Ignoring The Labels: An Analysis of Pesticide Use in China
China, like many developing countries, has seen a dramatic increase in the use of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals over the last twenty years. In order to get a clearer understanding of the consequences of pesticide use, a team of researchers from the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy recently undertook an in-depth analysis of the way the chemicals are used in rice production. They found that pesticides were being grossly over-used and that this was having a marked negative impact on farmers' health and their economic well being. The research concluded that changes in agricultural training and alternative methods of pest management are needed to improve the situation. The study was carried out against a background of escalating pesticide use caused by intensive cultivation, and the widespread adoption of fertiliser-responsive varieties, over the last two decades. Per hectare pesticide use in grain production more than tripled during this time. By 1996, total pesticide supply reached about 340 thousand tons and China is likely to become the biggest pesticide consumer in the world. During the last ten years this has resulted in many health problems with up to 123,000 people poisoned from pesticide use in a year. Indeed, deaths from the improper use of pesticides in crop production run at about 300-500 per year. If practical alternative pest management technologies, regulations and policies are not developed, then an increase in these problems can only be expected. The study found that the rate of pesticide use is more than double the national average. Average application of pesticide per hectare of rice (per season) amounts to 27.7 kilograms in dosage or about 12-14 kilograms in active ingredients. This is similar to the levels found in Japan and the Republic of Korea, but much higher than in any other Asian country.
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