Public consuming 'pesticide cocktails', Greenpeace claims

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 April, 2009, 12:00am

Mainland residents drink 'pesticide cocktails' almost daily and more than 50 kinds of pesticides have been detected in fruit and vegetables sold in big cities, according to a Greenpeace report.

The report drew swift criticism, with some saying most pesticides detected were at very low levels and that only two samples slightly exceeded food safety standards.

Greenpeace, an environmental watchdog, said yesterday that tests were conducted on 45 samples collected from supermarkets and markets in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou between December and February. The results showed 25 samples contained at least five kinds of pesticide, including highly toxic methamidophos and carbofuran.

Greenpeace director Luo Yuannan said only about 30 per cent of the pesticides found in the samples were covered by national standards.

'Some fruit and vegetables contain lower levels of pesticides than officially allowed, but it does not mean that they are safe to eat,' Ms Luo said. 'When various kinds of pesticides co-exist, it is very likely that they are more poisonous than they are individually. It's what we call the 'pesticide cocktail' effect.

'We hope consumers will buy organic farm products, which are very expensive, but only when people start buying them will the supplies grow and the prices drop.'

Guangdong farmer Lai Weizhong said pesticides were needed for large-scale agricultural production. 'But some vegetable farmers tend to overuse them because they find that the pesticides are sometimes not as effective as labelled,' Mr Lai said.

Greenpeace also urged big retailers to influence suppliers.

Chen Lu, public communications officer of Wal-mart China, said the retailer would accept goods only from suppliers certified by government food safety authorities and that it used third-party assessors and laboratories to conduct checks.

'We have established a direct supply base of fruit and vegetables in Dalian and Guiyang to ensure the produce is safe and fresh,' Ms Chen said.

China Agricultural University professor Du Xiangge said there had been no scientific evidence that the cocktail effect existed.

'Fruit and vegetables are all right to eat as long as their pesticide residue levels fall below the national standards, which are based on rigorous taxonomic testing,' Professor Du said. 'But the report is a good warning. Many highly poisonous pesticides are still legal on the mainland.

'Some farmers spray the bug juice in the afternoon and ship to the market the next morning. Pesticide misuse is the most serious issue for the industry on the mainland.'