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Time to Strike with Green Agriculture
Now is the time for China to develop its green agriculture sector, as people are paying more attention to the origins of food due to a rise in living standards.

The dire consequences relating to unsafe food also contribute to a rising awareness among consumers about food safety, making it an urgent task.

Unsafe produce is mainly related to excessive residue from pesticides, fertilizers and heavy metals. Residue from antibiotics and hormones in animal products are also detrimental to health.

The safety of genetically-modified farm produce is still unclear and hotly debated. Once people's health and the ecological balance are damaged by such products, it will be hard for them to recover - a cautious attitude must be adopted.

World Trade Organization (WTO) accession has brought about grim challenges for China's agriculture industry.

It is predicted more quality and low-priced agricultural products from abroad will flood into China's market.

Most produce is already oversupplied on international markets, making local agricultural exports more difficult.

As the WTO agreement obliges its members to erase tariffs and quotas as trade barriers, many countries, especially developed ones, are now resorting to non-tariff barriers to restrict China's farm exports.

Non-tariff trade barriers usually exist in health, quality and environmental standards, commonly referred to as green trade barriers.

According to statistics from the Information Center of the Ministry of Agriculture, developed countries have accelerated the introduction of stern quality, health and environmental criteria against China's farm products in the past two years. The barriers have become the largest hurdle for China's agricultural exports.

The challenges, however, can also be turned into opportunities for China's budding green agriculture industry because it will force us to transform existing farming practices and speed up the development of the sector.

It is encouraging that China currently maintains strong momentum with its green development with more than 100 pilot ecological agriculture counties, about 200 national ecological pilot areas and four green agriculture provinces throughout the nation.

In a major push, the Ministry of Agriculture is going for the production of safe food within five years nationwide.

But proper measures should be taken to encourage and navigate the development of green agriculture in China.

The development should not come at the expense of the ecological environment. Instead it should protect and improve the environment, securing sustainable development.

The establishment of an agricultural products standard system should be accelerated and brought in line with international levels as standards are increasingly being wielded.

Governments should also work out preferential policies and flexible mechanisms to spur investment from home and abroad within the green agriculture industry.

The author is vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the Anhui Provincial People's Congress.

(China Daily December 5, 2002)

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