There have been a number of shops popping up all over Kunming over the last few years proudly claiming to sell 'ecological' (生态产品), 'green' (绿色食品), 'pollution free' (无公害农产品) or 'organic' (有机食品) products. But what do these terms really mean in China?
There are currently three types of agricultural production with associated legal standards in China. The level with the strictest standards is organic, while the next level is green, and the third and final is pollution free. In addition, ecological products (生态) have recently flooded the market, causing an additional level of confusion.
Today, Chinese consumers are mostly buying organic in response to food safety concerns, rather than from environmental concerns. The results can be seen in the organic labelling on vegetables wrapped in three or four layers of plastic to create consumer confidence about supply chain controls.
Depending on your personal motivation to buy organic, the amount of non-recyclable packaging involved in these products can be a real turn-off. An alternative to plastic-heavy supermarket organics is to find organic producers and buy directly from them. But this will require a certain level of Chinese language ability. Here's a quick primer to help out with your next trip to the market.
These are the strictest standards and require organic certification bodies, inspectors and operators to comply with Chinese national organic dictates and protocols. Imports of organic products must also meet these national regulations. No synthetic chemical additives or pollutants are permitted, and genetically modified organisms cannot be labelled as organic.
All organic products must display the label above, and full traceability is provided by a unique barcode. According to the Chinese government, organic agricultural methods not only avoid synthetic additives but must also follow ecosystem based methods such as crop rotation and natural pest control practices. Chinese organic standards are currently some of the strictest on earth.
Green food production is a specific Chinese standard allowing limited quantities of synthetic additives to crops and the land on which they are grown. Green food is a compromise between organic and standard food production and must meet the following criteria:
• The farmland should meet the highest grade of air standards in China
• Heavy metal residues are restricted in irrigation, water and soil, which involves testing for mercury, cadmium, arsenic, lead, chromium and other elements
• Irrigation water must meet national drinking water standards
• Chemical applications are restricted and regulated, and some of the most poisonous pesticides and herbicides are banned.
Since the green food certification was first introduced, no claims were made that it was an organic label. Rather, authorities stressed that the Green Food logo ensured a strict control of chemical use and guaranteed the safety of the product.
Pollution free food
This is the final standard with labelling and inspections in China — pollution free food. It is a set of compulsory standards of production quality that seeks to control unsafe farming practices. Pollutants, additives and toxic residues must remain within limits set by national standards for safety.
These rules are intended to become the basic standard for all agricultural production in China. This followed a number of food safety related incidents that compromised the trust of Chinese consumers, as well as trade restrictions imposed by other countries over similar concerns.
Ecological shops and products have exploded in number in recent years, driven by growing consumer awareness of pollution and pesticide risks in food production. However, ecological products do not follow any national or local standards, are subject to no inspections and do not need to meet any limits on additives or chemicals. The "ecological" in the name can be viewed in the same way as any "green" or "eco-friendly" label on products in any country that do not need to follow any set legal standards.
Below is a list of restaurants, markets and shopping centers advertising the sale of organic, green or pollution free items. We've divided them by municipal district, with the omission of Chenggong. This list is by no means exhaustive. If you have a favorite place to buy produce and dry goods with a more natural bent, please mention it in the comments section below. Thanks! And happy shopping.
Beidahuang Lefu (Dashuying location)
Beidahuang Lefu (Wanhua Lu location)
Carrefour (Baiyun location)
Lazy Birds Cafe
Wal-Mart (Beijing Lu loation)
Wal-Mart (Huancheng Dong Lu location)
Beidahuang Lefu (Sujiatang location)
Beidahuang Lefu (Xiaoximen loation)
Carrefour (Longquan Lu loation)
Carrefour (Zhengda location)
Jiansu Healthy Buffet
Wal-Mart (Guomao location)
Wal-Mart (Daguan location)
Editor's note: Article author Rachel Hemingway has been working internationally for 15 years focusing on the interactions between environmental policy, conservation and poverty alleviation. She is currently based in Kunming, where she studies Chinese.© Copyright 2005-2019 GoKunming.com all rights reserved. This material may not be republished, rewritten or redistributed without permission.