Greenpeace today exposes three major supermarket chains in Guangzhou – Vanguard, ParknShop and Carrefour – are selling produce with illegal pesticides or pesticide residue exceeding standard.
Between November 2005 and April 2006, Greenpeace found 25% of the vegetable and fruit produce collected from the three supermarket stores being contaminated by banned pesticides (see Table 1). Furthermore, over 70% tomatoes tested were found to have the banned pesticide Lindane, and almost 40% of the samples had a mix of three or more types of pesticides. The test results reflect that illegal pesticide is still widely used in agriculture over the region, causing serious environmental problem in the Mainland.
The press conferences were held in Guangzhou and Hong Kong simultaneously. In Hong Kong, Greenpeace activists went to the 'Centre for Food Safety' on the 43rd floor of Queensway Government Offices in Admiralty, and renamed it as the 'Centre for Food "Non"-safety' to scrutinize the government's lack of measures to stop problem vegetables being sold to consumers.
"Dr. Mak Sin-ping could not turn a blind eye on the problem. As the Controller of the Centre for Food Safety, neglecting pesticide residue exceedance and presence of illegal pesticides in vegetable is not sensible. Hong Kong primarily imports fresh vegetables from the Guangdong province, it is plausible that problem vegetables have already been transported to Hong Kong through various means," says Chow Yuen Ping, Assistant Campaigner (Food Safety) of Greenpeace. According to an industry insider, Mainland authorities on fresh vegetable export (Import and Export Inspection & Quarantee Bureau) implement strict control on accredited farms supplying vegetable produce to Hong Kong. However, problem vegetables from unknown sources could be transported to Hong Kong by illegal means, such as smuggling and using counterfeit licenses (See Appendix 1), skipping the FEHD's surveillance to reach consumer's basket.
"2 months ago Greenpeace exposed 2 major supermarket chains, the ParknShop and Wellcome, were selling problem vegetables. Facing pressure from the public, the government has admitted flaws and loopholes in the monitoring system and the need to establish a traceability system for vegetable produce. However, no further action taken ever since, not even publicizing the list of accredited farms exporting vegetable produce to Hong Kong. This is not acceptable." Chow criticizes. In fact, the Mainland Government has been acting in a more transparent way by posting the list of accredited farms to the government website (See Appendix 2). The HKSAR Government is completely ignorant and continues to shift the responsibility to the Mainland.
Fruits were also tested in this investigation. Tangerines, strawberries and Kyofung grapes samples were found contaminated by banned pesticides, including the highly toxic Methamidophos (see Table 2). These fruits can also be found in Hong Kong market. Fruits imported from the Mainland, unlike vegetable produce, do not have to pass through the Man Kam To Food Safety Office across the border. There exists no comprehensive monitoring on fruit produce in the territory.
"If the newly established Centre for Food Safety cannot guarantee the public that vegetables and fruits are coming from accredited sources, it remains a functionless bureaucracy," said Chow. Greenpeace demands that the HKSAR Government should take immediate actions to ensure the safety of vegetables supplied to Hong Kong. The Centre for Food Safety should rectify their policies to tighten the control of vegetable sources, to implement the traceability system, and to develop comprehensive test for pesticides in order to ensure the safety of all vegetables selling to consumers. Also, the monitoring of fruits should be established to keep problem fruits away from Hong Kong market.