Chinese Herbs

Elixir of Health or Pesticide Cocktail?

An Investigation on Chinese Herbs and Pesticides by Greenpeace

China’s traditional practice of herbal medicine goes back thousands of years and works by unlocking nature’s ability to prevent disease and restore human health.

In recent times, Chinese herbs have ascended to the world stage and become a global icon. Their healing properties have led to their use in daily food and beverages like soups, stir-fry’s and teas by millions of people around the world.

In the past, these herbs grew deep in the forest, in very particular soil conditions and picked at specific times. But in a new era of industrial agriculture all of this has changed. Herbs are now grown in farms that are heavily dependent on chemical pesticides.

To understand how this pesticide addiction impacts the Chinese traditional medicine sector, Greenpeace visited a handful of regions in China renowned for growing herbs. We also purchased samples of herbal medicine for pesticide testing from nine different cities and from nine companies’ stores in China. We also tested samples of herbal products imported from China and collected from stores in London, Virginia (near Washington DC), Paris, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Milan, Toronto and Vancouver.

The results of our investigation revealed a cocktail of pesticide residue on the herbs. Many of these pesticides are illegal in China or classified as ‘highly hazardous’ or ‘extremely hazardous’ by the World Health Organization (WHO). Exposure to pesticides via food consumption poses a significant risk to health, namely the possibility of bioaccumulation within the body. Chronic pesticide poisoning can lead to learning difficulties, hormone disruption and reproductive abnormalities.

This is yet another symptom of a sick industrial agriculture system which produces ‘unhealthy products’ and fails to deliver healthy food to people. Chinese herbs are just the latest victims of agriculture’s pesticide addiction. agricultural is a global problem affecting many countries and requires the immediate address of public authorities around the world.

However, to truly end our chemical pesticide addiction once and for all, the global agricultural industry must undergo a paradigm shift towards Ecological Farming, which includes dedicating more financial support by the public authorities from all over the world. Healing Chinese herbs will require facing the deep, systemic failure of chemical intensive agriculture, not simply treating the symptoms.

Ecological farming ensures healthy Chinese Herbs for today and tomorrow, protects soil, water and climate and promotes biodiversity. Unlike industrial agriculture, it does not contaminate the environment with genetic engineering, chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. And equally as important, it is for the people, siding with small-scale farmers and local communities. Which is why we here at Greenpeace like to say ecological farming is ‘more than food’.

Greenpeace demands: Greenpeace is urging governments to implement more stringent controls and monitoring systems for pesticides residues in food and herbal products, carry out clear pesticides reduction programs and divert financial funding towards more ecological farming practices, in particular; non-chemical alternatives to control pests.

Chinese Herbs: Elixir of Health or Pesticide Cocktail? 

Greenpeace campaigns to raise global awareness and strive towards a pesticide-free future for all. In doing so, we can heal Chinese herbs and free global agriculture from chemical addiction. You can be a part of our global campaign by simply spreading the news.

Also, Greenpeace is calling on the Chinese herbs companies to publicly disclose all pesticides used in the production of their products and to provide a timeline aimed at reducing their usage. 

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