Farmers are both the producers and consumers of food, and as such have a dual role in food safety: they both generate risks and are exposed to them. Based upon a survey of the food production and consumption habits of 140 farm households and long-term research in two villages in Yunnan province, this study found that rural families are highly dependent on the market for food production and consumption. In their role as consumers, farmers are aware of food safety risks and concerned about them, but their ability to protect themselves is limited. They do so primarily by avoiding certain products and growing as much of their own food as possible. At the same time, in their role as producers, farmers engage in practices, primarily the overuse and inappropriate use of fertilizer and pesticides, that are damaging to food safety and the environment. There is therefore a disconnect in their roles as consumers and producers that needs to be addressed if policy goals for improving food safety and reducing the use of agricultural chemicals are to be achieved. Farmers need more information about food safety risks related to the products they consume themselves, and technical guidance on the safe use of farm chemicals when growing food for market. However, such measures will not be effective unless the external pressures on farmers are also addressed, through consideration of market incentives to use farm chemicals and the impact of consumer demand.
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Vol. 9 • No. 1