Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Summary of domestic pesticide consumption in recent years

Frequently exposed by media and environmental protection organizations in recent years, food safety cases caused by pesticides have drawn the public's attention across China. These cases have caused much disappointment, not only significantly impacting the competitiveness of Chinese crops, but also threatening consumer health and reducing the public's trust in food safety levels.

Thus, it is necessary to analyze and address food safety cases regarding pesticides urgently. Here are four aspects for summarizing the reasons for these food scandals, including the consumption situation of pesticides, pesticide users (farmers), pesticide producers and dealers (enterprises) and pesticide management (policies).

Increasing domestic pesticide consumption volume
According to the report concerning pesticide residues of Chinese herbs conducted by Greenpeace, the domestic total pesticide consumption volume has been increasing since 1995 in general, except a slight decline from 2000 to 2001. In 1995, China's annual consumption of pesticides reached about 1.09 million tonnes. After the development of agricultural planting for 16 years, it is 1.79 million tonnes at present, increasing by 64.40% compared with that in 1995. Particularly from 2002 to 2011, the pesticide consumption volume was climbing by about 3% every year. Although the data in 2012 has not been issued yet, it is believed that it also enjoyed about a 3% year-on-year growth rate.

In contrast, the Chinese planting area has been decreasing generally since the mid-1990s. According to Chen Xiwen, a member of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the Chinese planting area declined from 130.07 million ha. in 1996 to 121.73 million ha. in 2008. Then, for the following five years, the area maintained the level above 120 million ha. (1.8 billion mu, the warning line of planting area set by the China authority).

In conclusion, since the pesticide consumption volume has keeping increased and the planting area has been scaling down over the past few years, the average of pesticide consumption volume per ha. doubled in 2011, compared with that in the mid-1990s. Therefore, overall pesticide pollution and crop's pesticide residues in China are likely to be inevitably more severe.

Low utilization rate of pesticide application in China
Of nearly two million tonnes of pesticide used for plant protection in China every year, the effective utilization rate is only about 30%, meaning that the rest ends up as hazardous pollution and discharges into water, soil and the atmosphere, which not only does harm to the environment, but also intensifies the severe condition of pesticide residues on crops, whereas, in the past and at present, most domestic pesticide manufactories and farmers still focus on pesticide's input volume too much, but have ignored how to improve the effective utilization rate of pesticides.

Product structure of domestic pesticides on minor crops adjusted slowly
On one hand, most food safety cases involving pesticides have shown serious problems regarding pesticide residues of highly toxic products, which indicate that the application of highly toxic products is still popular in China. On the other hand, product structure optimization of domestic pesticides is developing fast, along with many new eco-friendly products introduced mainly by multi-national agrochemical enterprises in these years, whereas most of these products have been introduced intensively for several major crops namely rice, corn, wheat and vegetables.

In contrast, many minor crops including ginger, Chinese herbs, etc. lack new eco-friendly pesticides for protection, and even there are no legally registered pesticides for some minor crops. Therefore, traditional, highly toxic pesticides are applied on minor crops without appropriate instructions, which leads to the nationwide existence of pesticide residues of highly hazardous pesticides.

National citizens are paying more attention to the safety and quality of foods.
The overall level of citizens' living quality has gradually heightened along with China's economic development during these decades, although the extreme disparity between the rich and the poor has also been triggered. The Chinese, especially people in big cities, are more concerned with their health instead of simple subsistence only, and in this case, food possessing safety and high quality are required in domestic agricultural production. But as a matter of fact, citizens are much dissatisfied with chemical-intensive agriculture in China because there have been increasing food safety scandals exposed by the media attracting the public's attention and condemnation.

In consideration of the above, a healthy and eco-friendly development method is in great demand by Chinese agriculture.

Source: China Crop Protection Monthly Report issued by CCM in July 2013.

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Increasing food safety scandals involving pesticides in China
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Resolution of pesticide safety problems and relevant policy dynamics
Restriction management of highly toxic pesticides in China
Media and NGOs should play a positive role to boost pesticide management

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