The alarming number of cases of contaminated farm produce in markets has prodded Chinese legislators to draft a law improving the quality and safety of agricultural products.
The law is drafted to protect the health of the public and increase the competitiveness of Chinese agricultural products in international markets, said Minister of Agriculture Du Qinglin.
The draft law, with eight chapters and 64 articles, was submitted to the Standing Committee of the 10th National People's Congress on Saturday for appraisal.
According to the draft:
The law stipulates the mandatory implementation of quality and safety standards.
The Ministry of Agriculture has so far drafted more than 560 national standards for farm produce, including the examination of pesticide residues and additives used in fodder.
Agricultural departments at all levels must make random checks on farm produce and make the results public.
Farmers are told to keep a record of material used in agricultural production such as the use of pesticides or additives, and how diseases are treated. "Such measures are crucial because many contamination cases resulted from the production process," said Xu Xiaojun, an official from the Ministry of Agriculture.
In the last year, the Ministry of Health reported 381 food-poisoning cases of which 140 were caused by contaminated vegetables or pork.
For example, more than 480 residents of Heyuan city in south China's Guangdong Province were poisoned in 2002 after eating pork bought from a market.
Investigations revealed that the pigs were fed with a special chemical additive known as clenbnterol hydrochloride, which is believed to improve the quality of pork.
The legislation is also expected to give a boost to exports of Chinese farm produce, according to Xu.
China is the world's largest producer of cereals, vegetables, fruits, eggs, meat and aquatic products, but some quality problems have had a negative impact on exports.
The Ministry of Commerce said that 90 percent of agricultural products face technical barriers set up by developed countries, which often cite the lack of an effective monitoring system as an excuse.
The affected enterprises are estimated to suffer losses of about US$9 billion annually.
(China Daily October 25, 2005)