Growing concern over mislabeling and loose organic standards throughout China has led to a significant decrease in exports to the U.S. and European markets.
China has been a major player in the organic market supplying a number of products as explosive growth has tapped U.S. grown organic resources from fruits and vegetables to grains and beans. Leaders in the organic movement, Whole Foods Market, used Chinese-grown organics in a number of its private label products, including frozen vegetables, seeds, nuts and bottled teas.
Questions about the country’s regulation of organic standards began back in 2007 and led to the ban of millet and superfood herbs including ginseng, shiitake mushrooms and ginger.
The latest casualty is the goji berry, a small red berry that has become quite popular as a superfood choice among raw foodists and health enthusiasts here in the U.S. for its reported high number of antioxidants. The once booming goji market in Zhongning County, exporting over 3,500 tons annually, is now struggling to find buyers, reporting that the U.S. and EU have essentially closed the door on the goji berry market, citing high levels of pesticides, sulfides and a number of unlabeled harmful ingredients found by the FDA on products labeled as organic over the last several years.
Among the concerns are discrepancies over how many organic acres of gojis throughout Zhongning County have actually been planted. Numbers from Chinese count more than 7,000 acres but investigators state it’s less than 500 with actual certification. Forged and illegally obtained organic certificates and labels are also rampant, according to several reports.
Whole Foods has phased out much of its Chinese organics, but as GMOs continue to take up more of America’s farmland, imports will be a necessity in the booming organic market. Whether China will be a factor in that growth though, is still undetermined.
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