Since late February, batches of cowpeas from the lush Sanya area of the island of Hainan have tested positive for a highly toxic pesticide, isocarbophos, that is banned from use on fruits and vegetables, according to a report on Tuesday in China Daily, the official English-language newspaper. Tainted cowpeas from here have been found in the provinces of Hubei, Guangdong, Anhui and Jiangsu.
The pesticide was banned in Hainan in 2004 but can still be found in remote parts of the island, China Daily reported. Some farmers still use it because it is much cheaper than legal pesticides. Though Hainan is well known among Chinese for its sweeping beaches and five-star resorts, it also has a mountainous interior with rich farmland, much of it on terraced hillsides.
The outrage over the Hainan cowpeas, the latest in a series of Chinese food safety scandals in recent years, erupted on Feb. 21, when the agriculture bureau of Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, announced that it had destroyed 3.5 tons of toxic cowpeas from Hainan. An urgent nationwide warning was issued by the central government’s Ministry of Agriculture, and within days, cowpeas tainted with the banned pesticide were discovered in the three other provinces.
Officials here in Sanya have criticized the Wuhan officials for breaking an “unspoken rule” that officials in different cities and provinces report problems to one another rather than telling the public, China Daily reported.