China’s new “organic” food label could be a problem for the world’s environment, scientists say.
Key points:Chinas new organic label could “threaten the livelihoods of farmers”, says a leading environmental thinktankChinese agriculture is the world market for more than 80% of all agricultural productsThe government has said the label will be tested before it goes into force in 2018China has been working on an organic label for food and drink since the late 1990s.
But now it seems the government is backtracking.
The country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food said this week it had not seen a scientific study to back up its claim that organic food was “beneficial for the local environment”.
The Ministry also said the new label was not meant to “serve as a guide to consumers” and that it would only be tested on food “made in the most efficient manner”.
But in a press conference, Dr Liu Zhenming, a leading food and food safety expert at the Shanghai Institute of Environmental Research, said that the new organic food label was a “big problem”.
“The government is trying to protect its own interests and its own products, but the environment is not the same,” he said.
“It’s very important that we use the facts and not simply use the marketing slogan.”
Dr Liu, who has also published an academic paper on the organic label, said China’s claim was “completely wrong”.
“If you are going to talk about food, then you have to be careful, you have got to look at the food, you don’t have to look after the environment,” he told ABC News.
Dr Liu’s comments come as China prepares to launch a nationwide experiment to evaluate the health of organic food and beverage ingredients.
The government said organic food had been “benefitted by the development of better standards and technologies”, but said this “won’t happen until 2018”.
China has already launched an experiment to test organic food, and this year the government said it was “ready” to move forward with the project.
But Dr Liu said that there was still much work to be done in the field, including monitoring and verification.
“There is still a lot to be improved on.
We are still in the phase of testing and testing is not a perfect science,” he added.
China has more than 70 million farmers and farmers’ cooperatives in more than 20 countries, and is the second-largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world behind the United States.
The organic food labels would not be tested in China, and would be placed in other countries, such as the United Kingdom, Germany and the US, Dr Wu said.
He said the country was also considering introducing a “zero-tolerance” approach to the use of chemicals in the food supply chain.
But he said that organic farmers would still have the right to sue the country if there was a problem with their products.
Dr Wu said China was still working to “break down the barriers” in the way of food safety and food production, but said there were “huge barriers” for the country’s farmers.
“The food sector is the biggest single source of waste in the country,” he warned.
“We have a lot of people who cannot work because they can’t get the basic things they need.”
Dr Wu, who is also an adjunct professor at the National Institute of Biotechnology, said the government had “no intention” of giving up on organic farming, even if it meant the environmental impact of its new labels.
He noted that the country had “great ambitions” to become a “world-leading agricultural producer” in a short time.