Here in China, herbal products have a strong reputation for having healing qualities. A bowl of soup with wolfberry and lotus seed was once a healthy treat for me. Many people here, and around the world, add ginseng, red dates or chrysanthemums to their soups or tea hoping to cure or prevent health problems.
Imagine our surprise this year when we tested 65 traditional Chinese herbal products and found a toxic cocktail of pesticide residues.
Our report shows the herbal products we tested carry traces of pesticides that are illegal in China. Some of the pesticides detected are considered highly hazardous by the World Health Organization (WHO). Others have residue levels in such high concentration that they would be in breach of European food safety standards. This scandal is another symptom caused by our sick industrial agriculture system and highlights the need to end the use of agricultural chemicals altogether.
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When the World Health Organization and Europe even bother to rank pesticides or to ban some of them, it is almost always because exposure to them is known to have detrimental effects to human health. Because non-pesticide farming solutions exist already and have proven to be effective and healthy, Greenpeace East Asia is urging the Chinese government to:
- impose stricter supervision and control of illegal pesticides,
- provide clear pesticides-reduction timelines,
- commit to a plan to fully phase-out chemical pesticides in agriculture, and
- direct financial funding toward ecological farming practices.
We must start down this ecological path now, to preserve the future of food production in China, and globally. The challenge to switch to ecological farming and away from chemicals-based agriculture is a challenge for all governments of the world.
Chinese herbal products are among the many areas where once healthy and chemical-free traditions are now broken, poisoned and need our attention. They have been a part of our diets for their healing and detoxifying qualities for thousands of years, now we must heal and detoxify them.
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Greenpeace East Asia
Senior Ecological Farming Campaigner
Greenpeace International, Ottho Heldringstraat 5, 1066 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands