“Organic” Food From China Found To Be Highly Contaminated

Food imported from China and labeled “organic” is anything but.

Chinese Market

With more and more people learning about the importance of eating healthy and safe produce, consumer demand for all things “organic” has skyrocketed. In the US alone, annual organic food sales have grown by 20% and the increased demand is significantly outpacing domestic supplies, forcing many grocers and food vendors to look internationally to keep their businesses stocked. Most of these organic imports are grown in the European Union, where organic standards are weaker than those of the US. However, many of these “organic” products are from China, whose food industry standards for safety and quality are notoriously low. Much of this “organic” produce grown in China is so unsafe, that the farmers who grow it won’t eat it themselves. Isn’t that the whole point of choosing organic in the first place?

It turns out that much of the food labelled “organic” was never grown with the intention of being organic, but rather as a means to circumvent China’s reputation for substandard produce. US Customs personnel often reject entire shipments of food from China due to the addition of dangerous and unsavory additives, the presence of drug residues, mislabeling, or the poor hygienic state of the food. In an effort to get around these bulk rejections of food, some Chinese food exporters have taken to labeling their products “organic,” especially those foods that appear dirty or unusual. In addition, the “organic” label in China has no meaning as collusion between the government and manufacturers has led to rampant mislabeling, and China’s government has no established system for determining what is or is not organic.
Chinese Fish Master

Dead fish being removed after a fertilizer factory dumped huge amounts of ammonia into the Fu river Credit – NYT

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From China, The Future of Fish

Meet the Chinese tilapia, a bland food product that grows fast and sells cheap. Environmentalists hate it, but Americans keep ordering more.

By Bruce Einhorn

(Fixes reference to U.S. food-service market in the 27th paragraph.)

At the end of a wooden pier, a squat red machine the size of a dishwasher hums along with the din of nearby cicadas. The fish-feeder is tossing grain pellets into one of Chen Haiping’s nine fish ponds, each as long as a football field, in the town of Shuixi, in China’s Guangdong province. It’s breakfast time, and thousands of tilapia are thrashing their tails and sticking their mouths into the air to get some of the soy-and-corn mixture. Chen, a 32-year-old former duck farmer with a wispy mustache, has been running this farm for eight years.

Before the tilapia, these ponds were filled with shrimp, which the Chinese like. They aren’t big fans of tilapia, a foreign fish; the name in Chinese,luofeiyu, refers to tilapia’s origins in Africa. It doesn’t have much flavor, and it doesn’t grow big enough to put in the middle of the table at a family meal. Americans, however, can’t get enough of Chinese-raised tilapia, so tilapia it is. The fish, Chen notes, are hardier and don’t require as much work. “Shrimp can die much more easily,” says Chen, who wears a wide-brimmed straw hat to protect himself from the 95-degree heat.

Despite environmental warnings about Chinese-raised tilapia from watchdog groups such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, which publishes an influential best choices/avoid list of seafood and rates Chinese-raised tilapia as “avoid,” U.S. consumption keeps rising. In 2009 the U.S. imported 404 million pounds of tilapia, up from 298 million in 2005. Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) imports nearly 200 shipping containers, or 8.8 million pounds, every month, although they will not say how much comes from China. (The company declined to comment.) Domestic fish farmers can’t come close to meeting demand. Although there are tilapia farms in the U.S., the fish does better in tropical climates, so most of it comes from Asia or Latin America.

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Made in the USA Foundation, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund and Mile High Organics Sues WTO to Keep Country of Origin Labeling Act in Force

DENVER, Colo., Sept. 5, 2012 — /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Made in the USA Foundation led a coalition of groups filing suit against the World Trade Organization, the U.S. Trade Representative and the Secretary of Agriculture to keep the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling Act (COOL) in force.  The WTO ruled this summer that COOL, which required meat from Mexico, Canada and other nations to be labeled as such, discriminated against imported beef.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court in Denver, Colorado.  The case seeks a court order declaring that the World Trade Organization does not have the authority to override U.S. law.  The Country of Origin Labeling Act requires all meat, fish, chicken and produce to be labeled at the grocery store with an accurate country of origin.

Canada and Mexico challenged the U.S. law at the World Trade Organization, arguing that the law unfairly discriminates against imports from these two nations.  The WTO does not have permanent judges.  The WTO appointed an appellate panel of three judges that included a Mexican lawyer who has represented Mexico in trade cases.

Joel D. Joseph, general counsel of the Made in the USA Foundation, said, “the WTO does not have the right to interfere with domestic laws of the United States.  When the U.S. joined the WTO, it agreed to do so only if the WTO could not overrule U.S. law.  More than 90% of U.S. consumers favor the Country of Origin Labeling Act.  This law does not discriminate against any country, it merely requires labeling.  Consumers have a right to decide whether to buy U.S. or imported meat, and accurate labeling is a consumer right.”  Joseph added, “the WTO’s appellate panel was unfairly biased against the United States and should not have allowed a Mexican lawyer, with an obvious conflict of interest, to sit on the panel.”

This is the third major decision of a WTO court that attempts to overturn U.S. law.  The prior two cases involved “dolphin safe” labels on tuna and a U.S. ban on flavored cigarettes.  Congress allows tuna to be labeled “dolphin safe” if it meets specific requirements.  Mexico complained that this discriminates against Mexican tuna because Mexican tuna is not fished in a manner that protects dolphins.

Indonesia filed a complaint with the WTO charging that the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, that prohibits flavored cigarettes from being sold in the United States discriminates against Indonesia cigarettes.  Indonesia produces clove-flavored cigarettes and wants to sell them in the U.S.  The WTO ruled that the U.S. ban on flavored cigarettes discriminated against Indonesia.

The Made in the USA Foundation is a non-profit organization formed in 1989 to promote American-made products.  The Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF) represents 5,400 ranchers and cattlemen in 45 states.  Made in the USA Foundation and R-CALF were the primary supporters of the Country of Origin Labeling Act.  Mile High Organics is a food distributor in Denver, Colorado that delivers food to homes throughout the state.  Mile High Organics seeks to distribute local, Made in the USA food and supports country of origin labeling.

SOURCE Made in the USA Foundation

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