By Yining Su
Image credit: Shi Yali
With the many, many food-related scandals in China over the past few years, many of those who can afford to are turning to organic food. Now, perhaps unsurprisingly for those who pay any attention to China, questions are being raised about the quality of food labelled as “organic”.
A story in Caixin about the business-side of organic farming also touched on the tension between quality and profits.
Private equity firms are pouring money into organic farms in China, betting that the market for organic food in China will grow. But organic farming is costly and time-consuming, and slow to return on investment.
According to Caxin, “this meant most companies compromised on quality.”
An organic farmer Caixin quoted said that when he visited organic farms in Xiaotangshan near Beijing, he saw “empty pesticide bags were littered all over the fields”.
International standards define organic food as food produced without the use of synthetic additives or fertilizers.
China’s organic food certification body follows those standards, but it seems that sidestepping regulations is easy.
The China Organic Food Certification Center, a certifying agency, prides itself on having the world’s highest standards of production. But whether it can enforce its requirements effectively is an open question.
It may be that eating organic is safer than eating anything else in China, but don’t assume that just because you paid 30 yuan for that cucumber it is really pesticide-free.