Location: Home > Recent posts

Organic, Green, and Harmless

Posted on:2008-07-30     Posted by :林俐

By Zuo Maohong

A friend who works for Greenpeace Beijing has always tried to sell all sorts of green concepts to me--from replacing incandescent lamps with LEDs to bringing your own chopsticks to restaurants. The latest was organic food.

Her co-workers have recently begun distributing a brochure called Beijing Organic Guide 2008 to pedestrians in the streets. Also available online with an interactive map, the Guide gives information on over 60 organic farms, agents, supermarkets, and restaurants in Beijing.

She said all these were an attempt to promote an eco-friendly and healthy lifestyle in the capital city: "The Olympics are drawing near, and foreigners are concerned about food security a lot."  Like many companies and organizations, the Olympics has apparently become a marketing platform for her.

I have my doubts that short-term foreign visitors coming for the Olympics would scour the malls and hutongs of Beijing for organic food, but I do know that in China few can actually afford to stay organic.

Shopping in Wal-Mart's Zhichunlu branch, one seldom finds any customer in front of the organic vegetable shelves. Though better-looking and with nice packaging, the prices of these organic vegetables could be a put-off—they vary from 10 yuan a kilogram to 50 yuan a kilogram - especially at a time when inflationary pressure is strong.

Compared with ordinary tomatoes that can be bought at two yuan a kilogram in most food markets in this season, organic tomatoes at Wal-Mart are extravagantly expensive—they are priced at 32 yuan a kilogram!

In China, there are three types of food security certificates at present—harmless food, green food, and organic food. Harmless food has limited remnants of pesticide or nitrate, green food has stricter standards than harmless products. Organic food is non-transgenic food produced without any use of pesticide, fertilizer, or addictives.

However, not many people know clearly about those certificates. According to a survey of 301 Beijing residents aged between 18 and 55 by Ipsos China this January, only 33% know what organic food is.

The survey also shows that pricing is the main obstacle preventing them from going organic. Eighty-five percent of those polled said they'd accept organic food if the price were no more than 20% higher than that of non-organic. 

With such a big population and limited resources, China still has a long way to go before it can feed its citizens with organic food. A "Green Olympic", as Beijing has promised to the world, might push people to pay more attention to their diet, but to change the way people eat, and how food is produced and priced, it will take more than just the razzle-dazzle of one international event.


Leave a Reply
Recent Post
Copyright © The Economic Observer Online 2001-2008