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Mar. 10, 2015 - Updated 04:16 UTC

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Chinese demand safe rice

Tomoki Matsuda

Jun. 21, 2017

Food safety is becoming a serious problem in China as the country's pollution worsens year by year. Now the urban middle class is taking a closer look at what they put in their rice bowls.

Food safety is a growing concern for many of China's middle-class urbanites. One family in Guangzhou insists on eating organic rice.

The cost is nearly 5 times that of non-organic options, but the family prefers peace of mind over price.

"I have been looking for safe foods, so I was happy to find it," says homemaker Lin Xintao.

The rice is grown in a village that's a 3-hour drive from the city.

Liu Shangwen contracts farmers to produce rice through organic methods.

Liu quit his job at a foreign consulting firm 5 years ago to start an organic food business. At first, most farmers didn't want to deal with him because organic farming is time consuming and costly.

But Liu didn't back down. He used the internet to educate consumers in the city about how his rice is produced.

"A video will actually show how our rice is grown. This medium allows me to connect with consumers," says Liu.

Liu used social media to generate interest in the business and to raise funds. He now supplies over 800 families.

Now he is recruiting more farmers to meet growing demand.

Liu and employees from his company recently met with farmers to explain some of the benefits.

"Organic farming is good for the soil. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides cause the soil to become hard," one of his employees explains.

To avoid using pesticides, farmers use their hands to remove the river snails that feast on the rice plants.

"When we used pesticides, the skin on our hands and feet peeled. Our lives are better now," says one of the farmers.

When Liu first started, only 7 farmers agreed to work with him. Today, there are over 50.

Liu also held a workshop for children from the city.

The aim was to explain how rice is made to people living far from the fields. The children try the different kinds of rice.

Liu hopes such efforts will make children more interested in their rice and help cultivate future clients.

"I want to improve the environment, and create better farming villages, to have people in the city eat food that is healthy. It is simple, but this is my dream," says Liu.

A new farming method aimed at improving food as well as lives, is gradually catching on.