Frequently asked questions

Standard Page - 2008-07-01

1. What is organic agriculture? What is organic food?

Organic agriculture rejects the use of chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, growth hormone and artificial livestock feed additives. It also does not involve GE and its by-products. It is a healthy and sustainable agricultural production method.

Organic agriculture adopts ecological agricultural technology abiding by natural laws and ecological principles. It can help solve problems such as soil erosion and land degradation caused by chemical intensive agriculture. It also decreases the use of pesticides and fertilizers which is a chief cause of pollution, massive energy consumption and the reduction of biological diversity. Organic farming helps raise farmers' income while reducing the usage of pesticides which are potentially harmful to their health.

Organic food is usually a product of an organic agricultural production system. Any farm produce and its side products that are processed based on international organic farming rules and corresponding standards, and have attained certification from an independent monitoring body, is considered organic food. This includes grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy products, livestock and poultry products, as well as honey and marine products. It excludes any synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, artificial feed additives and GE and its related products in its entire production process.

2. What is the difference between organic food, pollution free food and green food?

Pollution free food allows the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides when planting, but the amount of pesticide residue and nitrate residue (a component of fertilizers) is not allowed to exceed the specified standard.

China has two grades of green food: Standard A allows some use of synthetic chemicals and fertilizers and is similar to that of non-pollutant food; Standard AA is more stringent and is closer to the standards for organic food. Most of China's AA products are exported.

Organic food excludes all synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, feed additives and GE by-products in its production and processing.

Compared with non-pollutant food and green food, organic food applies the highest safety standards in planting and processing.

3. How to distinguish organic food?

China has its own organic food labeling system. Look for the "organic" label to distinguish organic products that have been officially approved. Products of a farm in the process of converting to an organic system is labeled as "conversion to organic".

Besides these two classifications, other monitoring bodies also issue organic labels.

Organic food certified by the Nanjing Organic Food Development Center (OFDC) of the State Administration of Environmental Protection are labeled as:

Organic food certified by China Organic Food Certification Center (COFCC) under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture are labeled as:

Organic tea certified by the Organic Tea Research and Development Center in Hangzhou are labeled as:

Some farmers have adopted organic farming for many years by rejecting the use of synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides, but they may have never applied for certification of their products. People may contact these farmers directly through the above-mentioned cooperatives and farms to purchase their farm produce.

4. What benefit will organic agriculture bring to the environment?

Chemical intensive agriculture relies heavily on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. This has caused many environmental problems such as soil pollution, water pollution and pesticide residue in food. Organic agriculture rejects the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and adopts ecologically-sound and sustainable methods of agriculture, such as crop rotation, inter-planting and biological control. Not only will these methods reduce pollution, but they will also improve soil quality, protect water sources, maintain bio-diversity and help establish a healthy and sustainable ecological system.

5. Why should I eat organic food?

Eating organic food avoids the possibility of ingesting toxic chemicals and GE foods. It will also decrease the intake of artificial food additives and increase the intake of beneficial vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. You will also play a part in protecting our water, soil and biodiversity from pollution by pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.

6. Why is organic food more expensive than non-organic food?

The real price of products from chemical intensive agriculture is much higher than you may think. There are many hidden costs, such as water pollution and threats to human health, which are not reflected in its monetary value.  In an organic farming system, farmers have to devote more of their time and labor to the process, thus the monetary price of organic food is higher, but their ecologically-sound production methods do not damage the environment. As the market ratio and production volume of organic food increases, its price will certainly begin to drop.