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Originally published January 15 2015

Organic food popularity exploding in China after wave of toxic chemical food scandals

by Julie Wilson staff writer

(NaturalNews) In a land surrounded by pollution and lax food safety regulations, the Chinese are turning to organics in hopes of living a healthier, cleaner life through better nutrition provided by higher quality foods.

A multitude of food scandals has left the Chinese weary about purchasing foods in the country's conventional market. In 2013, a factory in the city of Kunming was reportedly using pond water to make rice vermicelli. The pond was specifically used for washing feet, according to reports. That same year, a Beijing KFC was exposed for serving rice that contained 13 times more bacteria than toilet water.

A Chinese affiliate of the U.S. meat supplier OSI Group was accused of using expired meat, which they sold to major fast-food chains like McDonald's and KFC. China's food regulations are so poor that Food Sentry, an American food consulting firm, ranked them one of the world's worst safety violators in 2014, according to CNBC.

The food scandals have not gone unnoticed. A 2012 Pew survey found that 41 percent of Chinese were "deeply concerned" about food safety, compared to just 12 percent four years earlier.

China's domestic food market laced with corruption

While China has become an emerging exporter for organic food, their domestic standards are far weaker than the export industry, which undergoes rigorous testing at the request of the importer.

"Organic" food in China is supposed to be grown without pesticides and synthetic fertilizers; however, it is anyone's guess whether or not that's true. Some manufacturers have even been caught falsely making "organic" labels.

Chinese government officials continue to downplay the country's crisis involving food safety standards, with the head of China's Food and Drug Administration stating that food safety is "not characterized with major systematic risk."

Organic produce grown in China costs five times more than conventionally grown food

Zhu Xun, CEO of Beijing-based farm Noah Organic, started his own business after being inspired by the country's recent food scandals. "My friend and I wanted to eat healthier. When we eat at restaurants, we don't know where the vegetables and the meat come from."

Xun's organic farm avoids fertilizers and pesticides, instead raising insects that eat other insects, to protect crops. His higher-quality products aren't cheap either, costing five times more than conventional food sold in supermarkets. Six kilos of veggies cost the buyer 199 yuan, or $32, and if you throw in 10 eggs and a bag of grains the price rises to 299 yuan or $48.

Some organic farms offer club-like memberships to consumers, inviting them to visit and allowing them to witness firsthand the farm's more sustainable practices.

In 2012, China's organic industry was valued at an estimated $13 billion, with sales of packaged organic foods (like honey and cereals), increasing 46 percent last year, according to Euromonitor International and as reported by Bloomberg.

While many Chinese are making genuine efforts to produce and make available better-quality food, the country's environmental woes remain a menacing problem. More than half of China's groundwater is severely polluted, as is their surface water, making it difficult for organic farmers to grow high-quality produce.

Unfortunately, the problem is only getting worse due to lax environmental oversight and the unwillingness to change.

The quality of underground drinking water worsened in 754 areas, according an annual report released by China's Ministry of Land and Resources. About one-fifth of China's farmland is polluted as a result of industrialization, overuse of agricultural chemicals and weak environmental protection policies.

China's safety standards on chemicals aren't any better. Currently, only 62 pollutants are listed as being harmful, compared with about 4,000 in the U.S.


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