I begin to wonder how much of this was not known previously, and is coming out now, pushed by US domestic food interests who can suddenly become a little more competitive.
China’s farmers overuse pesticides, skip protective clothing and have at their fingertips an array of banned and counterfeit products, raising another area of concern in the country’s fragile food chain. Spraying chemicals on crops improperly or using products that may be fake or banned risks the health of China’s hundreds of millions of farmers and could lead to unsafe levels of residues in fruits and vegetables, experts say. “The government has to stop banned or illegal pesticides being available in the market,” said Angus Lam, a Greenpeace Campaign Manager for Food and Agriculture based in the southern city of Guangzhou. China banned five high toxicity pesticides as of Jan. 1, but Lam said old stock was still in the market, in the hands of traders, retailers and farmers themselves. The government pledged last week to step up inspections in its food industry, saying checks on fertilisers and pesticides would be one of the priority areas.
China is not alone in this problem. Pesticides get overused in the US as well. But it’s as if all of a sudden, the mainstream press is waking up to the reality that is China. It is a developing country with high levels of growth in manufacturing, and a burgeoning middle class. But government regulation mechanisms have a long way to go to catch up.
The US surely knows this, and needed to have a more stringent testing regime with food imports from China. But the FDA was not given the mandate or the money. It is very easy to blame the FDA here. The fact of the matter is that any agency is only as good as the money and mandate it’s given. The political will to take a good look at where your food comes from, and how to ensure its safety needs to come first.