Hong Kong, a magnet for gourmets and food lovers the world over, has been besieged by a number of food scares in recent years, and local demand for healthier food is growing.
Mainland Chinese vegetables, coated with excessive chemical pesticides, have landed people in hospital while compulsory staples of the Chinese diet, like pork and fish, have been found contaminated by banned growth drugs and pollutants. [Now] the controversy surrounding genetically engineered (GE) food has gripped the territory of 6.8 million, triggering calls from green groups for compulsory labelling of GE food.
In an effort to raise public awareness, local Greenpeace activists stormed into some supermarkets in recent months saying certain brands of soy and milk chocolate products they sold contained bacillus thuringiensis-a pesticide known as Bt.
“We consume a lot of soybean products and a lot of it comes from Canada and the US, but do we know if they are genetically modified?” asks Greenpeace’s Lo Sze-ping.
Hong Kong lawmakers this month passed a motion calling for compulsory GE food labelling and the government has said it would do a feasibility study into setting up such a system.
Up north in China’s rural New Territories and across the border in Shenzhen, modest-sized organic farms have been sprouting up–winning a small but growing band of consumers. Hong Kong now has nine organic farms and it is not uncommon to find vegetable stalls in the Territory’s heartland selling only organic produce, albeit at a premium of at least twice the price of non-organic crops. Deep in the valley of Hong Kong’s mountainous region, the organic Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Gardens grows up to 140 types of vegetables and plants. Insect-repelling herbs such as mint and rosemary help control pests.
“Organic farming is only possible if we keep our own seeds,” says Penny Chan of Produce Green Foundation, “but that’s difficult as there is never enough. We get organic seeds from the US and China but with [GE] seeds becoming popular in China, we can’t be sure of supply in the future. You might be using [GE] seeds and you don’t even know.
January 27, 2000