Is Organic the Solution for Beijing?

Weary Beijing residents turn to organic alternatives after endless food scandals
Staff Writer

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

When urban dwellers in Beijing started finding rat meat in their mutton and cadmium in their rice products, they knew it was time for a change.

Endless food scandals throughout the past few years have Chinese consumers growing suspicious and weary of their grocery store produce —enough so for more well-off families to begin seeking organic alternatives to their traditional foods. 

For example, Catherine Ho Wai-man and her family have stopped buying produce from neighborhood markets after Ho found “a suspicious white substance leaching out from the greens she had bought at a stall.”

As an alternative, the family has started growing their own greens in the backyard of their home, located in a northern Beijing suburb. In the winter, the family shops for organic produce at high-end supermarkets, willing to accept the higher costs in exchange for ensured food safety.

Many urban residents in Beijing, however, live in tiny apartments and lack the garden space and economic resources to adopt the Ho family’s solution. While the government struggles to live up to its pledge to protect its people from hazardous foods, many city-dwellers have taken extra precautions with washing, peeling, and boiling their produce before consuming or cooking it.

Some city residents have found solutions in eco-farms, which produce organic foods that can be delivered to your home for around $20 per week. The eco-farms aim to bridge the trust gap between consumers who fear for their personal health and safety and producers who need to sell their food. 

The Tianjin eco-farm, for example, uses organic farming to alleviate social pressures in Beijing while helping the environment. It accomplishes this goal by bringing together two groups -- a Beijing-based NGO that aims to help the underprivileged by offering skills training and a Japanese environmental group that promotes organic farming—in a joint venture.

By forming such partnerships, these eco-farms benefit the Chinese economy, food safety, and environment at the same time.  

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