Friday, June 28, 2013

High-toxic insecticide aldicarb involved in food safety scandal

In May 2013, an insecticide namely aldicarb (Brand name in Chinese: Shennongdan) involved in a food scandal which happened in the rural areas of Weifang City, Shandong Province. It has been confirmed that some farmers in the areas had been overusing aldicarb, which is an illegal and highly toxic insecticide to grow gingers, leading to public condemnation. The increasing number of food safety scandals these years in China not only indicates the weakness of pesticide supervision and management, but also reflects farmers' habit of choosing pesticides: pursuit for low price, quick and high efficacy in China, according to CCM’s latest issue of Insecticides China News.

As a highly poisonous carbamate insecticide, just 50 milligrams of aldicarb is enough to kill a person weighing 50kg. According to the Institute for the Control of Agrochemicals, Ministry of Agriculture (ICAMA), aldicarb is only allowed to use on cotton, tobacco, peanuts, roses and sweet potatoes under highly strict rules on application. However, on 4 May, 2013, an investigative report by China Central Television (CCTV) revealed that farmers in Weifang had been using 120-300kg/ha. aldicarb for growing gingers, nearly three to six times above the safe level for targeted crops mentioned above. This is entirely a threat to public health and infringement to the rules of the ICAMA.

What's more shocking is that ginger farmers actually did recognize aldicarb's toxicity. One interviewee said that she was aware of the high toxicity of the product and dared not to use it in fields where gingers are grown for export and her family, her aldicarb-contaminated gingers were sold on the domestic markets. Another respondent said he had been using aldicarb for more than 20 years since it was first introduced to the market, as it has a stronger control effect on insect pests and nematodes and a lower price than other products.

There are multiple reasons for the emergence of aldicarb-contaminated gingers and other food safety scandals in China during the past years. Firstly, most farmers choose and apply pesticides based on the price of pesticides and their experiences. They used to purchase cheaper pesticides with quick effect but high toxicity instead of eco-friendly products with low toxicity. While spraying pesticides, they usually ignored the introductions on package, undereducated and unaware that they should comply with the introductions.

Secondly, the food safety scandals witness weak supervision on pesticide management and food safety. As mentioned above, the farmers in Weifang had already used aldicarb on gingers with a volume exceeding safe level for a long time, but what is surprising is that the circulation and application of aldicarb have not been inspected by authorities in these years; aldicarb-contaminated gingers were not identified during food safety inspections until they were marketed across China.

Besides, the lack of legal and effective insecticides is another reason for the ginger scandal. Like other minor crops in China, ginger doesn't draw enough attention of agrochemical enterprises for R&D or registration of applicable corresponding insecticides, as the economic return generated from investment in pesticides on minor crops is reckoned to be less than that in major crops. According to the ICAMA, there's only one valid registration of insecticide for ginger–98% methyl bromide GA–in China as of 13 May, 2013. This is far from enough to fulfill the demand of controlling ginger insect pests.

Along with more and more food safety scandals exposed by media these years, Chinese authorities would have to tighten its inspection on both pesticide management and food safety and be more accountable to improve the overall supervision mechanism in the future. Enhancing the ability and efficiency of law enforcement is considered to be primarily imperative. Meanwhile, boosting the development of eco-friendly pesticides and improving farmers' technological knowledge of pesticide application are required in the long run. Furthermore, it is advised that the government should strongly support the pesticide registration for minor crops, such as providing financial subsidies, just like Zhejiang Province did (please refer to Insecticide China News Volume 06 Issue 02 on Page Nine, Water bamboo receives pesticide registration subsidy in Zhejiang Province).

Different from China, some of other countries and regions in the world have washed out aldicarb. In 2010, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Bayer agreed to carry out an entire ban on aldicarb use in the US: all remaining aldicarb uses will end no later than August 2018, as a new risk assessment conducted by the EPA indicated that aldicarb no longer met food safety standards. In 2012, both Brazil and Peru repealed the registrations of aldicarb and started to forbid the product for sale.

Table of Contents of Insecticides China News 1306:
Will EU-wide ban on three neonicotinoids affect China?
High-toxic insecticide aldicarb involved in food safety scandal
Dow to introduce sulfoxaflor to China
Hunan Huinong's tea saponin biopesticide to come out in H2 2013
Doramectin to be applied as insecticide in China
Remarkable growth of pymetrozine registrations continues
Qiheng Agro-chemical to receive investment from listed household chemical company
Redsun Biochemical to shut down compulsively required by government
Jiangsu Changqing to enhance wastewaster treatment and warehouse management
Anhui Futian to set foot in insecticide production
Agrochemical multinationals actively invest in China's pesticide industry
Hunan Haili intends to produce thiodicarb TC (4,000t/a) for export
Bifenthrin export 2012: rises in TC export volume but declines in value
Monthly ex-works prices of main insecticides in China, June 2013
Monthly port prices of main insecticides in China, June 2013
Monthly FOB prices of main insecticides in China, June 2013

Insecticides China News, a monthly publication issued by CCM on 10th, provides the latest and influential analysis on insecticide industry. Major contents include special report, company dynamics, market dynamics, supply and demand, price analysis, policy, raw material and intermediate.

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