News / Asia

Vietnamese Consumers Shop for 'Safe' Vegetables on Internet

A shopper reads packaging on vegetables on sale at Veggies, a grocery shop in central Hanoi listed on a website providing consumers with information on where to buy
A shopper reads packaging on vegetables on sale at Veggies, a grocery shop in central Hanoi listed on a website providing consumers with information on where to buy "safe" vegetables, March 28, 2014. (Marianne Brown/VOA)
Marianne Brown
In Vietnam, there are rising concerns about the excessive use of pesticides on crops. To ensure their vegetables are safe, some consumers are now shopping for produce online.

Billboards carry the message “don’t abuse pesticides, think of the consumer,” but a lack of government regulation has done little to combat the overuse of pesticides, and consumers are taking note.  As a result, many are turning to the Internet to be better informed.

Out shopping in Hanoi’s city center, 30-year-old mother Tran Thuy Nhat expressed concerns many people can identify with.

She said she only buys vegetables from people she knows in her village on the outskirts of the city. She is worried about chemicals in vegetables and fruit and said if she buys these from someone she does not know, they could be harmful to her baby.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have access to farmers they know well. But a website dedicated to providing information about shops which sell “safe vegetables” in Hanoi aims to address this lack of trust.

The site, which means “safe vegetables, consumers” was set up by Vietnam’s consumer association Vinastas in 2011.
 
Dang Kiem Hien is part of the team in charge of it. She said the website gives addresses and phone numbers of shops selling safe or organic vegetables. Shops have to provide detailed information such as invoices, addresses and telephone numbers to prove that they get the vegetables from sources which are deemed safe or organic. If a shop is discovered to not be complying, it will be expelled, Hien said.

Farmers in Vietnam use a lot of pesticides. In its effort to push productivity and food security goals, the government promotes use of chemical inputs, such as fertilizers and pesticides, and subsidizes them.

Eduardo Sabio, a Hanoi-based regional representative of Belgian non-governmental organization VECO, which supported the “rau sach” website, says there is a real problem with pesticide misuse.

"Some are improperly labeled because they come from suspect origins. The government has a list of pesticides that are allowed, but almost always there are “illegal” pesticides that get over the border and get to the farmers,” Sabio said.

Because of Vietnam’s agrarian system, which allows farmers to have access to very small parcels of land, it is very difficult for growers to produce organic vegetables, he said.

"For instance, in a half hectare area there could easily be four or five or even more farmers planting different crops at different times of the year using different pesticides and chemicals. So even if you claim to be organic in a 1,000 square meter of farm but your neighbor is using pesticide without any barrier between the two farms you cannot claim you are organic" explained Sabio. "Because of the drift from applications from pesticides can easily spread over to your farm."

Organic certification

He said Vietnam does have an organic certification process, but it is not suited to smallholders because of the large number of criteria, forms to fill in and the high cost.

That’s why “rau sach” uses the Participatory Guidance System (PGS), which is applied in more than 20 other countries around the world.
 
The system tries to enforce quality standards via regular peer review that involves  a wide range of stakeholders including farmers associations, traders, and local officials. Farmers keep detailed logbooks of each pesticide spray, which is regularly monitored. Nearby farmers also keep an eye on what applications are being made by their neighbors.

Ha My, who runs the Hanoi branch of vuonrau  - an online vegetable delivery service - said her business is certified with Viet Gap.
 
After setting up just last year, they already have around 1,000 customers across the country.

Ha said consumers are worried about the origin of their vegetables so more people are turning to online resources like Facebook.

“Facebook is also the real life of people, from friend by friend, they know other mutual friends, oh my friend buy from this shop, she showed the delicious vegetables, oh I trust her, I trust my friend so now I trust your shop. It’s also the name and the face of people too, who use Facebook, the more friends you have, who you are, it shows on your Facebook too,” said Ha.

Trust is key. For that reason, experts say Vietnam needs a regulatory body to ensure producers comply with the requirements for organic or safe farming. This is not just for the benefit of farmers and consumer, but also to avoid cases of poisoning linked to government-subsidized pesticides.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs