China to promote green farming for food safety

Updated: 2007-06-18 17:05

The Chinese government will support the development of environmentally friendly farming practices, like growing organic produce, to help raise food safety standards, the agriculture ministry said on Monday.

In the past three years the area of land under cultivation using "harm free", "green" or just plain organic methods has grown fourfold and now accounts for one-fifth of China's agriculture, the official Farmers' Daily said.

Sales of environmentally friendly agricultural products last year exceeded 300 billion yuan ($39.34 billion), including $3 billion of exports, added the newspaper, published by the Ministry of Agriculture.

"Rapidly developing (environmentally friendly farming) is of the most urgent need to guarantee food safety and protect public health," it quoted Vice Agriculture Minister Niu Dun as telling a forum in the southeastern city of Xiamen.

Niu added it was also an important part of China's agricultural modernisation and could help boost farmers' incomes, the newspaper said.

China has several different certification systems for food produced without chemicals, or with less chemicals than normal, and relatively little of such produce is what would be considered in Europe or North America to be truly organic.

Recent food safety scandals in China, such as fake baby milk and fish coloured with carcinogenic chemicals, have given a boost to the country's nascent organic sector, experts say.

The government has also been trying to wean agriculture off over-use of pesticides and fertilisers.

The same newspaper carried a ditty on its inside pages to get farmers to be more responsible about using chemicals on their crops.

"Read the label when using chemicals, avoid being lax and doing as you please," part of the song says. "Don't just scatter it everywhere ... and wear long trousers even if it is summer."

($1=7.625 Yuan)

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