Organic Consumers Association

Pesticide Residues a Major Threat to China's Ag Exports

January 17, 2003

As producer of one third of the world's vegetable exports, China was
expected to vastly expand its markets once it entered the World Trade
Organization in December 2001. However, the exceedingly high levels of
pesticide residues in Chinese food products may pose significant problems
for international sales, especially in Europe, Japan and the U.S., where
food safety standards are more stringent and more strictly enforced. For
example, in 2001, new European Union (EU) regulations reduced pesticide
tolerances for tea by 100 times, effectively excluding half of China's tea
exports to the EU. This rejection caused more than $125 million in losses
to farmers in Zhejiang Province.

Several reports in the past year illustrate the magnitude of pesticide
residues in vegetables grown in China:

**Experts in Yunnan province found that residues of two highly toxic
pesticides--banned by the government for use in vegetable production--were
present in 34% to 100% of vegetable samples taken in Kunming and Baoshan
prefectures from 1994 to 200l.

**In 2001, the Chinese government found 47% of domestically produced
vegetables had pesticide residues in excess of government standards.

**The Japanese Ministry of Health found pesticide residues in some
vegetables imported from China that were four times higher than the
agreed-upon limits.

Pesticide production in China is also on the rise. In 2001, production rose
by 9% to 696,400 tons, more than three times the 1995 total. This growth
occurred in spite of the government's plans to cut pesticide production by
2005. Product quality control and distribution are also problematic. As
much as 40% of pesticides on the market in China are sold under false brand
names, and in Yunnan province, a 2002 study for the Global Greengrants Fund
revealed that at least half of pesticide distributors are not legally
registered or licensed.

Figures of pesticide poisonings in China are disturbingly high and are
probably underestimated. The Chinese government estimates that each year
53,300 to 123,000 people are made ill from pesticides, and 300 to 500
farmers die from pesticide exposure. Localized studies have shown much
higher poisoning rates. More than 20% of farming households reported some
pesticide poisoning in their homes in a 2001 survey of two small
agricultural communities in rural Sichuan conducted by PANNA and the
Kunming Center for Community Development. Medical studies of rice farmers
in Zhejiang found pesticide poisoning in the liver (22%), in the kidneys
(23%), and nerves (6%) of farmers, and also found a relationship between
degree of liver function abnormality and amount of pesticide used. Other
experts report that more than 100 farmers die of pesticide poisoning each
year in Yunnan Province alone.

Consumers who may eat contaminated fruits and vegetables are also at risk
for pesticide poisoning, and this type of poisoning may also be fatal.
Xinping County Hospital in Yunnan province reported 53 such deaths in the
year 2000. Direct consumption of pesticides is still a common method of
deliberate poisoning and suicide in China, as in the case reported in 2002,
of a snack shop owner who admitted to poisoning his competitor's customers
by putting rat poison in their breakfasts.

Agrow: World Crop Protection News, February 15, 2002 and December 14, 2001;
Farm Pesticide, Rice Production, and Human Health, Center for Chinese
Agricultural Policy, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences,; Pesticides in
China: A Growing Threat to Food Safety, Public Health, and the Environment
2002, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, China Environment
Series, Issue 5,;
Report on Establishing Systems for Controlling Pesticide Residues in
Vegetables, 2001, Kunming: Yunnan Entomological Society; San Francisco
Chronicle, September 18, 2002.

Contact: PANNA

PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and
reporting on pesticide issues that don't always get coverage by the
mainstream media. It's produced by Pesticide Action Network North America,
a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance
sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.

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