Would you buy imported “organic foods” from China? It has been reported that the U.S., particularly big organic farm produce retailers like Whole Foods, have been selling so-called “organic vegetables and fruits” from countries like China and Turkey. This has become the norm since the demand for organic products has increased in countries like the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

According to a 2017 report in Food Safety News, up to 80% of organic food eaten in the U.S. are imported from China and Turkey, two of the countries becoming popular for growing and exporting organic produce to countries like the U.S.

But is it true that China has been growing organic produce according to the world’s standards? Let us explore this point further with a number of arguments.

Organic products from China can contain an unlimited amount of heavy metals

Even though there are certain rules about declaring produce as “certified organic”, which means no presence of herbicides, pesticides, heavy metals and other dangerous toxins. The problem here is that there are no rules or there is a lack of rules regarding pollution and other environmental factors in China.

For instance, a Chinese farmer can use the “organic label” but the water he uses to water his plants might be full of harmful chemicals and pollutants. Currently, there is a lack of traceability in growing and raising crops in China compared to the U.S.’s organic farm systems and how organic produce is grown there.

China lacks in environmental regulation

The lack of regulation which the Beijing-based government of China is just starting to implement right now has caused rampant air and water pollution in this country. Studies have shown that at least 40% of rivers are polluted as well as 90% of groundwater. Another report states that one-fifth of the country’s farmland is polluted.

The severity has even led to an eyeglass retailer executive to challenged local environmental protection head to swim in a river for 20 minutes for US$26,348. The environmental chief declined. And this is the same water they use to water their organic produce every day. It is almost impossible to know who to trust.

Government departments and agencies in China are not operating properly

One consumer, reported by the Guangzhou Daily, tried to inform the local government regarding fake organic produce. He was bounced between four different government departments – only to find out that they had no authority whatsoever to deal with the problem.

There are also reports that a lot of Chinese organic food growers were supposedly just “buying organic certification” but actually were not following regulations. In the meantime, reports come in that the U.S. is supposedly tracking imports of organic produce from China.

Herbs and supplements from China are often contaminated with lead

Herbs normally have detoxifying attributes and therefore, absorb a lot of heavy metals easily. Tests show that chlorella from China was contaminated with aluminum, as well as arsenic, cadmium, and lead – metals that are highly toxic.

Lately, according to Greenpeace,  reports of green tea companies from China using illegally banned chemicals have been noted. This is possible because there is no trusted organic food certification in China.

China’s Suppliers have forged organic certification labels and other documents

These rumors of forging organic food certification documents have been heard for years. Then in 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released evidence of fake organic certificates made by a non-certified Chinese company. This involved non-organic soy, millet, and buckwheat passed off as “organic.”

Tony Guo, a sales director of City Shop, a Shanghai grocery chain said: “Not many people, including myself, believe the organic label. I think maybe 30 percent of farms that put the organic label on their food produce the real thing.”

Third Party Agencies are the ones certifying organic products from China.

The agency certifying all the organic produce generated in China is The Chinese Organic Certification Center (COFCC). However, it has been reported that they only inspect 30% of the produce; the rest are inspected by private 3rd-party firms.

Even though all organic produce imported by the US are certified by a USDA certifying agent, the USDA relies on hiring 3rd party certifying agents in China.  Lapses can happen in the certifying process especially when regulations on organic produce are either non-existent or lax in implementation in China.

So what are your opinions regarding importing and consuming the “organic produce of China”? Should we trust the system in place and allow our families to eat China’s organic produce? Share your opinions in the comments section below!

Image by ElasticComputeFarm / CC0 1.0