China to phase out more pesticides in push to improve food safety

BEIJING, Dec 5 (Reuters) - China plans to eliminate another 12 highly toxic pesticides from use within five years, state media reported late on Monday, as the government looks to improve the safety of its farm produce.

That comes amid an ongoing campaign to improve the environment and, in particular, tackle severe soil pollution.

Beijing has already withdrawn 22 highly toxic pesticides from use, and it prohibits the use of any such products on fruit, vegetables and tea.

But it still has a number of highly toxic chemicals in use on other crops, where they are particularly effective in fighting underground pests, Zeng Yande, head of the crop management department at the agriculture ministry, was quoted as saying by the Xinhua News agency.

The ministry has already issued a notice banning the highly toxic substances endosulfan and methyl bromide by 2019.

Three others - aldicarb, phorate and isocarbophos - will be withdrawn in 2018, while substances including omethoate and aluminium phosphide should be removed by 2020, said the report. Chloropicrin, carbofuran and methomyl will be phased out by 2022.

Zeng called for more research and development to produce highly-effective alternatives with low toxicity.

The Ministry of Agriculture is already trialling a subsidy system for low-toxic biological pesticides, reported the Economic Daily.

Zeng said local governments should support demonstration bases for such biological pesticides, according to that report.

Beijing announced two years ago a goal to achieve zero growth in the amount of pesticides used by 2020, and says it has already seen negative growth over the last three years.

Zeng also said the government should raise the barriers to pesticide registration and increase penalties for those making unlicensed products or selling counterfeit pesticides.

The agriculture ministry has proposed that new pesticide manufacturers must be located in chemical industry parks to reduce their environmental impact, the Economic Daily reported. (Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Joseph Radford)