What is the difference between non-environmental pollution agricultural products, green foods and organic foods?

With the increasing emphasis on the safety of food at the dining table, people are gradually selecting goods certified by certain departments when buying food. Currently, there are "organic foods", "green foods" and "non-environmental pollution agricultural products", etc. in the marketplace.

There are different certification standards set by different departments on food safety. Organic foods, green foods, and non-environmental pollution agricultural products are all safe foods. Safety is a distinct character of these three kinds of foods; there is non-pollution technology used in its planting, harvesting, processing and production, storage and transportation, and an implementation of a whole-process quality control from the field to the dining table.

Non-environmental pollution agricultural products refer to the residue of toxic and harmful substances being controlled within the permitted range of quality safety, and after certification by an associated department, the indicator of quality safety conforms to the "Standards of non-environmental pollution agricultural products (foods)" for agricultural, husbandry and fishery products (food categories not including in-depth processed food).

In a broad sense, non-environmental pollution agricultural products include organic agricultural products, natural foods, ecological foods, green foods, non-pollution foods, etc. In the production process of these products, there is an allowed usage of artificially synthetic safe chemical pesticides, fertilizers, feed additives, etc. with a limit on the quantity, variety and time. It conforms to the national food hygiene standards, but is less strict than the standards for green food. Non-environmental pollution agricultural products ensure people’s basic need for food quality safety, and these products are the most elementary market-entry requirements, and all ordinary food should reach these standards.

The certification of non-environmental pollution agricultural products is classified through original place certification and product certification. Non-environmental pollution agricultural products are certified by agricultural departments. The valid period of the certification mark is 3 years. According to the need of quality safety supervision for agricultural products and the corresponding national standards and industrial standards, the State Certification and Supervision Committee decided to list 62 kinds of important food agricultural products, including chives, pork, eel, etc., in the product categories for certification.

Green foods are un-polluted, safe, high grade, nutritious foods that are produced following special production methods in line with the principle of sustainable development, and are certified and approved by special institutions to use the green food mark. Green food in China is classified as A-grade or AA-grade. In the production of A-grade green food there is an allowed usage of chemical synthetic production materials in limited amounts; in the production process of AA-grade green food, it is comparatively strict, and does not allow the usage of chemical synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, animal drugs, feed additives, food additives and other substances harmful to the health and the environment.

According to the industrial standards released by the Ministry of Agriculture, AA-grade green food equates to organic food. In nature, green food is a transitional product in the development from ordinary food to organic food. The valid period to use the green food certification mark is 3 years.

Organic foods refer to farmed products from an organic agricultural production system, which are produced and processed in accordance with international requirements on organic agriculture production and the corresponding standards, and has passed independent certification by an organic food certification institution. Organic foods can include grains, vegetables, fruits, milk products, poultry and meat products, honey, aquatic or seafood products, seasonings, etc.

Organic foods are distinguished from other foods in three main ways:

(1) In the production and processing of organic foods, it is absolutely forbidden to use artificial synthetic substances such as pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, etc., nor genetic engineering technology; whereas, it is allowable to use these substances in limited amounts in other foods, and the use of genetic engineering is not forbidden. For instance, green foods have no regulations on the use of genetic engineering technology and radioactive technology;

(2) organic foods have strict regulations on the transformation of land production. Considering the fact that some substances will remain in the environment for a certain period, the land needs a three-year transition period from the production of other foods to the production of organic foods. However, the production of green foods and non-environmental pollution foods have no requirements on transformation periods, and

(3) organic foods have a strict quantity control, with designated patches of land and production quantities, whilst the production of other foods does not have the same strict requirements.