang sells most of his produce to local supermarkets and only keeps a small portion for himself. More often than not, the produce is not inspected. He claimed that there have not been problems with his vegetables, except for occasional diarrhea.

Extensive use of highly toxic pesticides were found in Cangshan County, a well-known vegetable producing county. (Image: garycycles8 via flickr CC BY 2.0 )

Extensive use of highly toxic pesticides was found in Cangshan County, a well-known vegetable producing region. (Image: garycycles8 via flickr CC BY 2.0 )

Sun Hua has been an owner of an agricultural store for 10 years. He sells mainly fertilizer, along with pesticides. According to him, pesticides are very profitable, with liquid phorate and methyl isofenphos in high demand.

Due to the pungent smell from highly toxic pesticides, he attempted to replace them with pesticides of similar effectiveness, but lower toxicity. However, sales of these items were very poor, and farmers demanded pesticides with higher levels of toxicity. Consequently, Sun had no choice but to restock the more toxic items.

Sun mentioned that the government has never inspected his store. Regarding banned products, he said:

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