Organic Foods Not Necessarily Safe if They Come from China

Tuesday, July 08, 2014
Organic farm on the outskirts of Beijing (photo: AFP, Getty Images)

It’s a common assumption that any food grown organically will be healthier than that which isn’t. But crops produced in China are demonstrating that organic can be a very unhealthy option.


Due to reckless industrial development, huge swaths of Chinese acreage contain harmful heavy metals, including cadmium, arsenic, lead, nickel and mercury. As much of 20% of China’s arable land is polluted in this manner.


As for Chinese produce labeled “organic,” it’s unclear that eating that is healthier than consuming locally grown, non-organic foods. Organic crops are often fertilized with animal manure. If the livestock that produced the manure was grazing in areas contaminated with heavy metals, those metals will work their way into the manure, and subsequently into the crops it fertilizes.


“Thus, organic food from a polluted area of China could carry significantly more heavy metals than nonorganic food from the U.S.” Ari LeVaux wrote at AlterNet. “This puts a new spin on the idea of eating locally.”


Nearly half the rice offered for sale last year in Guangzhou turned out to be tainted with cadmium. Arsenic contamination in apples is also a concern, considering more than 50% of all apple juice consumed in the U.S. comes from China. FDA testing has shown significant amounts of arsenic in some apple juice.


And it’s not just metals in the soil in China, it’s pollution in the water used for aquaculture, too. This problem, again, poses trouble for Americans, particularly those who eat tilapia. Eighty percent of this fish served in the United States originates in China, where industrial pollution and farm fertilizers have ruined many waterways.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Food Labelled ‘Organic’ Is No Guarantee of Safety—Shocking Levels of Heavy Metals in Imported Food Highlight the Danger (by Ari LeVaux, AlterNet)

USDA Bans Nebraska Organic Food Inspector for Using Chinese Government Employees (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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