China's agriculture ministry aims to have 10,000 standards for pesticide and veterinary drug residues on the books by 2020, according to an official's speech at an annual government food safety meeting held last week.
Livestock products, vegetables, and fish and shellfish tested for harmful substances had a compliance rate of 97.7 percent during the first three quarters of 2017, according to Huang Xiuzhu, Chief Inspector with the Ministry of Agriculture's Agricultural Product Quality and Safety Supervision Bureau. Huang also cited China's 110,000 farm products certified as "non-harmful," "green food," and organic as indicators of food safety.
Inspector Huang warned that potential safety problems persist in China's agricultural products. The next steps will be to tighten regulation of chemicals by farmers, complete a five-year action plan to overhaul standards for chemical residue tolerances, and ensure implementation of the standards on farms.
In their five-year crash program, agricultural officials are revising 1000 pesticide residue standards and 100 veterinary drug standards annually. They aim to have over 10,000 chemical residue standards for farm products by 2020, according to Huang.
Huang said one goal is to eliminate highly toxic pesticides from the market [even though they are already outlawed]. Another is to achieve 40-percent utilization of pesticides [i.e. reduce the proportion of pesticides that drift into the air or leach into soil and water without killing pests on crops], and develop pest and disease prevention teams. Officials are also striving to build standardized model livestock and poultry farms and vegetable farms where the standards are fully implemented.
Huang did not say whether the blizzard of new standards would ever be enforceable. Surely, the demand for chemical testing will outstrip the capacity to perform tests. China's laboratories will not be able to conduct more than spot-checks for dozens of chemicals produced by tens of millions of Chinese farms. Who will fund the labs and who will pay for the tests? Where will the technicians come from and who will train them? Who will certify the labs and supervise them?
Exporters to China will also need to conform to these tolerances for numerous substances that may or may not correspond to standards used in their own country. You never know when border inspectors might decide to check for various substances. New labs staffed with inexperienced technicians using questionable procedures may produce anomalous results.