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 "safe" vegetables, March 28, 2014. (Marianne Brown/VOA)
    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

    Greenpeace Leak: US-EU Trade Deal Would Favor Corporations

    Activist group leaks classified documents to 'shine a light' on talks that could create the world's largest bilateral trade and investment pact

    Video Ethiopia's Drought Takes Toll on Children

    East African country’s crops failed in 2015, creating food shortages for 10 million – including 6 million children whose development may be compromised

    What Your First Name Reveals About Who You Vote For

    People named Chad are more likely to be Republicans and Jonathans are usually Democrats

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora