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Doubts over Moutai's 'organic' claims

(Shanghai Daily)

16:01, March 15, 2013

Doubts over Moutai's 'organic' claims.(File Photo)

Moutai is at the center of a food safety scandal after reports claiming that its much-hyped organic raw materials used to make the expensive Chinese liquor are actually laced with pesticides.

The distiller says it uses high-quality wheat and glutinous sorghum planted in 20,000 hectares of ecological farms in mountainous Guizhou Province in China's southwest.

However, according to a report in yesterday's Time Weekly newspaper, chemicals containing cyhalothrin, a poison sometimes causing fainting and shock, are widely used, in violation of organic food production standards.

The newspaper expressed disbelief that crops tainted with pesticide had come from land verified as an eco-friendly planting base by the Organic Food Development and Certification Center of China, a specialized certification body internationally accredited.

"Organic planting bans any pesticides," said Zhang Jibing, an official with the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

The newspaper said that Kweichow Moutai Co, based in the province, needed at least 150,000 tons of raw material every year, but its local supplier was only able to produce 60,000 tons.

Such a huge gap forces the company to buy non-organic material outside the province, insiders said.

However, even local farmlands don't produce premier grains, the newspaper said.

With the exception of fertilizer, most of their expenditure was on pesticides, the report said.

Villagers in Luban Town in Huairen, where a third of the grain is from, confirmed that they had supplied glutinous sorghum to the group for nearly 10 years. They said they had to rely on pesticides to deal with insects.

Local resident Chen Xiqian said they sprayed the pesticides three to four times every February and March.

Villagers said officials from the organic certification center just visited once a year.

Wang Jianhua, manager of Moutai's supply company in Huairen, told the newspaper: "We have spent more than 1 million yuan to get the verification."

The newspaper said that the center was failing in its duty.

Officials from the organic certification body told the newspaper they had sent officials to begin a thorough investigation.

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