China has become the world’s fourth largest consumer of organic food. Demand is driven by food safety concerns, in the wake of a series of food adulteration episodes and a lack of trust in the government’s ability to assure compliance with safety standards.
Xinhua Insight reports that more and more young professionals are giving up careers in large cities, to return to the country and produce organic food. Strong demand translates into high prices – organic rice apparently sells for a premium, three times the price of conventional rice!
The shift to organic farming promises to help China turn the corner on serious soil health degradation, which has been caused by excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides. Data from the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture suggests that China uses about one-third of the pesticides applied worldwide.
Growing interest and investment in organic food production is the flip side of the coin from the Chinese government’s on-again, off-again embrace of agricultural biotechnology.