Tea leaves in China

Last week Sonia Legg of Reuters produced this report on our recent investigation into banned pesticides on some of China's most popular tea products:


China is the world's largest tea producer - it's also the biggest user of pesticides. And that says Greenpeace has led to a problem. The environmental group says they've found illegal pesticides in some of China's most popular brands of tea. Wang Jing is a Greenpeace Food and Agriculture campaigner.

Wang Jing: "We can only say that these tea companies - despite having the responsibility and the ability to create an effective traceable supply chain control system and to manage from the sourcing stage what and how much pesticides to use - have simply neglected the health demand of consumers. They don't bear the corporate responsibility of protecting consumers' health and our environment."

Greenpeace tested 18 samples over a two month period. It said more than half contained at least one banned pesticide. The traces were found in green, oolong and jasmine tea produced by nine top Chinese companies - some of whom export to Japan, the US and Europe. China Tea King is one of them. But Wu Bilin, the company's Beijing General Manager, dismissed the concerns.

Wu Bilin: "China Tea King has its own farms, factories and chain of stores. So from the sourcing stage we teach the farmers how to plant and how to fertilise. And our factories carry out routine checks, including checking the machines to make sure the fresh leaves pass the standards." But some tea drinkers remain worried.

Jiang Xunqing: "Well, of course I'm worried because of how it is these days. Because China has so many people, and if everyone is drinking tea, they definitely can't produce enough. And if they can't produce enough, they'll increase their use of fertiliser when supply falls short. Businesses are only out to make money."

The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture wants to reduce the use of pesticides by a fifth over the next three years. But Greenpeace says it's up to the tea producers to enforce new standards in their supply chains and prevent toxic substances getting to one of the world's most popular drinks.

Image © Greenpeace / Qinggang Cheng