Reporting from Beijing, Barbara Demick with the Los Angeles Times claims organic gardening in China is a virtual top secret affair with the cleanest, safest produce channeled to the rich and politically connected.
Meanwhile, notes Demick, the population at large consume meats laced with steroids, dine on fish from ponds spiked with hormones to increase growth, and drink milk containing dangerous additives such as melamine.
And Demick actually left out the worst abominations: food producers in China regularly use untreated human and animal waste for feeding farmed fish meant for eating and for fertilizing land to grow produce. Feces is the primary nutrient for growing the tilapia in China.
Additionally, plastic rice has been distributed to the unsuspecting masses in China. The plastic rice is made with potatoes shaped as rice grains that are mixed with industrial synthetic resins used as a binding agent. Eating three bowls of this fake rice is the equivalent to eating one plastic bag.
Demick says many of the nation’s best food companies don’t promote or advertise because they don’t want the public to know that their limited supply is sent to Communist Party officials, dining halls reserved for top athletes, foreign diplomats, and others in the elite classes.
“The officials don’t really care what the common people eat because they and their family are getting a special supply of food,” said Gao Zhiyong, who worked for a state-run food company and wrote a book on the subject.
Demick explains that in China, the “tegong”, or “special supply”, is a remnant from the early years of Communist rule, when work units of state-owned enterprises raised their own food and allocated it based on rank.
“The leaders wanted to make sure they had enough to eat and that nobody poisoned their food,” said Gao.
Today, environmental degradation and a limited supply of safe food is the reason secret government organic gardens for the elite are maintained.
“We flash forward 50 years and we see the only elements of China society getting food that is reliable, safe and free of contaminants are those cadres who have access to the special food supply,” said Phelim Kine of the Hong Kong office of Human Rights Watch.
Organic farmers say they face pressure to sell their limited output to official channels. “The local government would like us to give more products to officials and work units, but we think it is important that individuals can enjoy our product,” said Wang Zhanli, who owns an organic dairy in Yanqing, near the Great Wall.
The “special supply” is kept a secret from the masses because Chinese officials fear public resentment over the privileges of the elite. After a Guangzhou-based newspaper published the story about an organic garden referred to as a custom farm, the Chinese Central Propaganda Department banned further reporting on the subject and the article was removed from the newspaper’s website.
Organic produce for the Chinese public is available but expensive. In an effort to lower organic prices, some Chinese families have formed cooperatives to buy directly from farmers.
“There is not enough supply of organic food, there aren’t so many farmers who really know how to produce organically, and if you found a farm, it is too expensive for ordinary people,” said Liu Yujing, a Beijing homemaker who founded a 100-family cooperative last year.